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

Outfitting the Pool

More and more, aquatic facilities are looking for ways to ensure they stand out from the pack, and this means that many pools have evolved to become more than rectangular bodies of water. Splash play elements, surf machines, lazy rivers and more all serve to make swimming more fun and attractive. At the same time, new technologies for heating water and keeping it clean and safe also gain favor over time.

When asked what types of features their aquatic facilities include, the top 10 features selected by aquatics respondents included:

  1. Pool lift/accessibility equipment (68.1 percent)
  2. Diving boards (55 percent)
  3. Zero-depth entry (43 percent)
  4. Waterslides (40.1 percent)
  5. Water play structures (37.3 percent)
  6. UV disinfection systems (19.8 percent)
  7. Saline chlorination systems (16.3 percent)
  8. Poolside cabanas (14.3 percent)
  9. Lazy rivers (13.9 percent)
  10. Solar pool heating (7.7 percent)

The first nine items on this list appeared in the same order in 2011. The only change is No. 10, solar pool heating, which moved into the place where ozone systems stood last year.

This year's survey responses show a marked increase in many areas, particularly in the number of respondents whose facilities include pool lifts and accessibility equipment. In 2011, 52.8 percent of aquatic respondents reported that their facilities included lifts and accessibility equipment. This year, that number jumps dramatically to 68.1 percent. This is likely due to the large number of facilities attempting to bring their pools into compliance with updated ADA regulations. Though the deadline for compliance has been extended to January 2013, many facilities have already taken measures to ensure their pools are meeting the new standards.

Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to report that their facilities included pool lifts and accessibility equipment. Some 79.4 percent of YMCA respondents said they had pool lifts or accessibility equipment. They were followed by community recreation and sports centers, parks organizations, colleges and universities, health clubs and schools and school districts. Respondents from camp facilities were least likely to have pool lifts or other accessibility equipment in place, though a third (33.3 percent) did have them.

There were dramatic differences in the types of features currently included in aquatic facilities, depending on the type of organization represented. Parks and recreation respondents were more likely than respondents from other types of facilities to include diving boards, as well as waterpark-like amenities, such as zero-depth entry, waterslides, water play structures, poolside cabanas, lazy rivers and wave pools.

Respondents from health clubs were more likely than those from other facility types to report that their aquatic facilities included saline chlorination systems and/or ozone systems. Camp respondents were more likely than those from other facilities to include solar pool heating. And respondents from community recreation and sports centers were more likely to include UV disinfection systems.

Nearly three in 10 (29.4 percent) of aquatics respondents reported that they have plans to add more features at their aquatic facilities over the next three years. Respondents from camps were most likely to have such plans. Some 44.8 percent of camp respondents reported that they plan to add features. They were followed by parks respondents (33.2 percent) and YMCAs (31.6 percent). Schools respondents were least likely to be planning to add features at their aquatic facilities, with just 10 percent reporting they had such plans.

The most commonly planned additions include:

  1. Pool lifts and accessibility equipment (planned by 46.9 percent of those who will be adding any kind of features in the next three years)
  2. UV disinfection systems (25.8 percent)
  3. Zero-depth entry (21.4 percent)
  4. Water play structures (19.8 percent)
  5. Waterslides (14.5 percent)
  6. Lazy rivers (12.9 percent)
  7. Poolside cabanas (12.6 percent)
  8. Solar pool heating (11.6 percent)
  9. Saline chlorination systems (8.5 percent)
  10. Diving boards (6.6 percent)

Respondents from camps were more likely than other facility types to be planning many specific features, including pool lifts and accessibility equipment, poolside cabanas, solar pool heating, saline chlorination systems and diving boards.

YMCA respondents were more likely than those from other facilities to be planning UV disinfection systems, water play structures and waterslides.

Finally, respondents from parks and recreation organizations were more likely than others to be planning to add zero-depth entry or lazy rivers to their aquatic facilities over the next three years.