Feature Article - May 2017
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Evolving Aquatics

Trends in Municipal Aquatic Facility Design

By Deborah L. Vence

The selection of pool equipment is important in reducing operating and maintenance costs.

"Regenerative filters are much more economical to maintain and require a much smaller footprint, thereby reducing building size, which in turn saves money," Klarck said.

LaLonde said municipalities that spend more money up front on higher quality materials and finishes will effectively reduce the cost of upkeep and long-term maintenance.

"The challenge is to come up with the capital in order to do it right so that your long-term maintenance and operation costs are reduced," he said.

Klarck added that municipalities need to be open to using other technologies (i.e., premanufactured stainless steel pools in lieu of poured-in-place concrete).

"Stainless steel pools require less maintenance. For example, a painted concrete pool needs to be repainted every two to three years. A stainless steel pool has a floor liner, which can last 10 to 12 years before requiring any maintenance," he said. "If done properly, the life of the pool can be significantly extended."

Fees and Budget

Aging swimming facilities still can charge a modest fee for admission. A wide selection of activities and an enjoyable experience will entice patrons to stay longer.

"A longer stay can justify a higher admission cost. Newer municipal aquatic facilities with waterpark-like amenities can certainly charge accordingly," Sells said.

"The cost to maintain [a facility] varies based on several factors: the size of the facility, the numbers of features and the level of finish for the facility," Valdez said.

Also, "We have seen construction cost prices rise between 7 and 10 percent per year on average," he said. "These costs are inherent to any project, but a proper design and a thorough feasibility process will help to ensure the project funds are being well spent, and that the facility will be financially sustainable in the future."

And, you don't need to look back 30 years, either, to see how prices have changed.

"Costs have roughly doubled in the past 10 to 15 years. Twenty to 30 years ago, most aquatic facilities did not have the sophisticated features you would find in modern aquatic designs," he added.

Mahoney said adequate upfront budgeting for development and operation, including staffing and equipment maintenance, should be outlined prior to undertaking any project so that the municipality has a realistic picture of operational costs.

"Costs, including the price for admission," she said, "will vary depending on the size and location of the project and attractions that are included."

Similarly, Berkshire noted that daily admission rates vary greatly depending on the levels of service provided, the economic conditions of the community, and the political environment.

"It becomes an issue of both the ability and willingness of patrons to pay and the municipality to charge for services," he said.