Aquatics

A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities

As we have reported in years past, swimming is often near the top of the list in terms of sports participation. This year brings the Summer Olympics in London, and it is likely that swimming will again see a surge in participation as viewers transition from watching swimmers win Olympic medals to striving to achieve their own fitness- and fun-related goals.

In fact, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), swimming presents an opportunity in that it is a highly aspirational activity. In a survey, non-sports participants were asked which sports they would be most interested in, and swimming was one of the most frequently mentioned activities.

Respondents to this year's State of the Industry Report survey are providing plenty of outlets for this interest. In fact, 53.3 percent of all respondents indicated that their facilities includes aquatics of one kind or another, from indoor swimming pools to outdoor pools, sprayparks, waterparks and more. (See Figure 34.)

Aquatic Facilities

The most prevalent type of aquatic facilities found amongst respondents was outdoor swimming pools. Seven out of 10 (70.6 percent) of the aquatics respondents indicated that their facilities included outdoor pools. These were followed by indoor pools (67 percent), splash play areas (47.8 percent), hot tubs, spas and whirlpools (43.4 percent) and waterparks (23.1 percent). (See Figure 35.)

There were slight increases in 2012 over 2011 in the number of respondents with indoor pools, splash play areas and hot tubs. In 2011, 64.5 percent of respondents had indoor pools, 45.6 percent had splash play areas, and 42.6 percent had hot tubs. Outdoor swimming pools, on the other hand, dropped from 74.1 percent of aquatics respondents in 2011. Waterparks saw virtually no change.

Indoor pools were most commonly found among YMCAs, colleges and universities and health clubs. Of those who had any kind of aquatic facility, 93.2 percent of YMCAs, 93.2 percent of colleges and 90.7 percent of health clubs indicated that they had indoor pools. As one might expect, indoor pools were far less common at camp facilities, though 11.6 percent of camp facilities with aquatic elements reported that they had indoor pools. Among parks respondents with aquatic features, 51.2 percent had indoor pools.

Those who were less likely to have indoor pools were far more likely than other aquatic respondents to have outdoor pools. They were most common among camp facilities with aquatics, 98.1 percent of whom said they include outdoor pools in their facilities. They were followed by park respondents, at 83.1 percent, and community recreation and sports centers, at 77.4 percent. Outdoor pools were least prevalent among schools and school districts and colleges and universities, though nearly a third of respondents with aquatic features in each of these categories do include outdoor pools (30.3 percent of schools and 33.3 percent of colleges and universities).

Splash play areas were most commonly found in the facilities of parks respondents and community recreation center respondents. More than two-thirds (68.5 percent) of parks respondents with aquatic features said they had splash play areas, and slightly less than two-thirds (65.2 percent) of community recreation center respondents had splash play. Splash play areas were least common among colleges with aquatics, 8.2 percent of whom said they included splash play elements, as well as schools and school districts, 12.9 percent of whom included splash play.

Waterparks were most often to be found among respondents from parks and recreation organizations. Some 34.4 percent of parks respondents with aquatics indicated that their facilities include waterparks. They were far less common among other facility types, with colleges and universities being the least likely to include them. Just 0.8 percent of college respondents with aquatics said they have a waterpark. Likewise, only 3.4 percent of schools with aquatics reported having a waterpark.

Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools were most prevalent among respondents from health clubs, YMCAs and community recreation and sports centers. Some 83.3 percent of health clubs with aquatics reported that they included hot tubs. Around three-quarters of YMCAs (73.4 percent) and community centers (73.3 percent) also had hot tubs. They were least likely to be found among respondents from schools and school districts (12.5 percent) and camp facilities (19 percent).

When it comes to the use of the aquatic facilities covered by the survey, slightly more than half of respondents (55.6 percent) said their pools were used for a combination of leisure and recreation purposes and competition purposes. Another 38.7 percent said their aquatic facilities were for leisure and recreation only. And just 1.8 percent said their pools were used only for competition. (See Figure 36.)

