Supplement Feature - February 2009
Find a printable version here

Sink or Swim

Aquatic Operations Adjust With the Times

By Emily Tipping

In the Know

Many communities are taking a long view and recognize that water has a major impact on economic development, Byrd explained.

One such success story can be found in South Carolina, where Greenville County Recreation District (GCRD) Facilities Director Raymond Dunham, CPRP, said they've found a lot of success through creative partnerships, smart approaches to funding and community goodwill.

A hospitality tax has funded 17 different projects for the county, Dunham said. "We did it through partnering with the community and establishing partnerships throughout the community," he said. "We worked closely with elected officials as well."

The recreation district has a waterpark, called Discovery Island Waterpark, which is expanding this year by adding a sheet wave attraction for surfing. The district is also expanding some of its older pools. "We're adding a larger spraypad to one of our existing pools and we're renovating that facility," Dunham said. "And at the northern end of the county we have a very old pool built back in the '70s that we demolished and are going to be putting another small waterpark up there in 2010."

Part of the success of these aquatic facilities comes from the lack of competition, Dunham said. "But what helps us more than that is that our rates are reasonable and we do a great job on the customer service side," he added. "We set our standards above and beyond what's required. We pride ourselves on keeping our facilities clean, having staff look and act professional, and we provide the training to do that."

All of it adds up to a pretty impressive result for Greenville County: The waterpark not only covers all of its operating expenses, it also covers its debt service and has generated additional income every year.

Keeping things fresh—at the waterpark and throughout the district—is one way Dunham keeps patrons coming back for more.

What advice does Dunham offer to other facility directors?

"I would say first and foremost, look at your core competencies. Find what you are good at, and try to expand on that," he said. "I think sometimes people try to diversify too quickly. Make sure you're doing everything to maximize your core competencies."

On top of that, look for ways to partner with others in the community to maximize everyone's results, he said.

"If you can look outside your own little box to ask how you can help the rest of the community, it can make a big difference. Reach out and do those partnerships," Dunham said. "The more you work with your own community, the greater benefit you're bringing, and that does the marketing for you."

Speaking of marketing, Dunham said the district relies on its relationship with the local press to get the word out about its facilities—a no-cost method everyone can learn from.