Aquatic Trends Corner
Here we take a look back at some of the most newsworthy trends in aquatic facilities, from design and programming to marketing and smart methods for boosting attendance.
According to the 2012 State of the Industry Report (June 2012), operating expenditures for aquatics grew in 2011, after seeing a 2.3 percent drop from fiscal 2009 to fiscal 2010. Survey respondents reported their expenditures grew by 5.2 percent in 2011, and further increases are expected in 2012 and 2013, ultimately leading to an increase of 19.2 percent from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2013.
Boosting attendance—and thus, boosting revenues—can help ensure the money is available to spend on operations, and maybe even some facility upgrades.
Here are some of the most common means for boosting attendance and revenues experts have reported to Recreation Management in the past year:
- Find a theme. Themes are appealing to people of all ages, and are an ongoing trend in aquatic facilities. More than just throwing a couple of characters into the mix, themes should be developed through your entire facility, helping to create a "brand" for your aquatic park, natatorium or pool.
- Add splash play elements. Splash play areas can be kept open beyond the traditional swimming season, and they also offer a way to provide fun in the water without the bigger investment in a full-blown pool.
- Expand your options. Public-sector waterparks have increasingly found ways to add diverse elements to the aquatic mix, expanding from swimming pools to waterslides and lazy rivers, and even surf machines, raft rides and more.
- Reach out to all ages. Pools, splash play and waterparks should be fun for all ages. Boost attendance by older adults by offering times for lap swim and water aerobics. You can even use your lazy river to provide resistance for water-walkers. Bring in the teen crowd with high-energy elements. Young children will appreciate discovering water via splash play. And don't forget to provide a place for caretakers to relax and get out of the sun with shade elements and more.
- Give it a boost. If your existing waterslides have seen slacking attendance, why not give them a boost with a renovation that adds more color, lighting or even music?
- Modernize your marketing. Tried-and-true marketing methods still matter, but if you're not utilizing newer tools like Facebook, Twitter and mobile apps, you could be missing out on the crowds.
While there are no universally applied standards to keep swimming pools (and their water) safe, there are some accepted best practices. What's more, these informal standards are always evolving and improving to better address the needs of swimmers, facility managers, lifeguards and anyone who has a stake in ensuring safe swimming.
- Don't compromise on a qualified and trained staff. From certified lifeguards who receive ongoing training to certifications for pool operators, there are ways to ensure your aquatics staff is knowledgeable and capable of handling the job.
- But don't forget supervision. Once you have a trained, certified and skilled staff in place, you can't just put your feet up on your desk. Active supervision is crucial to ensure the standards you set for your facility are continuously upheld. While you can't be present every moment the facility is open, aquatic facility managers should be regularly checking up on all aspects of operations.
- Get real. The latest changes in the Red Cross's lifeguard training requires lifeguards to train with real-life exercises that measure how long it takes to get in the water, bring up a victim and perform CPR. This kind of training and testing helps ensure your lifeguards can handle a rescue from start to finish.
- Have a plan. Don't overlook the importance of having an emergency action plan in place. You and your staff need to know exactly what to do when something bad happens. Implement a plan, post the information for staff members and make it a part of your ongoing training.
- Don't forget to talk to caregivers. Parents and caregivers also play an active role in ensuring swimmer safety. Be sure to remind them regularly that watching their own children is crucial.
- Keep the water clear. It can only take a few minutes for your pool's water to go from clear to cloudy, presenting a challenge for lifeguards and swimmers. The ideal solution is to prevent this problem in the first place with certified operators and top-rate equipment. If the water does become cloudy, clear all patrons from the pool immediately and start addressing the problem.
- Pay attention to RWIs. Be aware of the prevalence of recreational water illness in your area (check out the recently developed searchable database from the National Swimming Pool Foundation, called the Worldwide Aquatic News Incident Database, at www.wanid.org, for one way to keep awareness up), and stay on top of the latest advances in managing your pool's water to protect patrons from pathogens like Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
Save Money & Resources
If you're looking to lower your operating costs and make your facility more sustainable—both economically and environmentally—there are several steps you can take, touted by aquatics industry experts.
- Upgrade your heater. Pool heaters grow less efficient over time, and newer heater models are much more efficient than the old ones. What's more, they have much lower emissions and take up a smaller footprint.
- Re-use your splashpad water. There are several kinds of water management systems available for splash play areas. If you want to go green and need to conserve water, look for a system that recirculates water, or alternately, one that holds the water that drains away from the splashpad in an underground tank, where you can later draw on it to irrigate the surrounding area.
- Turn it off sometimes. Your splash play area needn't be running all the time. Use controllers and activators to ensure water's not being wasted when no one's there to play in it.
- Talk to your manufacturer. There are many ways to green up your pool. Talk to your pool supplier to find out other things you can do to streamline your use of water and energy.
- The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) launched its Step Into Swim campaign this year, which aims to encourage the private and public sector to sponsor and support existing and exceptional programs that help people learn to swim. Learn more at www.stepintoswim.org.
- The deadline for compliance with new ADA requirements was extended, but only until January 2013. According to the 2012 State of the Industry Report (June 2012), more than three-quarters (75.9 percent) of respondents were already in compliance with the guidelines, which require accessible means of entry to swimming pools.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NSPF and other volunteers continue to work toward a Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), meant to streamline regulations and "transform the typical health department pool program into a data-driven, knowledge-based risk reduction effort to prevent disease and injuries and promote healthy recreational water experiences." The MAHC aims to apply best practices and standards for protecting public health, and states and local agencies will be able to use the code to bring about more uniform guidelines for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of swimming pools. Learn more at: www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/pools/mahc/.
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