Respondents from camps were the most likely to report that their pools were for leisure only. Some 87.5 percent of camps indicated that there are no formal competitions held at their pools. They were followed by health clubs, 80 percent of whom said their pools were for leisure and recreation only. Schools and school districts were least likely to indicate that their pools were for leisure and recreation. Just 4.2 percent of these respondents said their pools were for recreation only.

On the other hand, schools and school districts were more likely than other respondents to indicate that their pools were used for competition only. Some 22.9 percent of schools said their pools were for competition. They were followed by colleges and universities, 2.8 percent of whom said their pools were for competition, and parks departments, at 0.2 percent. No respondents from health clubs, YMCAs, camp facilities or community sports and recreation centers said their pools were used only for competition.

Aquatics and Finances

After a drop of 2.3 percent in aquatic operating expenditures from fiscal 2009 to fiscal 2010, reported in the 2011 State of the Industry Report, this year shows that operating expenditures have recovered and grown, and are expected to continue to increase over the next two years. In 2011, respondents report that their aquatic operating expenditures increased by 5.2 percent, from $422,000 in fiscal 2010 to $444,000 in fiscal 2011. Further increases are expected in 2012 and 2013, ultimately leading to a rise of 19.2 percent from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2013. (See Figure 37.)

In all three years covered by the 2012 survey, parks, YMCAs and community recreation and sports centers reported the highest average operating expenditures. In fiscal 2011, parks had an average operating budget 31.8 percent higher than the across-the-board average, at $585,000. YMCAs' average operating expenditure was 19.1 percent higher than the across-the-board average, at $529,000. Community centers had an operating budget 17.1 percent higher than the across-the-board average. The lowest average operating expenditure in 2011 was seen among camp respondents, whose average operating budget was 75.9 percent lower than the across-the-board average, at $107,000.

By 2013, YMCAs take the top position in terms of aquatic operating budget, with an average expenditure 32 percent higher than the average for all facility types, at $664,000. They are followed by parks (27.2 percent higher than the average for all facilities) and community centers (7.8 percent higher). In 2012 and 2013, respondents from schools and school districts reported the lowest expected average operating budget for aquatics. In 2012, their projected average operating expenditure is 70.3 percent lower than the average for all facility types. And in 2013, that spread increases to 72 percent.

When considered in terms of the communities in which they are located, operating budgets are much higher in urban communities, while rural communities report much lower operating budgets. The average operating budget in fiscal 2011 for urban communities was 42.6 percent higher than the average for all community types, and 113 percent higher than the average operating expenditure reported by rural communities.

Over time, the difference grows smaller, and by 2013, urban communities reported a projected average operating budget that is 94.6 percent higher than the average projected by rural respondents. This is accounted for by a more rapid increase in operating costs among rural communities than urban communities. Rural communities expect their average operating costs for aquatics to increase by 17.8 percent from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2013. They are followed by suburban respondents, who expect a 15.7 percent increase, and urban respondents, who expect a 7.6 percent increase.

From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2011, more than half (56.6 percent) of aquatic respondents reported that their revenues for aquatic facilities remained the same. Nearly three out of 10 (29.3 percent) reported an increase, and 14.1 percent said they had seen a decrease in revenue. Respondents from community recreation and sports centers were the most likely to report an increase in aquatic revenues, with 43.7 percent of these respondents indicating they had seen an increase. Respondents from YMCAs were most likely to report that they had seen a decrease, with 19 percent indicating their revenues had fallen. Respondents from parks and recreation organizations saw the most volatile revenues between 2010 and 2011, with only 41.6 percent indicating their revenues had remained the same. A third (33.4 percent) reported increases in revenue, while 17.8 percent reported a decrease.

The number of respondents who are expecting their aquatic revenues to increase over the next couple of years is on the rise, while those expecting a decrease drops. In 2012, 30.7 percent are expecting revenues to increase, and in 2013, that number rises to 31.4 percent. Conversely, in 2012, 10.3 percent of respondents expect their aquatics revenues to drop, and that number falls to 7.3 percent in 2013.

Respondents from community sports and recreation centers were most likely to be expecting aquatic revenues to increase in 2012 and 2013, while respondents from parks were more likely than other respondents to be expecting a decrease in 2012, and camps were more likely than other facility types to be expecting a decrease in 2013.

