“Build it and they will come.” Given
the current climate, that business strategy might sound
crazy. But when it comes to aquatic development, many in
the industry are crazy — like a fox.
Aquatic designers and suppliers at a number of firms say
that while business is down from last year, the difference
is slight. Meanwhile, operators are optimistic new
facilities will succeed.
“Our orders have been fairly consistent with
last year. The only difference is, many projects are
planned for completion later this year or early next
year,” said Andrew Wray, director of sales,
Whitewater West Industries Ltd. in Richmond, British
It’s business as usual for Scott Weiss,
president of V.i.P. Schools. He’s working with
community and school district leaders in Marion, Iowa, to
construct a recreation facility that includes indoor
aquatic amenities.“We feel there is no better time
to move forward than now,” Weiss said.
For those moving forward, it appears the biggest
challenge is financing. The nearly frozen credit markets
mean loans aren’t an option, so private projects
such as Weiss’ require upfront funding.
Public projects face a different situation. Because
funding for things such as new aquatics centers often comes
from bond measures or other revenue pools separate from
general operating budgets, that money is specifically
earmarked for the projects. But many state and local
budgets are running huge deficits, so generating public
support for new construction in the face of cutbacks and
layoffs may be more than some leaders want to undertake,
noted Scot Hunsaker, chief operating officer at St.
Randy Mendioroz agrees. “It’s pretty
hard to justify new aquatics center projects when you
can’t keep up with demand for basic
services,” says Mendioroz, founder and principal
of Aquatic Design Group in Carlsbad, Calif., which so far
has approximately 25 projects lined up for this year (on
par with 2008).
Still, some communities are continuing with new aquatic
development in response to a need for recreation
facilities. The Christopher High School gym and aquatics
center project in Gilroy, Calif., is an example. The $16
million endeavor is a joint project between city and school
district, slated for completion in 2009-10. It is moving
forward even though decreased tax revenue, has left the
city struggling to come up with its $4.5 million
Hunsaker said that’s happening elsewhere, too.
“They see that people still need quality-of-life
amenities. We’re seeing memberships dramatically
going up, and 10- to 20 percent increases in usage at park
and recreation facilities.”
There’s one more big reason many say it makes
good economic sense to build during this recession: Lower
prices mean more for the money.
“Construction costs are extremely cheap right
now,” Mendioroz said. “For anyone
building, now is a great time.”