Category Archives: Operations

Yesterday’s Numbers

When analyzing the efficiency of your aquatic operation’s business plan and financial sustainability, it’s extremely important to know where you’ve been in order to know where you are headed and how you can get there. There are several categories that can give you a good indication of your overall financial situation in terms of revenues and expenses, and analyzing evaluating these can help you determine in what areas you can increase revenues and decrease expenses, the key to financial viability and continued success. The following are the key areas you need data for in terms of both revenue and expenses:

  1. Total Attendance
  2. Total Revenue
    1. Admission Revenue
    2. Rental Revenue
    3. Food and Beverage Revenue
    4. Retail Revenue
  3. Daily Revenue Average
  4. Daily Attendance Average
  5. Total Expenses
    1. Total Salary Expenses
    2. Total Operational Expenses
  6. Expenses Per Operating Day
  7. Expense Per Guest
  8. Salary Expense Per Day
  9. Guests Needed to Cover Expenses

Aquatic facilities should track these numbers on an annual basis and keep a 3-5 year track record so it can be compared to the current financials of your operation. This will help you to see areas where your operation is thriving, as well as areas that provide opportunity for growth. For example, analyzing your personnel salaries on a year to year basis will help you to see where you currently stand on labor expenses compared to the previous years and will better enable you to identify if you are overstaffing your operation, or staying on par with your 3-year average. When starting to track these numbers on a year to year basis, it will be a great benefit to the efficiency of your operation and help you to better meet your financial sustainability goals.

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Xciting Programs

Aquatic programs don’t have to be dull and boring. Check out the list we compiled of some “oldie, but goodie” programs, as well as some new exciting programs to keep your guests engaged and enjoying your facility all year long!

  • Lessons – Standardized swim lesson program for all ages
  • Swim Team – Year-round or summer league with opportunity for off-season workouts
  • Lifeguard – Lifeguard certification course
  • Junior Lifeguard – Lifeguard course for ages 12-15 to prepare them for lifeguard certification at age 16
  • Water Polo – Intro to water polo class to teach basics
  • SCUBA – Rent deep end to local scuba organization
  • Kayak – Provide intro to kayak lessons
  • Aerobics – Shallow/deep water fitness courses with specialty classes for seniors
  • Aqua Core & Cardio – Shallow and deep water, strength for abs, arms, legs and back
  • Aquatic Core Express – Abs workout in 20 minutes
  • Aquatic Fusion – Combining cardio, strength, abdominal & yoga training
  • Masters Swimming – US Masters Swimming Club
  • Triathlons – Triathlon events and training practices for triathletes
  • Dog Swim – End of summer day for owners and their dogs
  • Fun and Fit – Low impact cardio and toning
  • Flow and Flex –  Low impact aerobics with specific exercises to improve range of motion, increase flexibility, and endurance
  • Gut Buster – High intensity cardio and plyometric using resistance bands in
  • Cardio Challenge –  High resistance workout with low-moderate cardio, building strength, endurance & core.
  • Camps – Weeklong camps emphasizing water safety, water skills, outside games and arts and crafts
  • Egg Hunt – In-water Easter egg hunt the Saturday before Easter for ages 3-10
  • Super Family Sundays – Plan family friendly events on Sunday afternoons
  • VIP Night – Invite facility members for special nights where they get the pools all to themselves
  • Dive-In Movies – Buy a projector and screen and show a movie on the side of the pool while guests float in tubes and enjoy the show
  • Friday Night Lights – Facility open later than normal on Friday nights
  • Theme Night – Pick a theme (pirate, Spiderman, superheroes, etc.) and hand out goodies, discount admission, etc.
  • Christmas in July – Christmas themed party at your facility in the middle of summer
  • Tiny Tot Time – Open the park for early bird hours for kids and families with children 7-under
  • Luau – Plan a Hawaiian-themed Luau
  • Family Float – Allow your guests to bring in outside floatables for a fun day at the pool
  • Floating Recycled Boat Race – Encourage guests to make a boat our of recycled materials and see if it floats
  • Swim Smart Party – Emphasis on safe water practices during open swim, stations to emphasize key points
  • Shark Week – Shark-themed games and goodies and end the night with dive-in movie (Jaws, Finding Nemo, etc.)
  • Shrimpie Saturdays – Special early morning swim time for kids 7 and under
  • Anniversary Celebration/Birthday Bash – Annual day celebrating facility opening with original admission prices
  • Back to School Bash – Special event the week before school starts with school supply giveaways and reduced admission cost
  • Pirate Night – Pirate-themed swim night with giveaways, reduced admission, dive-in pirate movie
  • Aquathon – Triathlon without the bike! 800m swim followed by 5k run (Splash and Dash, Soak and Scamper)
  • Underwater Hockey – The game is played on the bottom of the pool where players use a short stick to push a puck around their opponents to score goals at either end of the pool
  • Not Your Mother’s Aqua Aerobics – Gentle, yet intense!

