Supplement Feature - February 2011
Find a printable version here

Water Rescue

Programming Aquatics to Be Self-Sustaining

By Rick Dandes

Swimming pools that are open to the public have long been part of the fabric of a community's leisure activities, but these facilities can be a big drain on town coffers as government grants and other funding sources, once so readily available, have dried up.

Community residents expect to have a reasonably priced place to swim every year. But the financial crunch caused by tightening state and local budgets is forcing parks and recreation and elected officials to adopt a more business-like approach to running municipal pools—or face shutting down their facility altogether.

Lack of funding is not the only challenge faced by recreation authorities. Climate, governmental regulations, insurance and changing leisure patterns are other factors that make it difficult for public swimming pools to break even or be profitable. But it can be done, according to the experts.

"Just because most swimming pools lose money doesn't mean they should," said Dave Rowland, owner of Aquatics for Life/Lutra Aquatics, a consulting firm based in Simsbury, Conn. "Properly designed and managed, aquatics facilities can generate revenues in excess of annual operating expenses.

"Generally speaking, in this industry," he continued, "there is very little sense of responsibility, even though people give it lip service, talking about budget restrictions."

Officials who operate community pools have to be proactive and more entrepreneurial, "now, more than ever," agreed Randy Mendioroz, president and founder of Aquatic Design Group, in Carlsbad, Calif.