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    Judge’s Comment: “A lot of thought was given to the comfort and convenience of patrons. The care and concern for staff and members shows in retention rates. Overall, a great facility!”

The secret to success is in the water at SwimWest Family Fitness Center in Madison. The pool is kept at 90 degrees so young students — and teachers — can stay comfortable and focused. 

Each swim instructor trains for a total of 20 hours with senior staff members. All instructors are required to have Red Cross First Aid and CPR certifications, and because a number of staff members are American Red Cross trainers, SwimWest can provide certifications to all employees, free of charge. To stay up to date on the latest information and training, a few staff members also attend the annual United States Swim School Association conference. They return with new knowledge to share with fellow employees.

Several other policies further encourage staff retention. Employees pick their own schedules, and when one employee substitutes for another, the sub gets a $1 an hour bonus for “going above and beyond.”

When it comes to patrons, the focus is on children and seniors. SwimWest is decorated with cartoon characters, and the L-shaped pool is specially designed for lessons. There are four lap lanes and the leg of the “L” is lined with stairs so children in lower lesson levels can sit comfortably while others are receiving individual attention. While their children are in lessons, parents have the option to utilize the workout room for a discounted rate.

As an entrepreneurial operation, SwimWest has developed a strong marketing program, including special events benefiting local charities and the SwimWest car, which is featured in more than a dozen local parades annually. Water safety is a focus in many of the marketing messages.