Aquatics

A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities

Aquatic facilities represent a unique challenge for facility managers, with complex operations and staffing requirements that create different budgetary challenges. From the most complex waterparks featuring waterslides, surf simulators, water coasters and more, down to the smallest community pool, aquatic facilities require complex systems and management. Manufacturers have increasingly innovated to bring products to market that make it possible to run pools much more efficiently while maintaining safe water more consistently. But that doesn't mean these facilities do not present an intricate challenge to those who operate them.

In this section, we take a look at the answers provided by survey respondents whose facilities include aquatic elements: indoor swimming pools, outdoor swimming pools, splash play areas, waterparks, and hot tubs. For much more information on aquatics, be sure to read our Aquatic Trends Report (February 2019), which takes an even deeper dive into aquatics-specific research.

In 2019, 56.1 percent of respondents to the Industry Report survey said their facilities include aquatics, from indoor and outdoor pools to splash play areas and more. (See Figure 34.)

The most common type of aquatic feature found among aquatic respondents' facilities in 2019 was outdoor swimming pools. Nearly three-quarters (73.1 percent) of aquatic respondents said they had at least one outdoor pool, representing no change from 2018. Slightly fewer respondents in 2019 had indoor swimming pools—58.1 percent vs. 59.3 percent in 2018. Splash play areas saw significant growth, from 49.7 percent in 2018 to 54.2 percent in 2019. Another third (33.3 percent) of respondents said they have hot tubs, spas or whirlpools (down from 36.2 percent in 2018). And finally, 21.9 percent of aquatic respondents said they include waterparks among their facilities, down from 23 percent in 2018. (See Figure 35.)

Outdoor swimming pools were most commonly found among aquatic facilities in the South Central and Western regions. Some 79.4 percent of South Central respondents and 76.3 percent of Western respondents said they currently have outdoor pools. Aquatic respondents from the Northeast were the least likely to include outdoor pools, though more than half (58.7 percent) said they have at least one outdoor pool.

Indoor swimming pools were most commonly found in the Northeast and Midwest, with 60 percent of Northeastern respondents and 58 percent of Midwestern respondents reporting that they include indoor pools. Indoor pools were least common in the South Atlantic region, though 54.6 percent of aquatic respondents there said they have at least one indoor pool.

Splash play areas were most commonly found in the South Central region and the Midwest. Some 58.7 percent of aquatic respondents in the South Central region and 56.8 percent of respondents in the Midwest said they include splash play among their facilities. Splash play continued to be least common in the Northeast, though the percentage of aquatic respondents there with splash play areas grew from 36.1 percent in 2018 to 39.5 percent in 2019.

Waterparks were most common among facilities in the South Central states and the Midwest. Some 34.2 percent of respondents in the South Central region and 26.7 percent in the Midwest said they currently include waterparks. They are far less common in the Northeast, where just 5.3 percent of aquatic respondents said they currently have a waterpark.

Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools were most common among respondents from the West; some 42.3 percent of Western aquatic respondents said they currently include hot tubs. They were followed by the Midwest, where 32.4 percent feature hot tubs. The Northeast was least likely to be home to hot tubs, with 25.3 percent of aquatic respondents there indicating that they have at least one.

Given the nature of their typical operations, it comes as no surprise that certain types of aquatic facilities are more commonly found in some industry segments than others. For example, outdoor pools are more common among parks and camp facilities, while indoor pools are more common at college recreation facilities and Ys.

Outdoor swimming pools were most commonly found at camp respondents' facilities. Some 88.4 percent of aquatic respondents from camps said they have at least one outdoor pool. They were followed by parks (82.3 percent), and recreation centers (68.8 percent).

Indoor swimming pools were most common among colleges and universities, where 94.6 percent of aquatic respondents said they currently have at least one indoor pool. They were followed by Ys (94.5 percent) and schools (93.8 percent).

Aquatic respondents from parks were the most likely to report that they currently have at least one splash play area. Some 72.4 percent of aquatic respondents from parks said they have a splash play area (up from 65.7 percent in 2018, and 57 percent in 2017). They were followed by rec centers (51.1 percent) and camps (27 percent).

Waterparks are relatively rare for most facility types, but nearly three in 10 (29.2 percent) aquatic respondents from parks said they currently include a waterpark, and 22.9 percent of aquatic respondents from camps said they have a waterpark.

Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools were most commonly found in the facilities of aquatic respondents from health clubs. Some 72.7 percent of health club respondents with aquatics said they include hot tubs. They were followed by Ys (69.4 percent) and colleges (47.9 percent).

As usual, the vast majority of aquatic facilities covered in the report are used either for leisure and recreation, or for a combination of recreational and competitive activities. Only 1.5 percent of aquatic respondents said their pools are used for competition only. More than half (53.1 percent) said their aquatic facilities host both recreational and competitive activities, and 45.4 percent said their pools are used only for recreation. (See Figure 36.)

As is usually the case, pools used only for leisure and recreation are most commonly found among camp facilities. Some 93 percent of camp respondents with aquatics said their pools are used only for recreation. They were followed by health clubs (52 percent) and parks (48.1 percent). Only 2.9 percent of school respondents with aquatics said their pools are not used at all for competition.

Combined-use pools that offer both recreational and competitive programming are most commonly found among schools, where 79.4 percent of aquatic respondents said their pools are used for both purposes. They were followed by Ys (78.6 percent) and colleges (69.4 percent).

Competition-only pools are rare, and in 2019 were only found among schools and colleges. Some 17.6 percent of school respondents said they had competition-only pools, while 6.1 percent of college respondents with aquatics said their pools are used for competition only.

Pools & Budgets

From 2017 to 2018, and from 2018 to 2020, respondents whose facilities include aquatics reported greater increases to their overall operating expenses, compared with respondents whose facilities do not include aquatic elements. From 2017 to 2018, aquatic respondents' overall operating expenses grew by 4.8 percent, from an average of $2,310,000 to $2,420,000, while those without aquatics reported a 13.7 percent decrease to overall operating expenses, from $1,240,000 in 2017 to $1,070,000 in 2018.

Looking forward, aquatic respondents projected that their overall operating costs would grow by 3.7 percent, from $2,420,000 in 2018 to $2,510,000 in 2020. This compares with a 2.8 percent increase for those without aquatics, from $1,070,000 in 2018 to $1,100,000 in 2020.

Interestingly, while overall operating expenses increased for aquatic respondents from 2017 to 2018, their operating expenses for aquatics only decreased by 6.1 percent, from an average of $490,000 in 2017 to $460,000 in 2018. From 2018 to 2020, aquatic operating expenses are projected to grow 13 percent, to an average of $520,000. (See Figure 37.)

Respondents from Ys reported the highest average aquatic operating expense for 2018, at $580,000. They were followed by rec centers ($500,000), parks ($480,000), colleges ($480,000), schools ($440,000), and health clubs ($400,000). Respondents from camps have the lowest average aquatic operating expenses by far, averaging $120,000 in 2018.

From 2018 to 2020, respondents from schools reported the highest expected growth rate for aquatic operating expenses. School respondents with aquatics anticipate that their aquatic operating expenses will grow by 50 percent, to an average of $660,000 in 2020. Others who are expecting aquatic operating expenses to grow by at least 10 percent from 2018 to 2020 include: rec centers (up 18 percent, to $590,000); Ys (up 13.8 percent, to $660,000); and colleges (up 12.5 percent, to $540,000). More modest increases were expected among other facility types, with camps and parks both projecting an increase of 8.3 percent (to $130,000 and $520,000, respectively), and health clubs projecting a 5 percent increase, to an average of $420,000 in 2020.

More than three in 10 (31.5 percent) aquatic respondents said their aquatics revenues increased from 2017 to 2018, up from 27.1 percent who reported an increase from 2016 to 2017. At the same time, the percentage of aquatic respondents who saw a drop in revenues fell slightly, from 12.1 percent reporting a decrease from 2016 to 2017 to 11.6 percent who said revenues decreased from 2017 to 2018.

Looking forward, the percentage of aquatic respondents who expect their aquatic revenues to grow year-over-year holds fairly steady, with 31.2 percent expecting aquatic revenues to increase in 2019, and 32.6 percent expecting an increase in 2020. At the same time, 6.5 percent are expecting revenues to fall in 2019, while just 4 percent projected a decline in revenues in 2020.

From 2017 to 2018, aquatic respondents from health clubs were the most likely to report that their aquatic revenues had increased. Some 40.9 percent of health club respondents with aquatics said aquatic revenues increased from 2017 to 2018. They were followed by rec centers (35.8 percent reporting an increase), parks (35.7 percent), and Ys (32.1 percent). Camps were the least likely to report that aquatic revenues had increased from 2017 to 2018, with just 9.5 percent reporting an increase. Schools (16.7 percent) and colleges (24.5 percent) were also slightly less likely to see increases in aquatic revenues.

