Supplement Feature - February 2011
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Water Rescue

Programming Aquatics to Be Self-Sustaining

By Rick Dandes

Survival of the Fittest

If you can't increase revenues in order to survive, you have to cut expenses.

If you haven't upgraded your mechanical equipment in a while, it is well worth the investment, because the technology has gotten so much better over the past 10 years. Most pool equipment, if properly maintained, will last 20 years, Mendioroz said.

Use thermal, insulated blankets that go on top of the water when the pool is closed for the night. That alone will save 40 percent of your heating bill if you put them on every day at closing time. Costs of the pads can be recovered in six months.

Meanwhile, if you can install solar panels it will save between 70 and 80 percent on your utility bill. That's a strong return on investment. And solar panels should last between 12 and 16 years.

Some communities might not be able to afford these things, however. They will need to find other ways to cut their operating costs.

With a goal of becoming more profitable, some municipal operations are borrowing ideas from the private sector.

Some are doing it by offering up a variety of exciting water attractions, drawing participants from larger geographical areas who are willing to pay higher admission prices than a municipally operated facility would typically charge.

Lalonde suggested another option. "Change things around," he said, "so that you have a much nicer pool than anywhere else—a better entrance, some landscaping and structures, so that there's some shade, a zero-depth edge in several locations for easier entry for everyone, more benches or tables with umbrellas scattered around so that parents can sit and watch their children in different parts of the pool and have a decent dressing room."

Other municipalities are doing it in part by closing traditional pools and building zero-depth splash play areas, which are less expensive to operate. Sprayparks don't require lifeguards and offer a variety of features surrounded by a non-slip surface.

But whether you can build a brand-spanking-new, waterpark-inspired facility or not, there are ways to keep your pool operating in the black.

"I don't believe you need to create a waterpark to survive," Rowland said. "You just need to be something of value to the community, so that you become part of a resident's daily life— run programs like group fitness classes. I still think a straight rectangular pool is the way to go, enhanced by certain waterpark elements. That can help draw users and improve finances."

He added that you also should schedule more than one activity at a time. That way, you can keep all areas of the pool busy with various activities, he said.