Feature Article - June 2021
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Trends in Aquatic Facilities

A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities


Whether it's a park district's aquatic park, a YMCA's natatorium or a college rec center's outdoor pool, facilities that feature aquatic elements are quite common in the recreation, sports and fitness industry, and they require special care and management practices to operate efficiently and effectively. From small hotel pools to large waterparks spanning multiple acres with slides, surf experiences, wave pools and more, aquatic facilities require unique expertise and specialized equipment to keep them safe and operational. They require a heftier budget and a well-trained staff, from lifeguards with knowledge of how to rescue people at risk of drowning to pool operators who understand all the nuances of pool water chemistry. Beyond this, they need careful consideration of programs and schedules to ensure the community or membership is getting the biggest bang for its aquatic bucks.

This section of the Industry Report will dive deeper into the answers from respondents to the survey whose facilities include aquatic elements. This includes those with indoor or outdoor swimming pools, splash play areas, waterparks, aquatic parks and hot tubs. Of course, we also cover this part of the industry specifically in our breakout research, The Aquatic Trends Report, presented in the February 2021 issue. Visit the RecManagement.com website to find out more.

In 2021, 54.6% of respondents to the Industry Report survey said their facilities include aquatics, up from 52.3% in 2020. (See Figure 35.)

As usual, outdoor swimming pools were the most common type of aquatic feature found in aquatic respondents' facilities. More than two-thirds (67.2%) said they currently had at least one outdoor pool, down from 71.7% in 2020. Nearly six out of 10 (59.2%) said they had at least one indoor pool, down slightly from 59.9% in 2020. Splash play areas were found among 49.8% of aquatic respondents' facilities, down from 56.7% in 2020. While far less common, waterparks were still found at 17% of aquatic respondents facilities, down from 22.4%. And finally, 37.2% said they currently feature hot tubs, spas and whirlpools, down just slightly from 37.7%. (See Figure 36.)

Outdoor swimming pools were the most common among respondents facilities' in the South Central and Western regions. Some 77.9% of South Central respondents and 72.9% of Western respondents said they currently have outdoor pools. They were followed closely by the South Atlantic, where 70.2% have outdoor pools. Respondents in the Northeast (65.7%) and Midwest (57.4%) were less likely to have outdoor pools.

Indoor swimming pools were most common among respondents from the Midwest, where 61.9% said they had at least one indoor pool. They were followed by the South Central region (60.6%) and the Northeast (60.2%). Respondents from the South Atlantic (58.9%) and the West (53.8%) were less likely to have indoor pools.

Splash play areas were most prevalent in the South Central region and the Midwest. Some 59.4% of South Central respondents and 54.2% of Midwestern respondents said they currently have at least one splash play area. They were followed by the South Atlantic (50%) and the West (49.1%). Respondents in the Northeast were the least likely to have splash play areas, though more than one-third (35.5%) said they had at least one.