Looking forward, respondents from rec centers, Ys and parks were the most likely to be expecting further increases to aquatic revenues. Among aquatic respondents, from 2018 to 2019, 39.6 percent of rec centers, 37.7 percent of Ys and 36.3 percent of parks said they are expecting aquatic revenues to increase.

The percentage of aquatic respondents who report that their aquatic revenues support aquatic operations remained virtually unchanged from 2018 to 2019. More than one-fifth (21.7 percent) of aquatic respondents said their aquatic facilities generate the revenue to support operations (compared with 21.5 percent in 2018), while 69.3 percent said their aquatic facilities are subsidized via funding from other sources. (See Figure 38.)

Respondents from health clubs were the most likely to report that they earn their aquatic operating costs back via aquatic revenues. Some 36 percent of health club respondents with aquatics said they cover their aquatic operating costs with revenues. They were followed by parks (23.9 percent of whom cover aquatic operating costs with revenues) and Ys (23.2 percent).

Respondents from camps and colleges were the most likely to subsidize the aquatic operations with funding from other sources. Some 78 percent of camp respondents and 77.6 percent of college respondents with aquatics said they cover some of their aquatic operating expenses with funding from other sources.

Programming

The majority of aquatic respondents reported that they currently provide programming at their aquatic facilities, from learn-to-swim programs to aquatic exercise programs. Some 94.6 percent of aquatic respondents said that they offer aquatic programming at their facilities. This includes 100 percent of aquatic respondents from schools and Ys. Nearly all—99 percent—college aquatic respondents also provide programming. They were followed by those from rec centers (96.4 percent), health clubs (95.8 percent), parks (93.8 percent) and camps (88.1 percent.)

The top 10 aquatic programs currently found at aquatic facilities include:

  1. Leisure swim (currently found at 85.7 percent of aquatic facilities)
  2. Learn-to-swim for children (80 percent)
  3. Lifeguard training (74.2 percent)
  4. Lap swim (73.9 percent)
  5. Aquatic exercise programs (64.5 percent)
  6. Learn-to-swim for adults (58.8 percent)
  7. Water safety programs (55.2 percent)
  8. Youth swim teams (54.5 percent)
  9. Swim meets and competitions (49.5 percent)
  10. Special needs aquatic programs (33.6 percent)

No programs saw an increase in the number of respondents providing them from 2018 to 2019.

Aquatic respondents from Ys are more likely than others to provide: leisure swim; learn-to-swim for children; lifeguard training; lap swim; aquatic exercise programs; learn-to-swim for adults; water safety programs; youth swim teams; and special needs aquatic programs.

Aquatic respondents from schools and school districts were more likely than others to provide swim meets and competitions, school/collegiate swim teams, and diving or diving teams.

Aquatic respondents from colleges were more likely than others to provide water polo. Those from rec centers were the most likely to offer adult swim teams. And finally, aquatic respondents from health clubs were the most likely to offer aqua-therapy programs.

The percentage of aquatic respondents who report that they are planning to add additional aquatic programs at their facilities over the next few years remained virtually unchanged in 2019. Some 19.8 percent said they had such plans, compared with 19.6 percent in 2018.

Aquatic respondents from Ys were the most likely to be planning to add aquatic programs at their facilities. One-quarter (25 percent) of Y respondents with aquatics have such plans. They were followed by parks (22.5 percent) and rec centers (20.7 percent). Fewer respondents from health clubs (16 percent), schools (14.7 percent), camps (14 percent), and colleges (13.5 percent) had plans to add aquatic programs at their facilities over the next three years.

The top 10 planned program additions include:

  1. Special needs aquatic programs (planned by 29.9 percent of those who will be adding programs)
  2. Aquatic exercise programs (26.8 percent)
  3. Learn-to-swim for adults (23.6 percent)
  4. Aqua-therapy programs (21 percent)
  5. Water safety programs (19.1 percent)
  6. Youth swim teams (17.2 percent)
  7. Adult swim teams (16.6 percent)
  8. Water polo (14 percent)
  9. Lifeguard training (13.4 percent)
  10. Swim meets and competitions (12.7 percent)

Aquatic respondents from Ys were more likely than others to be planning to add: youth swim teams; adult swim teams; school/collegiate swim teams; special needs programs; and water polo programs.

