Feature Article - June 2012
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A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities

As we have reported in years past, swimming is often near the top of the list in terms of sports participation. This year brings the Summer Olympics in London, and it is likely that swimming will again see a surge in participation as viewers transition from watching swimmers win Olympic medals to striving to achieve their own fitness- and fun-related goals.

In fact, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), swimming presents an opportunity in that it is a highly aspirational activity. In a survey, non-sports participants were asked which sports they would be most interested in, and swimming was one of the most frequently mentioned activities.

Respondents to this year's State of the Industry Report survey are providing plenty of outlets for this interest. In fact, 53.3 percent of all respondents indicated that their facilities includes aquatics of one kind or another, from indoor swimming pools to outdoor pools, sprayparks, waterparks and more. (See Figure 34.)

Aquatic Facilities

The most prevalent type of aquatic facilities found amongst respondents was outdoor swimming pools. Seven out of 10 (70.6 percent) of the aquatics respondents indicated that their facilities included outdoor pools. These were followed by indoor pools (67 percent), splash play areas (47.8 percent), hot tubs, spas and whirlpools (43.4 percent) and waterparks (23.1 percent). (See Figure 35.)

There were slight increases in 2012 over 2011 in the number of respondents with indoor pools, splash play areas and hot tubs. In 2011, 64.5 percent of respondents had indoor pools, 45.6 percent had splash play areas, and 42.6 percent had hot tubs. Outdoor swimming pools, on the other hand, dropped from 74.1 percent of aquatics respondents in 2011. Waterparks saw virtually no change.

Indoor pools were most commonly found among YMCAs, colleges and universities and health clubs. Of those who had any kind of aquatic facility, 93.2 percent of YMCAs, 93.2 percent of colleges and 90.7 percent of health clubs indicated that they had indoor pools. As one might expect, indoor pools were far less common at camp facilities, though 11.6 percent of camp facilities with aquatic elements reported that they had indoor pools. Among parks respondents with aquatic features, 51.2 percent had indoor pools.

Those who were less likely to have indoor pools were far more likely than other aquatic respondents to have outdoor pools. They were most common among camp facilities with aquatics, 98.1 percent of whom said they include outdoor pools in their facilities. They were followed by park respondents, at 83.1 percent, and community recreation and sports centers, at 77.4 percent. Outdoor pools were least prevalent among schools and school districts and colleges and universities, though nearly a third of respondents with aquatic features in each of these categories do include outdoor pools (30.3 percent of schools and 33.3 percent of colleges and universities).

Splash play areas were most commonly found in the facilities of parks respondents and community recreation center respondents. More than two-thirds (68.5 percent) of parks respondents with aquatic features said they had splash play areas, and slightly less than two-thirds (65.2 percent) of community recreation center respondents had splash play. Splash play areas were least common among colleges with aquatics, 8.2 percent of whom said they included splash play elements, as well as schools and school districts, 12.9 percent of whom included splash play.

Waterparks were most often to be found among respondents from parks and recreation organizations. Some 34.4 percent of parks respondents with aquatics indicated that their facilities include waterparks. They were far less common among other facility types, with colleges and universities being the least likely to include them. Just 0.8 percent of college respondents with aquatics said they have a waterpark. Likewise, only 3.4 percent of schools with aquatics reported having a waterpark.

Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools were most prevalent among respondents from health clubs, YMCAs and community recreation and sports centers. Some 83.3 percent of health clubs with aquatics reported that they included hot tubs. Around three-quarters of YMCAs (73.4 percent) and community centers (73.3 percent) also had hot tubs. They were least likely to be found among respondents from schools and school districts (12.5 percent) and camp facilities (19 percent).