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

Economic Impacts

But this doesn't mean pools and aquatic facilities aren't feeling the impact of the economy. Many of these facilities have long been operating at a loss, with other programs making up the difference in terms of revenue. Now that the economy is forcing agencies and organizations to further reduce their spending on pools and aquatics, many facilities are struggling to remain open.

"From newspaper reviews and articles, we're definitely seeing more closures around the country, and it seems to be in the hundreds, which is troubling," said Tom Lachocki, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). "It reinforces how important the economics is. It's not just about programming, which is important, but the overall package—how it's marketed and promoted—and being financially and fiscally responsible with those facilities is more and more important."

But, he warned, this is not the time to cut back on excellence. While there may be opportunities to improve the efficiency of your aquatic operations, when it comes to creating value for your patrons and providing a safe environment, you can't cut corners.

"Facilities that were managing their money effectively in the past and still have cash have the luxury of asking, 'How are we going to use that money to be better?' The facilities that haven't been connecting to broader audiences in their communities or haven't been running like a business are probably struggling more," Lachocki added. "There are other facilities where good things are happening, but because of frantic cuts in municipal budgets, they're caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Philosophically, I'm a believer that organizations that are diligent in good times and bad and connect to broader customers are going to be OK for the most part. Some good organizations will not make it, but most will find a way to make it."

With this situation in mind, it comes as little surprise that this year's survey shows a slight drop of 2.5 percent in aquatic operating expenditures for fiscal 2008 from those reported last year for fiscal 2007. However, in fiscal 2009, when facilities of all kinds are expecting a drop of 13 percent from their fiscal 2008 expenditures, aquatic facilities are expected to see their operating expenditures rise by 7 percent. And from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2010, respondents are projecting a 13.6 percent increase to operating expenditures for their aquatic facilities. (See Figure 34.)