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Photos courtesy Schwaben Quellen

Modern businesses typically choose communities with cultural and recreational amenities that allows them to attract and retain a well-educated workforce. This enlarges the tax base and stimulates the economy, which then provides more tax revenue that parks and recreation agencies can use to enhance or expand infrastructure, facilities and programs. This is why it?s so important for public aquatics facilities to keep up with the times and provide the amenities and services that future generations will expect and demand.

A big part of those expectations are the result of tourism, now a multi-billion dollar industry. U.S. tourism was estimated at $518 billion annually, according to a 2007 report on CNNMoney.com. And global tourism was estimated at $880 billion annually, said a 2007 report on TerraDaily.com. These travelers have seen what European aquatics facilities offer and are bringing their desire for these experiences back home.

For instance, Schwaben Quellen, a large spa/waterpark complex located in Stuttgart, Germany, offers multiple steam rooms, saunas and adventure showers (themed shower experiences complete with special lighting, sounds and aromatherapy). Guests can even roll in the snow following use of a sauna or other type of steam room. At Wave die Wrgler Wasserwelten in Austria, concentrated body-warm (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) saline baths enriched with salt from the Dead Sea create a seemingly weightless floating experience with a play of colors and atmospheric underwater music.

With lifetime expectancy up 30 years since 1900, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, adults are strong advocates of well-being amenities that is, therapy pools, leisure pools and lap swimming at U.S. aquatics centers. Thus, the addition of European spa amenities will be embraced.

Other adult amenities include exquisite poolside dining, a combination of tranquil and exhilarating pools, infinity edge, cascading waterfalls, hydrotherapy bubbling caves, and waterart fountains.

The addition of more adult amenities will influence childcare activities so that mom and dad can partake in revitalization, purification, and other well-being experiences. Child-care activities will foster more supervised events inspired by kids? clubs on cruise ships, hotels and resorts.

Environmental intelligence is the next area of change. With many municipalities already requiring LEED standards and other advancements, the aquatic design industry will include more green building methods. Although they have higher initial costs, green pools will ?LEED? the way to a healthier atmosphere for swimmers as well as the environment, while substantially lowering operating costs through water conservation and energy efficiency. Strategies also will include a comprehensive design analysis related to biodiversity (site preservation and encroachment issues), nearby urban transit and innovative practices.

Innovative examples include the reuse of pool wastewater from backwashing and deck drains for flushing toilets in the bathhouse; the use of a regenerative filtration system for a 200-gallon backwash rather than a 5,000-gallon backwash; and the inclusion of ultraviolet light systems for water purification that will routinely monitor and treat pool water by sterilizing bacteria, viruses and molds and their spores, as well as help continuously remove chloramines from natatoriums.

Additionally, each municipality must determine whether mutually exclusive facilities (separate competition and recreation venues) or multi-generational facilities (combined venues) would be more appropriate. Competition pools, particularly championship venues, bring tourism revenue to local hotels, restaurants and businesses. But tomorrow?s competition pools will offer movable floors and bulkheads to accommodate classes, lap swimming and competition training simultaneously.

Municipalities will continually be challenged in the next 10 years when replacing old neighborhood swimming pools as waterpark-type amenities lazy rivers, play features, water slides and catch pools to name a few require additional lifeguards. Because many universities, colleges and high schools currently start classes in early to mid-August, this creates staffing challenges. Already, many aquatics centers must close early in the summer season due to lack of lifeguards.

Thus, leaders will be forced to decide whether to compete for aquatic professionals, who can manage a cutting-edge facility, or dilute control by opting for contract management to a third party in a public/private partnership. While many third-party entities can provide management skills, they may not be aligned with city goals of balanced programming. A competitive swimming club would have a competitive swimming emphasis; a developer would have a recreation swimming emphasis; and a local aquatics management group may not comply with equal opportunity practices.

Ultimately, the aquatics experience must be nurtured as a commodity. Water is a natural resource that must be treated with respect and innovative technology. Leisure is a commodity that evolves in conjunction with tourism. And tourism can boost the membership at cutting-edge aquatics centers.

Municipalities must take a leadership role in managing evolving customer expectations as well as the environment. It is then up to communities to see the enhancement of the aquatics center as a way to improve the area and retain free enterprise.