Feature Article - June 2016
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A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities

There's never any shortage of advancements and changes in the world of aquatics, and the past year has been no exception. Most recently, two industry associations, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) agreed to merge in order to better support the needs of the aquatic industry. In addition, 2016 saw the launch of Water Safety USA, established by a consortium of national governmental and nongovernmental organizations concerned with water safety and drowning prevention.

In addition to boosting water safety and industry knowledge, the past year has witnessed a continuing effort at spreading awareness of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), the nation's first set of voluntary guidelines based on science and best practices to improve health and safety at aquatic facilities. The ongoing work on the MAHC means that this extensive piece of work and industry expertise will continue to improve, providing local officials with a better guideline for establishing or updating their pool codes.

According to the 2016 Participation Report from the Physical Activity Council, which tracks participation in 120 sports and fitness activities, participation in sports has been fluctuating over the past few years, but in terms of interest, all age groups look to swimming as a top means for future fitness.

But we all know that swimming pools and aquatic facilities—while an excellent venue for pursuing fitness activities, whether that means lap swimming, water aerobics or some other sort of exercise—are for far more than fitness. Indeed, over the past decade, even the simplest of rectangular swimming pools have found ways to become more appealing to a wider audience, with everything from poolside climbing walls and inflatable obstacle courses to surf machines, slides and much more. Today's pools continue to find new ways to bring fun and fitness to the population they serve, and behind the scenes, manufacturers are inventing increasingly effective ways to keep those pools full of healthy water while using fewer resources.

In this section, we'll take a look at how things are shaping up for those survey respondents whose facilities include aquatic elements, which for our purposes here means that they have at least one of the following: indoor swimming pools, outdoor swimming pools, splash play areas, waterparks or hot tubs. In 2016, more than half (54.1 percent) of respondents to the Industry Report survey said their facilities include aquatic elements. (See Figure 36.)

Aquatic Facilities

There was little change in the types of aquatic facilities represented in the survey from 2015 to 2016. There were slight increases in every facility type. The most common type of aquatic facility found among respondents' facilities was outdoor swimming pools. More than seven in 10 (71.4 percent) aquatic respondents include outdoor pools. They were followed by indoor swimming pools, found among 62.5 percent of aquatic respondents. More than half (51 percent) of aquatic respondents said they had splash play areas. Some 42 percent had hot tubs, spas and whirlpools. And more than a quarter (25.3 percent) said they included waterparks among their aquatic facilities. (See Figure 37.)

Outdoor swimming pools were most commonly found among aquatic respondents from the South Atlantic region. In the South Atlantic, 77.9 percent of aquatic respondents said they had outdoor pools. They were followed by the South Central region, where 74.6 percent of aquatic respondents had outdoor pools. Respondents from the Midwest were the least likely to have outdoor pools, though a majority (63.1 percent) did indicate that their facilities included them. When considered by community type, outdoor pools were most common among suburban respondents, where 71.6 percent of those with aquatics featured outdoor pools.