Supplement Feature - February 2020
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A Deep Dive Into Aquatic Facility Trends

By Emily Tipping

Interestingly, respondents who had only indoor or only outdoor pools also saw the challenges facing the aquatic industry differently.

Those with indoor pools only were more likely to consider the following as top concerns: safety and risk management (37.3% of indoor pool respondents vs. 32.8% of outdoor pool respondents); water and air quality (28.8% vs. 7.6%); new programming ideas (13.6% vs. 10.1%); and outreach to underrepresented audiences (12.7% vs. 7.6%).

Those with outdoor pools only were more likely to consider these as their top concerns: staffing (53.8% of outdoor pool respondents vs. 50.8% of indoor pool respondents); budgets (64.7% vs. 62.7%); equipment and facility maintenance (56.3% vs. 46.6%); conservation (23.5% vs. 15.3%); marketing and increasing attendance (17.6% vs. 10.2%); and regulatory issues (4.2% vs. 2.5%).

Many respondents discussed the difficulties of staffing lifeguards, citing minimum wage increases and a general lack of people willing to do the job. The need to update and maintain existing equipment was also a commonly called out challenge.

Here is a list of some of the challenges cited by individual respondents:

> "Staffing has been and will continue to be an immense challenge. Finding, training and retaining lifeguards has become increasingly difficult. It is simply a job that has become undervalued by our department and the community. This drought of lifeguards can be felt nationwide."

> "Our city is growing and we are out of programming space currently. It's time to build another facility."

> "We have not been able to recruit older demographics to guard, resulting in limited, if not no, open hours after school is back in session. If no staffing, then no growth in programming or hours offered to the public. Creates a domino effect in all areas of operation."

> "This is not an issue at my facility as we do not employ lifeguards but the top challenge nationwide will be the availability of lifeguards as fewer and fewer individuals are willing to take on the responsibility."

> "With the building of our new facility, our greatest challenge will be organizing all the programs we would like to offer and getting those publicized for the community to know what we have to offer and getting them involved."

> "We have both indoor (less than three years old) and have three outdoor seasonal pools. We are discussing with our citizens closing one neighborhood pool and replacing it with a splash pad and have strong neighborhood resistance. They want a new pool even if it's heavily subsidized because of lack of features."

> "The pool will need to be replaced in the coming years and the question will be whether to replace it or phase out aquatics."

> "We are constantly chasing leaks, so that will likely continue. Water loss = increased expenses. Additionally, there are fewer teens seeking lifeguarding as a job, so the labor force has diminished."

> "We will need to come up with significant funds to renovate our aging pool."

> "It is always challenging to attempt to meet the needs of all types of our members—from young families to seniors, all looking for different pool experiences."

> "Our pools are over their life span, and with dwindling operational and capacity numbers at camps it will be a hard sale to replace."

> "Extending the life of our pool for another 50 years in ways that would be economical, but also conserving our resources such as water."

> "Finding staff is, and will be an issue. We employ kids in high school, and then we try and keep them around as long as possible. It is becoming increasingly difficult to convince kids to want to be a lifeguard."

> "The public would like to see the pools remodeled or rebuilt, but we need to raise the funds to provide a proper facility or we will just have to keep putting band-aids on our aging facilities."

> "In our aquatics facility the challenge will be increasing memberships and improving staff training and facility operations."

> "Keeping our numbers up to justify our city's financial commitment to our facility and our value in our community." RM