Programming

There was a slight increase in the percentage of respondents who offer programming at their aquatic facilities, from 93.7 percent in 2011 to 94.4 percent in 2012. The top 10 programs offered are unchanged from 2011, though some categories have seen slight increases. The top 10 programs currently offered at aquatic facilities include:

  1. Leisure swim (90.7 percent)
  2. Learn-to-swim for children (81.7 percent)
  3. Lap swim (78.9 percent)
  4. Lifeguard training (74.8 percent)
  5. Aquatic exercise programs (71 percent)
  6. Learn-to-swim for adults (62.7 percent)
  7. Water safety programs (62.2 percent)
  8. Youth swim teams (58.3 percent)
  9. Swim meets and competitions (55 percent)
  10. Special needs aquatic programs (38.2 percent)

YMCAs are the most likely to offer aquatic programming, with 100 percent of YMCAs with aquatic elements reporting that they offer programming of one kind or another. In addition, YMCAs are the most likely to offer nearly every type of programming. YMCAs are more likely than other facility types to offer leisure swim, learn-to-swim for children and adults, lap swimming, lifeguard training, aquatic exercise programs, water safety programs, youth swim teams, special needs aquatic programs and adult swim teams.

Respondents from colleges and universities, and schools and school districts were also among those most likely to offer programming of any kind, with 99.5 percent of college respondents and 98 percent of schools respondents offering aquatic programs. Schools were more likely than other facility types to offer swim meets and competitions, swim teams and diving teams. Colleges were more likely than other facility types to offer water polo. Respondents from health clubs were more likely than other facility types to offer aquatic therapy programs.

Respondents from parks and recreation organizations and camp facilities were the least likely to offer aquatic programming, though a vast majority did so. Some 91.3 percent of parks respondents and 93.1 percent of camps respondents said they offer aquatic programming.

Slightly fewer respondents in 2012 indicated that they have plans to add aquatic programming over the next three years. In 2011, 20.1 percent of aquatics respondents had such plans. In 2012, that number falls slightly to 18 percent. The most commonly planned program additions include:

  1. Special needs aquatic programs (32.8 percent of respondents with plans to add aquatic programming)
  2. Learn-to-swim for adults (28.7 percent)
  3. Aquatic exercise programs (28.7 percent)
  4. Aquatic therapy programs (23.6 percent)
  5. Adult swim teams (19 percent)
  6. Learn-to-swim for children (16.9 percent)
  7. Youth swim teams (16.9 percent)
  8. Water polo (16.9 percent)
  9. Water safety programs (14.9 percent)
  10. Lifeguard training (12.8 percent)

Water polo did not appear on the list of top 10 planned programs in 2011. It is most commonly planned for addition by community recreation and sports centers, YMCAs, and schools and school districts. Other program areas that showed significant growth in 2012 over 2011 include learn-to-swim for adults (up 5.2 percentage points), aquatic exercise programs (up 5.2), aquatic therapy programs (up 4.7) and adult swim teams (up 2.4).

Other areas saw a slight drop in the percentage of respondents who planned to add them over the next three years. Learn-to-swim for children fell 5.7 percentage points in 2012, water safety fell 4.5 points and lifeguard training fell 4.3 points. Dropping off the list entirely were swim meets and competitions, which saw a drop of 2.6 percentage points.

Respondents from community recreation and sports centers were the most likely to be planning to add programs at their facilities. Some 28.2 percent of respondents from these facilities were planning new programs over the next three years. They were more likely than other facility types to be planning to add aquatic exercise programs, adult swim teams, water polo, water safety programs, diving and diving teams, and swim meets and competitions.

YMCAs were second most likely to be planning to add new aquatic programming at their facilities. More than a quarter (25.3 percent) of these respondents are planning new program additions over the next three years. They were more likely than other facility types to be planning to add special needs aquatic programs, aquatic therapy programs and youth swim teams.

Learn-to-swim for adults was most commonly planned by parks and recreation organizations. College and university respondents were more likely than other facility types to be planning to add learn-to-swim for children, diving and diving teams, and swim teams. Health clubs were more likely than other facility types to be planning to add lifeguard training, as well as lap swimming and leisure swimming.

