Feature Article - June 2009
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A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities


he latest annual sports participation report released by the National Sporting Goods Association shows that swimming moved up to the No. 2 spot in 2008, boosted by a 6.1 percent increase in participation and moving ahead of exercising with equipment. This increase brings the number of participants enjoying a swim in 2008 to 63.5 million—that's about 20.8 percent of the U.S. population engaging in an activity that helps them enjoy better health.

This is good news for the more than half (54.9 percent) of respondents to our Industry Report survey who said their facilities currently include an aquatic element. (See Figure 31.)

Nearly two-thirds (66.1 percent) of the respondents with aquatic facilities indicated they have outdoor pools, while nearly half (49.5 percent) have indoor pools. Almost a third include hot tubs, spas or whirlpools (29.5 percent) or splash play areas (29.1 percent) as part of their facilities. And finally, an impressive 15.1 percent indicated they include a waterpark. (See Figure 32.)

Outdoor pools were most prevalent among respondents from campgrounds, RV parks, and private and youth camps, where 61 percent include an outdoor pool. On the other hand, as one might expect based on the outdoor nature of these facilities, they were not likely to include an indoor pool (5.5 percent). And less than 10 percent indicated that they include splash play areas (8.9 percent), hot tubs (8.2 percent) or waterparks (8.2 percent).

Parks and recreation agencies followed camps, with 45.6 percent of respondents in this category indicating they include an outdoor pool.

Indoor swimming pools were most likely to be found among the YMCAs, where nearly three-quarters (74.5 percent) of respondents include one. Colleges and universities were second most likely to include indoor pools, though they were not as prevalent there as among YMCAs. Just under half (49.1 percent) of college and university respondents indicated they have an indoor pool. They were followed by health clubs, 43.4 percent of whom include indoor pools.

Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools were also the most likely to be found in YMCAs, where 45.3 percent indicated they feature them, followed by health clubs, where 41.1 percent include them. A fifth (20.1 percent) of college and university respondents include hot tubs at their facilities.

Splash play areas are predominantly found among the park and recreation respondents. Nearly a quarter (23.3 percent) of park respondents said they have splash play facilities. Next most likely to include them were YMCAs, though just 13.2 percent of respondents in that category indicated they do so.

Waterparks were also most common among park respondents. More than one in 10 (10.5 percent) park respondents indicated they include a waterpark, and many have seen this as a growing trend among municipal agencies.