Central High School in York, Pa.; North Park YMCA in North Fort Worth, Texas, the aquatic playground at Hilton Head Park in Rancho San Diego ... even in this weak economy, new pools are opening. While fewer new projects may be started this year, Mark Hatchel says given the fact that there's a substantial need for new pools, many communities are likely to continue with existing development plans.

"On the municipal side, we're still seeing projects being planned and designed. There's a need in many communities to replace and repair old and aging pools," says the Irving, Texas-based vice president and senior project manager with the nationally recognized architectural firm Kimley-Horn and Associates. "Many [projects] are being funded by surplus tax revenue from the past several years, capital improvement programs or bonds. I'm cautiously optimistic that given the need, these projects will continue."

From Hatchel's perspective as a designer, there are clear regional differences in the market. "Texas and [parts of] the Sunbelt are still moving, along with the mid-Atlantic," he says. "Florida and the Midwest seem to be hurting the worst."

What's happening in those hard-hit communities? Hatchel says he's seeing more interest in remodeling instead of replacing, but notes that in cases where the pool may be as much as 50 years old, there aren't a lot of options for refurbishment.

Looking long term, Hatchel expects that a tight economy will continue to drive the move toward centralized recreation facilities. He says larger facilities are easier and more efficient to operate when compared with neighborhood facilities. And because the regional model is more economically feasible, the current crisis is likely to further fuel the trend.

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