Feature Article - November 2018
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Swim Toward Success

Growing Innovative Aquatic Programs

By Dave Ramont

Special Events

Other special events in Dallas include dive-in movie nights, taking place every other Friday and rotating around town. "We went ahead and bought all our own equipment; we have the inflatable screen, the rear projector and the sound system," Steinshnider said.

The annual cardboard boat race also rotates locations. The popular event is promoted all summer, and teams create themes and wear costumes, vying for awards like team spirit, creativity and fastest boat. One location is also chosen for the popular dog swim event, which Steinshnider jokes is rather messy, but it happens at season's end when the pool would be drained anyway.

Steinshnider said they're also trying log-rolling events. A company that specializes in it came out and trained pool staff, and they rotated the logs to different pools on different days with staff showing kids and adults how it was done. "Hopefully we can grow it into more of a regular program where we can possibly have some competitions," said Steinshnider.

Renting pool space for private events can also be a great revenue generator, and Steinshnider said their pools are available to rent any time they're not open to the public. "We see a lot of back-to-school and end-of-school parties, and some people rent them out for birthday parties or neighborhood association events."

Bosaw said they also do rentals and birthday parties at the Y.

Better All the Time

Water therapy is another area that's growing, whether it's therapy for injuries or for populations who are physically or developmentally disabled. There are specializations, classes and certifications that are specific to specific diagnoses, such as autism. USA Swimming Foundation has an online course named Children with Challenges, and the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute offers training and certification programs.

Sometimes therapists will rent pool space to work with clients. "This type of partnership is a good one," Nelson said. "It provides income for the aquatic center, and the therapist doesn't have to build a pool, which they have no idea how to operate." But water temperature, depth and access are major considerations.

In fact, as pool programming evolves, aquatic facility designs will need to stay in step. Nelson said that "programming precedes design" is their prime directive. "The professionals in design that we work with all understand programming precedes design, and they help educate their clients to this method."

She explained that new aquatic center models feature multiple pools since different user-groups prefer different water temps and depth.

Nelson added that learn-to-swim programs are still the main pillar for any aquatic center. "This service is not only fun but is saving lives. Learn-to-swim programs are starting to market what we call the dry side and wet side." Dallas is doing just that, with Steinshnider telling us they present water safety education in the schools, typically in spring when summer's approaching. "We have a really strong school program; we award between 500 and 800 scholarships per year for free swim lessons, promoting that at the same time when we're out there."

She also said that they're adding newer amenities to their older pools such as climbing walls, diving boards, basketball hoops, lazy rivers, waterslides and interactive play areas, and it's attracting more people, therefore bringing them a new audience for their swim programs.

Lam said that diverse programming makes the pool more accessible to the community. "Everyone has a different reason for visiting the pool, whether it's for fitness, recreation, social reasons or all of the above. The more you offer, the more likely you can meet the needs of your community."

MacMaster agrees: "The most important thing is creating different programs to include as many people as possible over a wide range of backgrounds." He feels it's important to attend conferences and read publications to stay on top of the current trends, and listen to your patrons. He also believes that an organized facility and great customer service are crucial. "When you and your staff show tons of enthusiasm toward your programs, the members pick up on that and have fun also."