Feature Article - October 2020
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Mix It Up

Innovative Accessories Help Pools Expand Programming

By Rick Dandes


Be Flexible

Flexibility in how a space is used is certainly one of the primary ways a facility can enhance usability, Ozburn noted. "Ideally," she said, "a space can and will be used in more than way by more than one group, and varying depths are available throughout the facility so that there is functional space for the range of swimming abilities."

Besides being able to have a variety of swimmers in the pool at once, this strategy allows for progression of use as a swimmer increases in age or skill, keeping that user satisfied at your facility as he or she progresses, she said. "For example, a young or non-swimmer may first be introduced to the water by interacting with small deck sprays at the zero-depth area, and move on to engage with in-water sprays, a dumping bucket, a slide in 2 feet of water. From there, the swimmer can submerge his or her head on their own then jump into deeper water alone, before becoming the risk-taker doing flips off the diving board and going down the speed slide.

"An aqua fitness program can offer classes in several areas, including the current channel/lazy river, lap lanes, deep water and even at the bottom of the slides in the catch pool," Ozburn added. "Zero-depth and shallow water, deep water, moving water, seating areas, deck spaces, shade, and grass areas, all have their primary purposes but also may have secondary purposes that can increase the user's experience."

Thoughtful configuration of spaces is also a way to increase programmatic options, she said. "By offering complementary areas in the pool and having strategic adjacencies, a variety of programs and activities can occur simultaneously. This means that different user groups can comfortably utilize the facility at the same time, increasing participation and revenue opportunities."

An example of this is the Sabetha Aquatic Center in Sabetha, Kan. There, Ozburn explained, a toddler swim could be scheduled in the zero-depth area, along with swim lessons in the shallow area and the signature wet bubble, with diving and lap swim or swim team practice and aqua fitness in the lazy river. The deck around each of these spaces allows for users to "crash" and keep their equipment and belongings with minimal impact on the other programs. Each area is easily accessible from the deck and through the water, which allows for easy and flexible transitions.

At Chilli Bay Water Park in Chillicothe, Mo., Ozburn noted, a tropical island theme is incorporated throughout the facility to create an oasis experience in the Midwest. To go along with that theme and to encourage day-long trips at the pool, private/rentable thatch shade areas were incorporated, complete with palm trees, custom post and rope barriers and tiki sculptures.

"Besides planning for feature improvements," she said, "keeping an annual and semi-annual maintenance checklist and replacement plan will keep the facility on track for avoiding last-minute budget requests and repair work, and will also aid in planning for necessary improvements. Ongoing maintenance of mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems will elongate the facility's life and will keep the facility in working order."

Regularly maintaining vital components will reduce costly expenditures and resources can go toward enhancing the fun, revenue-generating amenities, Ozburn explained. Updating amenities and changing at least one key feature every five to 10 years is one method of maintaining interest and keeping the facility looking fresh.

Program Possibilities

Often, we think about swimming pools for swim teams, swim lessons, recreation swim and the basic programs that might occur there. The U.S. Sporting Goods Association tells us that many communities can expect about 15% of the population to participate in municipal aquatics. When you factor in the percentage of the community on a swim team, water polo team, master swim or triathalon training, "those groups combined are less than one-half of 1% of a population," said Dennis Berkshire, principal and president, Aquatic Design Group. "With that in mind," he said, "to get the maximum utility of a pool we are really trying to reach out to that other 14.5% to find out what are the programs and levels of services that speak to their wants, desires and needs. Now, the programs that a pool is trying to support are very specialized."

As designers, Berkshire said, "we talk about programs, and then build the environment needed to support those programs. The typical ones we always see are swim lessons, general recreational swim. But we also support kayaking lessons and paddle-board yoga. We can call for drop-in exercise equipment, where people have less weight on their joints to be able to exercise, whether it is exercise bicycle, elliptical machines and all types of other resistance machines. All these things people can do in the water."