Supplement Feature - February 2018
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Profitable Pools

Strategies for Designing Pools to Stay Out of the Red

By Deborah L. Vence

Strategies for Designing New, Renovated Facilities

Anyone who is going through a new build or renovation should sit down and think big for a master plan.

"I always suggest an organization reaches out to others in the industry to get their opinions and see what has and has not worked for them," Caron said.

"If the budget allows, hiring a planning consultant is also a great idea. They can help with the master plan and provide statistics to back up their suggestions. I always say think big because once the facility is built you will be left with what you have," she said.

Caron also suggested that once the master plan is complete, work with your design team (an aquatic specific design consultant and architect) to design the facility that helps you achieve your master plan.

"Once a design is complete, look at it again and again, look to ensure your master plan programs and events are possible to achieve," she said.

In addition, bring in your day-to-day aquatics person (if you do not have one, find one or ask an industry professional to help) and have them look at the programming/master plan potential and for potential issues (blind spots, etc.).

"This person is the day-to-day operations expert. Their opinion should be valued heavily," Caron said. And, "in terms of the actual design, I recommend thinking outside your normal box pool to allow for a variety of programs, events and rentals. Also, consider your deck space and the programming/event possibilities.

"For example, we have a lap area that links to an all shallow rec area with large stairs as well as a vortex and current channel area," she said. "The lap area allows us to program standard lap swimming, masters swimming, water polo, diving, etc., while the rec area allows us to program children's lessons and adult beginner lessons. The current channel and vortex area allow us to add in some unique aqua fitness classes and swim."

And, again, make sure that a day-to-day aquatics professional reviews this design, because there is a higher potential for blind spots and operational concerns when you have designs "outside-of-the-box pool."

When designing new or renovated pools, there are some strategies to consider.

"Designing pools that can have sustainable financial operations typically starts with the development of a program that provides opportunities to as many user groups as possible," said Scott Hester, president, Counsilman-Hunsaker.

"These user groups, which typically comprise of aquatic sports, instructional, wellness, therapy and recreation, all have different wants and needs. Specific to the pool design, the most notable differences in terms of pool needs for the varying user groups are specific to water depths and water temperatures," he said.

"Therefore, some level of compromise is typically required, to meet the needs of multiple user groups," Hester said. "However, prioritizing the programmatic needs will help identify specific design elements that can meet the needs of user groups who may be of the greatest need, and subsequently be the most significant users."

One of the best pieces of information is in understanding the construction budget, and what a client can afford with those dollars.

"A trap that clients are often lured towards is that they want to include a little of everything in their facility, as opposed to focusing their resources on a limited number of things and doing them exceptionally well," Barr said.

So, if clients are adding pools to their existing inventory, their focus should be on generating new participants, and not just shifting them from one location to the other.

"If clients are renovating and their goal is to increase cost recovery, they need to determine how they can diversify who comes to their facilities. In both cases the amenities included will impact the outcome," Barr said.

It's also important to understand when determining which amenities should be included that close to 50 percent of individuals that use aquatic facilities also are interested in the social and entertainment aspects of aquatics.

"Equally important is [in] engaging the public and educating them [on] how different amenities can be used. A current channel or lazy river is a great example of the education process," he said. "The community may view such an amenity as extravagant, but when they realize it can be used for water walking and programming at non-peak times, it becomes more desirable.

Pools are very much like recreational facilities, in that you want to include components that are multi-use and multi-purpose."

Barr provided an example of a facility that had its pool redesigned. Mission Family Aquatic Center in Mission, Kan. (seasonal operation) renovated its existing competition pool, and added additional bodies of water that included a zero-depth entry, play features and water slides.

"The result is that they saw an increase in use and increase in cost recovery," he said.

"In the work we've done across the country, some clients have increased profitability by approaching their operation differently. Some have achieved this by adjusting their program delivery model," he said. "While others have incorporated inflatable play structures at specific times during the week to make their traditional flat-water pool more appealing. Something as simple as making a slight adjustment in the water temperature (typically increasing), can change the appeal of a facility."