Respondents from schools and school districts, as well as camp facilities were the least likely to be planning to add new programs at their facilities. Just 10 percent of schools respondents and 12.1 percent of camp respondents reported that they had plans to add aquatic programs over the next three years.

Outfitting the Pool

More and more, aquatic facilities are looking for ways to ensure they stand out from the pack, and this means that many pools have evolved to become more than rectangular bodies of water. Splash play elements, surf machines, lazy rivers and more all serve to make swimming more fun and attractive. At the same time, new technologies for heating water and keeping it clean and safe also gain favor over time.

When asked what types of features their aquatic facilities include, the top 10 features selected by aquatics respondents included:

  1. Pool lift/accessibility equipment (68.1 percent)
  2. Diving boards (55 percent)
  3. Zero-depth entry (43 percent)
  4. Waterslides (40.1 percent)
  5. Water play structures (37.3 percent)
  6. UV disinfection systems (19.8 percent)
  7. Saline chlorination systems (16.3 percent)
  8. Poolside cabanas (14.3 percent)
  9. Lazy rivers (13.9 percent)
  10. Solar pool heating (7.7 percent)

The first nine items on this list appeared in the same order in 2011. The only change is No. 10, solar pool heating, which moved into the place where ozone systems stood last year.

This year's survey responses show a marked increase in many areas, particularly in the number of respondents whose facilities include pool lifts and accessibility equipment. In 2011, 52.8 percent of aquatic respondents reported that their facilities included lifts and accessibility equipment. This year, that number jumps dramatically to 68.1 percent. This is likely due to the large number of facilities attempting to bring their pools into compliance with updated ADA regulations. Though the deadline for compliance has been extended to January 2013, many facilities have already taken measures to ensure their pools are meeting the new standards.

Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to report that their facilities included pool lifts and accessibility equipment. Some 79.4 percent of YMCA respondents said they had pool lifts or accessibility equipment. They were followed by community recreation and sports centers, parks organizations, colleges and universities, health clubs and schools and school districts. Respondents from camp facilities were least likely to have pool lifts or other accessibility equipment in place, though a third (33.3 percent) did have them.

There were dramatic differences in the types of features currently included in aquatic facilities, depending on the type of organization represented. Parks and recreation respondents were more likely than respondents from other types of facilities to include diving boards, as well as waterpark-like amenities, such as zero-depth entry, waterslides, water play structures, poolside cabanas, lazy rivers and wave pools.

Respondents from health clubs were more likely than those from other facility types to report that their aquatic facilities included saline chlorination systems and/or ozone systems. Camp respondents were more likely than those from other facilities to include solar pool heating. And respondents from community recreation and sports centers were more likely to include UV disinfection systems.

Nearly three in 10 (29.4 percent) of aquatics respondents reported that they have plans to add more features at their aquatic facilities over the next three years. Respondents from camps were most likely to have such plans. Some 44.8 percent of camp respondents reported that they plan to add features. They were followed by parks respondents (33.2 percent) and YMCAs (31.6 percent). Schools respondents were least likely to be planning to add features at their aquatic facilities, with just 10 percent reporting they had such plans.

The most commonly planned additions include:

  1. Pool lifts and accessibility equipment (planned by 46.9 percent of those who will be adding any kind of features in the next three years)
  2. UV disinfection systems (25.8 percent)
  3. Zero-depth entry (21.4 percent)
  4. Water play structures (19.8 percent)
  5. Waterslides (14.5 percent)
  6. Lazy rivers (12.9 percent)
  7. Poolside cabanas (12.6 percent)
  8. Solar pool heating (11.6 percent)
  9. Saline chlorination systems (8.5 percent)
  10. Diving boards (6.6 percent)

Respondents from camps were more likely than other facility types to be planning many specific features, including pool lifts and accessibility equipment, poolside cabanas, solar pool heating, saline chlorination systems and diving boards.

YMCA respondents were more likely than those from other facilities to be planning UV disinfection systems, water play structures and waterslides.

Finally, respondents from parks and recreation organizations were more likely than others to be planning to add zero-depth entry or lazy rivers to their aquatic facilities over the next three years.



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