With a population just under 16,000, Clayton may be a relatively small town, but that hasn’t stopped this St. Louis suburb from becoming an aquatics powerhouse. With a mission of improving residents’ quality of life, the city’s two aquatics facilities offer a full range of instructional and competitive programs.

In 1997 city officials, in conjunction with the school district, launched the 20,663-square- foot indoor aquatics center, located at the Center of Clayton recreation facility. The partnership helped the city raise extensive funds for the aquatics facility, which is used by schools during the day and for community programming in the evening, early mornings and weekends.

Open in summer, the outdoor Shaw Park Aquatic Center features a 50-meter competition pool, dive tower with 5-, 7- and 10-meter platforms, plus a children’s pool. Besides a wide range of swim instruction, health and wellness is promoted among all age groups through various water exercise programs. Aquatic aerobics classes range from low-intensity Water Works for those with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia to moderate-intensity Senior Water Exercise and high-intensity Current Calisthenics.

With more than 100 part-time employees, the city uses extensive training programs to maintain a safe, pleasant environment for members. Certified lifeguards are put through a skills test followed by two hours of training before working at poolside. All guards and pool managers must complete a minimum of 1.5 hours per month of ongoing training.

Brochures are among the facility’s most successful tools to keep patrons coming. Other marketing programs include regular community events and Chance Cards for water fitness. The no-expiration date, 10-punch cards allow people who cannot attend all sessions of their water exercise classes to make up missed sessions in whatever classes they’d like in the future.

All told, the cooperative efforts boosted Clayton’s aquatics program from 3,100 participants in 2002 to 5,400 participants in 2007. — I.H.