With the economic downturn over the past couple of years, it was time for our aquatic center to think outside the box and create some new excitement. Our ultimate goal was to increase overall attendance and revenue by encouraging residents to spend their “staycations” in the city of Folsom and utilize the aquatic center.

Since opening in 2001, the facility has built a wide array of successful programming, including swim lessons, recreational swims, pool rentals, birthday parties and a variety of miscellaneous programming ranging from scuba diving to underwater hockey. We currently operate year ’round, and serve as home to the Sierra Marlins (U.S. Swim Team), two local high school teams and a summer recreation program. Last year our operating budget exceeded $730,000 in revenue.

As we brainstormed many ideas during the off-season to increase revenue and

attendance, it was difficult to think of a program that would provide the necessary “wow” factor. To make it more challenging, we wanted to create excitement without committing a large amount of resources and time.

A couple of years ago while attending a trade show, I picked up a brochure advertising some very large inflatables that looked as if they would be a fun addition. With the support of our department heads, the decision was made to move forward with the purchase of three of these large inflatables to create the “Folsom Aquatic Center Megaplex of Fun.” Along with the purchase of the three inflatables, we decided to buy two portable deck slides and a climbing wall that will debut in 2010.

With the acquisition of this new equipment, the staff recognized the need to launch a new marketing campaign and fee structure to complement the new attractions, while encouraging residents to utilize the facility.

The result? In one of the toughest economic times this country has ever seen, our aquatic center had its most successful fiscal year to date.

By lowering our season pass rate, we sold an additional 300 season passes. We charged an additional $2 for an all-day pass to ride the inflatables. Nearly 14,000 participants bought the wristbands, generating an additional $28,000 in revenue. The combination of increased season pass sales and daily attendance boosted our overall revenue by nearly $76,000. The daily attendance also rose by more than 3,000 participants.

Along with the new amenities, we were also able to buy a new variable frequency drive system, which has helped lower our utility bill. This change enabled our general fund support to go from 46 percent in the 2007-08 fiscal year to 33 percent in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

During the past few years, amid budget cuts and economic woes, it has been difficult to focus on providing quality programming for citizens. However, after the success we had, it’s become apparent that our facilities are needed more now than ever.

It’s our responsibility to keep striving to provide the best possible facilities and programming to our communities.

Chad Gunter is currently the senior program coordinator – aquatics for the city of Folsom, Calif. He’s also an American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor Trainer, Jeff Ellis & Associates Lifeguard Instructor, and was a CPRS Aquatic Section board member, 2007-2009.