Feature Article - June 2010
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A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities


rom rectangular pools to full-blown waterparks with pools, play areas, slides and more, there is a wide range of aquatic facilities, offering a variety of experiences—from fun in the sun to hard-core workouts—to patrons across the country. This section looks at some of the trends in these facilities.

Swimming itself continues to be one of the most popular sports in the country. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the sport ranked fourth in total participation in 2009, with 50.2 million participants 7 years old and older participating more than once in the sport. The only sports that exceeded swimming's popularity were exercise walking, exercising with equipment and camping.

On the other hand, the number did represent a drop of 6.1 percent from 2008, when swimming held the No. 2 spot on the list, with 63.5 million participants.

We also saw a slight decrease this year—in the number of facilities that include an aquatic element. Still, more than half (51.7 percent) of all survey respondents indicated that their facilities include an aquatic element of some kind, whether an indoor swimming pool, outdoor swimming pool, waterpark, splash play area or hot tub. (See Figure 35.) Last year, 54.9 percent of respondents included aquatics.

Some respondents were more likely than others to indicate that their facilities included aquatic elements. They were most prominent among YMCAs, with 85.7 percent of YMCA respondents indicating they included aquatics. This compares with 58 percent of camp respondents, 57.8 percent of parks respondents, 54.4 percent of college respondents, 50.3 percent of community center respondents and 50 percent of health club respondents. The least likely to include aquatics were schools and school districts. Less than a third (29.1 percent) of these respondents said they include aquatics in their facilities.

Aquatics were also more prominent in some regions of the country. Respondents from the West were the most likely to indicate they included aquatic elements in their facility. Some 58 percent of these respondents include aquatics. The Northeast was least likely to include aquatics. In the Northeast, less than half (47.7 percent) of respondents said their facilities included aquatics. In the other regions of the country, more than half of respondents included aquatics: 55.9 percent of those in the Midwest, 52.9 percent of those in the South Central states, and 51.6 percent in the South Atlantic.

Certain types of communities were also more likely to have aquatic elements included in their facilities than others. They were most prominent among those from urban areas, where 61.1 percent of respondents said they include aquatics. In suburban areas, 53.8 percent of respondents include aquatics, and in rural areas, 47.5 percent include aquatics.