Feature Article - June 2011
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A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities

By Emily Tipping

Outfitting the Pool

Most swimming pools these days are far more than a rectangle with some water. When it comes to added features, aquatics respondents have plenty, from accessibility equipment to water play elements and more.

The top 10 features currently included as part of our aquatics respondents facilities include:

  1. Pool lift/accessibility equipment (52.8 percent)
  2. Diving boards (44.8 percent)
  3. Zero-depth entry (38.6 percent)
  4. Waterslides (38.5 percent)
  5. Water play structures (32.8 percent)
  6. UV disinfection system (15.7 percent)
  7. Saline chlorination system (14.2 percent)
  8. Poolside cabanas (12.8 percent)
  9. Lazy river (11.9 percent)
  10. Ozone system (6.8 percent)

The most common item, pool lifts and accessibility equipment, has the highest penetration among respondents from YMCAs, where 70 percent of aquatic respondents said they have them. They were followed by health clubs, where more than two-thirds (67.6 percent) of aquatic respondents said they have them.

Possibly driven by recent updates to ADA standards that require greater accessibility at aquatic facilities, pool lifts and accessibility equipment were also the most commonly planned addition at aquatic facilities over the next three years. Some 29.3 percent of aquatic respondents said they plan to add to their facilities in the next several years, and 40.4 percent of these indicated that they plan to add pool lifts or accessibility equipment. These plans were most prominent among health club respondents, where 20.6 percent plan to add accessibility equipment. They were followed by camps (15 percent), schools (14.6 percent), YMCAs (14 percent) and community centers (13.6 percent).

Tom Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), tied the prevalence of plans to add accessibility equipment with the increasing popularity in our survey of special needs programs, which nearly a third (32.7 percent) of respondents with plans to add programs are anticipating will join their roster of activities.

"It correlates to a focus on accessibility, and it's logical that you're seeing both of those," he said. "They likely are responding to ADA updates and are saying, 'If I have to make it accessible, the next obvious step should be to have programs to better reach the accessibility-challenged populations'."

In addition to complying with new requirements under the law, improving accessibility also can help facilities adapt to an growing population of aging users, Lachocki added.

"When you think of an aging society, as we get more challenged, getting around on our feet, getting exercise in the water takes away substantial risk in terms of falling and hurting yourself," he said.

Balance training and fall prevention are a great way to help the aging population improve the ability to age in place. Lachocki indicated that a speaker at the World Aquatic Health Conference in Seattle, Oct. 12 to 14, will be speaking on this topic. "It's my recollection that exercise helps with balance for elderly citizens," he said, "and the water is a great environment to do that."

In addition to accessibility equipment, respondents indicated they are planning to add the following elements to their facilities over the next three years:

  1. UV disinfection systems
  2. Water play structures
  3. Waterslides
  4. Zero-depth entry
  5. Solar pool heating
  6. Poolside cabanas
  7. Saline chlorination systems
  8. Lazy river
  9. Ozone system