Here are four areas to consider in looking at an aquatics operation as a business.
- Promotion. Follow the lead of private waterparks and other entrepreneurial operations. Thanks to the Internet and social networking, there are many free and low-cost options for marketing on a less-than-Disney budget.
- Pricing. While accommodating those on a very limited budget will always be a challenge, it’s time for citizens and civic leaders alike to clearly understand just what it costs to operate a pool.
“Political leaders are the ones who haven’t changed as much. I’m still seeing people at the high level who just want to throw money at the problem and aren’t really looking for a long-term solution,” says Kevin Post, project manager at Counsilman-Hunsaker in St. Louis. “I think this is a good opportunity to start changing that mind-set. As we promote the trend of health, we can use it to promote [more accurate] pricing.”
- Expenses. “Chemicals, utilities, insurance and a few other necessities have increased way over that 3 percent [inflation rate],” notes industry veteran Mick Nelson, facilities development director of USA Swimming, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Also, many facilities never planned for capital repairs every three to five years, such as chemical feeders, pool heaters or pool refinishing.” For that reason, it’s essential for operators to constantly look to adopt measures to operate more efficiently. That could mean creating new partnerships, implementing policies to save energy or staffing more efficiently.
- Design. In today’s market, the most sustainable pools are generally those that attract the full range of user groups: athletes, fitness/learn-to-swim and recreation. The goal is to have a user-focused, multiuse facility for all ages and stages that directly addresses the needs and desires of the local market.“We’re big proponents of balancing out a facility with dry-land fitness amenities,” says Ken Ballard, president of Ballard*King & Associates in Highland Ranch, Colo.