As owners of the Colorado Springs Swim School, Kevin Dessart and his wife Tina are setting an example in the industry, demonstrating that adopting a business-minded approach can make pool operation financially sustainable.
Tina, who swam competitively at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, became involved in the business in 2001. Kevin, who grew up on Long Island, N.Y., dreamed of playing professional hockey. He played at St. John’s University, but after graduating in 1990, turned to the business of sports. Since then he has held positions with several NHL teams and sports-related businesses, including Carmichael Training Systems, founded by former Olympian Chris Carmichael.
The Dessarts took over ownership of the swim school in the midst of the recession. It was 2009, and when the city of Colorado Springs announced plans to close three of its pools, Kevin and Tina decided something had to be done to make sure that didn’t happen. They approached the city and Kevin took the lead in establishing a unique partnership between the city and Colorado Springs Swim School.
Through the arrangement, the Dessarts took over management of three city pools that otherwise would have closed due to the down economy.
For the three years prior to the takeover, the city lost a total of nearly $700,000 annually on the facilities, two outdoor pools and a recreation center. Under the Dessarts' management, Kevin notes that efficiency has been improved and losses significantly reduced, through a combination of cost-saving measures and other changes.
Looking ahead, he remains optimistic, even though the future of the agreement between Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Swim School is unclear. In late 2011, city officials abruptly announced that the partnership was dissolved.
Dessart is so convinced that financial sustainability can be achieved, he is taking the message national. He has spoken at a number of conferences, including USA Swimming’s Build-A-Pool and Save a Pool, the Aquatics International Unleash the Power of Water Virtual Conference and the World Aquatic Health Conference.
His mission is to provide an example of how to create a more sustainable financial model that will allow aquatics operations to continue to thrive.
“There isn’t a right or a wrong way to do anything,” Dessart says. ”But the paradigm has to change.”