Feature Article - June 2013
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A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities

Every four years, the Summer Olympic Games draw high numbers of viewers from across the country, cheering on competitors in a wide range of sports, including swimming, diving, water polo and more. And, as a side effect of the games, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association says that Americans tend to get more active playing many of the sports and activities they watch.

Swimming can get a big boost—especially when there are highly competitive swimmers to watch, such as Michael Phelps. According to SGMA's "U.S. Trends in Team Sports," swimming for competition is among the three sports with the highest percentage of "core" participants (those who are most committed, in terms of playing days, to their respective sport), with 64 percent. Only baseball and basketball surpass swimming in percentage of "core" participants in this study. The study also finds that competitive swimming has the highest percentage of "core" participants who are between 6 and 17 years old, as 84 percent of all "core" competitive swimmers are in that age group. And, 70 percent of all swimmers are in the 6-to-17-year-old age group.

Ensuring those young swimmers, as well as those who take up the sport after watching the games, remain interested in the sport for life, is a good way to ensure they remain active through their lives, as swimming is a sport that many pursue throughout their lifetime.

"While it's great news that people are motivated and inspired to be active based on watching the Olympics, the more immediate challenge is this," said SGMA President and CEO Tom Cove. "Once people decide to get more active and get involved in an activity, how do we keep them engaged?"

By developing excellent facilities and programs, more than half of the respondents to our Industry Report Survey are involved in getting and keeping people involved in swimming. Some 53.9 percent of all respondents indicated that their facilities include aquatic elements, from swimming pools and splash play areas to waterparks and hot tubs. (See Figure 34.) This represents virtually no change from 2012, when 53.3 percent of respondents included aquatics as part of their facilities.

Aquatic Facilities

There was slight growth in almost every type of aquatic facility represented in our survey from 2012 to 2013, except for hot tubs, spas and whirlpools, which saw a slight decrease. Outdoor swimming pools were again most common in 2013. Nearly three-quarters (72.7 percent) of respondents with aquatics reported that they included outdoor swimming pools. (See Figure 35.)

Outdoor swimming pools also saw the greatest increase from 2012, of 2.1 percent. They were followed by indoor swimming pools, which grew 1.6 percent from 2012. More than two-thirds (68.6 percent) of respondents with aquatics had indoor pools. Splash play areas were included by nearly half—48.8 percent. Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools were found among 42.1 percent of these respondents' facilities. And, slightly less than a quarter (23.6 percent) had waterparks.

Looking at the types of aquatic facilities by region, there are some differences. Some are not a surprise at all, given the climate differences between specific regions. For example, one would expect to find more indoor aquatic facilities in colder areas like the Northeast and Midwest, while outdoor aquatic facilities might be expected to prevail where it's warmer, in the more southerly states.

Indoor pools were most common in the Northeast, where nearly two-thirds (66.1 percent) of aquatics respondents included them. They were followed by the Midwest (62.6 percent), the West (50.8 percent), South Central region (48 percent) and South Atlantic (46.2 percent).

On the other hand, outdoor pools were most common in the South Central region, where 73.3 percent of aquatics respondents had them. They were followed by the South Atlantic (69.5 percent), West (64.7 percent), Midwest (50.5 percent) and Northeast (45.6 percent).

More than a third of aquatic respondents in the West (36 percent), Midwest (35 percent), South Central states (34.7 percent) and South Atlantic states (33.9 percent) reported that their facilities included splash play areas. And 27.8 percent in the Northeast had splash play.

Waterparks were most common among aquatics respondents in the Midwest, where 20.9 percent reported that they included them. They were followed by the South Central region (14.7 percent), the South Atlantic (13.6 percent), the West (11.6 percent) and the Northeast (5.6 percent).

Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools also were most commonly found in the Midwest, where more than a third (35.7 percent) of aquatics respondents included them. They were followed by the West (31.4 percent), South Atlantic (27.5 percent), South Central region (20 percent) and Northeast (19.4 percent).