Aquatic respondents from health clubs were more likely than others to be planning to add: learn-to-swim for children; lap swimming; aqua-therapy; and lifeguard training.

Aquatic respondents from parks were more likely than others to be planning to add learn-to-swim programs for adults; aquatic exercise programs; and diving or diving teams.

Finally, aquatic respondents from schools were more likely than others to be planning to add leisure swim, while those from camps were more likely than others to be planning to add water safety programs.

Facility Enhancements

Slightly more aquatic respondents have plans for construction in 2019 compared with 2018. Some 72.3 percent of aquatic respondents in 2019 said they have such plans, compared to 71.8 percent in 2018. This compares with 68.5 percent of non-aquatic respondents who have construction plans in 2019.

Aquatic respondents were more likely than those without aquatics to indicate that they have plans for new construction or for renovations at their existing facilities, while those without aquatics were more likely to be planning additions. Some 55.9 percent of aquatic respondents said they would be making renovations to existing facilities, compared with 48.9 percent of those without aquatics. More than one-third (33.4 percent) of aquatic respondents said they had plans for new construction, compared with 30.6 percent of respondents without aquatics. And nearly one-third (32.4 percent) of aquatic respondents had plans for additions, compared with 34.2 percent of those without aquatics.

Aquatic respondents' average budget for construction grew by 23.8 percent from 2018 to 2019, from an average of $4,630,000 to $5,730,000. This is much higher than the 8.2 percent growth reported by respondents without aquatics (from $3,880,000 to $4,200,000). Aquatic respondents in 2019 were planning to spend 36.4 percent more on their construction plans than those without aquatics.

The top 10 features covered by this survey that are most commonly found among aquatic respondents' facilities include:

  1. Automatic chemical feeders (found among 72 percent of aquatic respondents' facilities)
  2. Pool lifts and accessibility equipment (71.8 percent)
  3. Diving boards (46.6 percent)
  4. Zero-depth entry (41.8 percent)
  5. Waterslides (41.6 percent)
  6. Water play structures (37.6 percent)
  7. Splash pads (29.5 percent)
  8. UV disinfection systems (22.4 percent)
  9. Variable speed pumps (18 percent)
  10. Variable frequency drives (15.1 percent)

Aquatic respondents from park facilities were more likely than others to include: zero-depth entry; lazy rivers; waterslides; water play structures; splash pads; surf simulators; wave pools; and VFDs.

Aquatic respondents from health clubs were more likely than others to use UV disinfection, ozone systems and saline chlorination, and were also more likely to include poolside cabanas.

Aquatic respondents from Ys were more likely than others to have automatic chemical feeders; pool lifts and accessibility equipment; and variable speed pumps.

Finally, aquatic respondents from schools were more likely than others to include diving boards, while those from camps were more likely to rely on solar pool heating.

Nearly one-quarter (23.5 percent) of aquatic respondents said they have plans to add more features at their facilities over the next few years, down from 26.5 percent in 2018. Aquatic respondents from health clubs were the most likely to be planning such additions. Some 28 percent of aquatic respondents from health clubs said they will be adding features. They were followed by rec centers (27.6 percent), parks (25.8 percent), camps (25.6 percent), and Ys (23.2 percent). Schools and colleges were much less likely to be planning to add features, though 17.6 percent of school respondents and 14.3 percent of college respondents said they had such plans.

The most commonly planned additions in 2019 include water play structures (26.9 percent of aquatic respondents with plans to add features will add water play); splash pads (25.3 percent); and zero-depth entry (25.3 percent). (See Figure 39.)

More respondents in 2019 than in 2018 are planning to add: waterslides (21.5 percent vs. 19.5 percent in 2018) and lazy rivers (12.4 percent vs. 9.5 percent).

Aquatic respondents from parks were more likely than others to be planning to add zero-depth entry, lazy rivers, waterslides, poolside cabanas and surf simulators.

Aquatic respondents from Ys were more likely than others to be planning to add UV systems, water play structures, ozone systems, solar pool heating and wave pools.

Aquatic respondents from health clubs were more likely than others to be planning to add automatic chemical feeders, saline chlorination and pool lifts.

Aquatic respondents from schools were more likely than others to be planning to add diving boards, variable speed pumps and variable frequency drives.

Finally, respondents from rec centers were more likely than those from other types of facilities to be planning to add splash pads.



© Copyright 2022 Recreation Management. All rights reserved.