Supplement Feature - February 2011
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Water Rescue

Programming Aquatics to Be Self-Sustaining

By Rick Dandes

Things to Avoid

In addition to the measures you should take to build up your revenues, there are other things you should be wary of.

"I see a lot of overstaffing," Rowland said. "Almost every facility I see has too many lifeguards on, too many managers with nothing to do and just a lack of accountability. They tend to have a whole lot of people who aren't doing much. Most of the facilities I see could get by with about half the staff they are currently carrying. You can make those cuts, and it will have nothing to do with safety. We certainly preach safety, but a bunch of lifeguards sitting around doing nothing is not improving safety."

Mendioroz agreed.

"Your biggest cost is labor," he said. "You need to be safe, but you also don't want employees standing around with their hands in their pockets."

Pools should be open for multiple activities for long periods of time.

You also should encourage seasonal passes and other ways to keep people coming back time and again. No pool is going to make it by relying on a single-visit-purchase model. In order to be profitable, you need people to pay a larger flat fee for an extended period.

What does the future hold for public pools?

Opinions are mixed. "But if I had to take a guess I'd say things will probably continue to trend more toward waterparks," Rowland said. "I don't think that's right. It's not the best thing. Sometime down the road we might find ourselves saying, 'We have all these waterparks. Where have all the pools gone?'"

Teach Them, And They Will Come

Swim lessons are a solid programming foundation for most aquatic facilities. However, you definitely need to look beyond the typical audience of kids for these types of programs.

Many adults do not know how to swim. If you offer swim lessons tailored to this population, you might build your base even further.

And don't overlook another important population—those who are scared of the water. Simply offering learn-to-swim lessons won't be enough to lure those wary of water into the deep end of the pool. You should also consider offering basic training on comfort in the water for these patrons.

Learn more about these critical types of programs by visiting the Miracle Swimming Institute at