Weather Policy

Weather policies at outdoor aquatic facilities are a critical component of both your safety protocol and your guest service protocol. When developing a weather policy you want to ensure that you keep the guest’s safety as the key priority, but balance that with service, as well. There’s a way to keep your guests safe and happy and that’s the balance you need to find. Clearing a pool should be immediate upon the first sight of lightning or sound of thunder, and the pool(s) should remain clear for at least 30 minutes after the last strike of lighting or sound of thunder. During this time your facility staff needs to keep guests and staff clear of the water, trees and other equipment that could be an attractor to a lightning strike.

While this is fairly cut and dry information, the hard part comes when determining what to do with the 200, 500 or 1,000 guests who are currently in your park who paid a pretty penny to come and enjoy an afternoon at the family aquatic center of waterpark. You want to make sure that on these days where you have to clear for weather that you don’t lose all of your revenue, but you also need to be gracious to your guests who had their stay shortened. Providing rain checks (instead of a cash refund) should be a no-brainer when it comes to balancing service vs. business. A typical industry standard in regards to severe weather is to not automatically give out rain checks in the event of severe weather; rather, write into your policy “If operations are suspended for more than 60 minutes, guests who remain in the park are eligible for a rain check for another day.” This prevents giving out rain checks when a quick 15-20 minute thunderstorm is merely on the outer edges of your park, but doesn’t cause you to clear the pool for more than 30-45 minutes.

In summation, remember that safety trumps service in the event of severe weather and life safety, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fair and reasonable policy in place to keep your guests satisfied in the event of severe weather.

Various User Groups

The municipal aquatic center found a happy merge of the convenience of a public pool with various fun features of the commercial waterpark while segregating creative water play areas for various age groups. Aquatic attractions have become much more age defined with age limitations and appropriateness due to elements of thrill and capabilities. Tots enjoy shallow pools with gentle water features and play areas tucked securely out of the way of the more active areas. Once children grow out of the tot stage they romp in zero-beach free-form pools and make their adventurous way across water walks and participatory play features with “just-their-size” waterslides. Older children speed down flume and drop waterslides and enjoy large water play structures. Teens enjoy gathering spots like action islands with access to deep water pools and extreme features (dizzying swirl slides and competing FlowRiders). Lazy rivers and current channels accomodate just about everyone while spas and lap lanes are geared for adults.

Just like other parks and recreation amenities, aquatic centers stimulate local economic development. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, parks and recreation areas may enhance the value of nearby land 15-20% as recreation amenities encourage happier and healthier families, positive business growth, and economic development opportunities. Creative people choose to live in communities with first-class amenities and cutting edge experiences. Further, championship venues bring tourism revenue to local hotels, restaurants, and stores. Activities enlarge the tax base and stimulate the economy, which then provide more tax revenue that the agency can use to enhance or expand infrastructure, facilities, programs and services.

Championship venues have seen a rise in building “fast” pools. Twenty years ago swimmers swam nearly their entire race at the surface. Today, most elite swimmers swim a large percentage of their races 3 to 4 feet below the surface, utilizing a butterfly (dolphin) kicking technique. This technique has been shown to create turbulence that extends far beyond the boundary layer produced in other strokes. Consequently, pool depth more closely correlates to swimming speed. The exceptionally fast pool features wide gutter construction, carefully calibrated water depth, gutter hung touchpads that do not disrupt the gutter’s ability to absorb wave energy, and well-designed and properly tensioned floating lane lines to keep the swimmer’s waves isolated in one lane while smoothing out the water within the lane.

Climate-controlled venue natatoriums offer a year-round, light-filled swimming experience with a 50-meter by 25-yard pool or a 25-meter by 25-yard pool. Other amenities include 1-meter and 3-meter springboards, a Colorado Timing system, full color video scoreboard, high quality sound system, and ample spectator seats. A swimmer’s ability to see pool wall targets, floor markings and other swimmers is critically related to good visibility, which depends upon water clarity, state-of-the-art filtration and chemical treatment systems, as well as one hundred foot-candles of light, more if televised. All surfaces touched by the swimmer, such as walls and starting blocks, are slip resistant surfaces. A movable bulkhead offers versatility to accommodate other aquatic lessons, fitness, and activities while a whirlpool spa extends a rejuvenating sanctuary for soothing muscles.

The development of campus leisure pools with lap lanes, large spas, bubble benches, current channels and lots of open space represents a changing facet of the recreation scene at colleges and universities. Today, rather than pools that support select, elite student athletes, schools gravitate toward facilities that support the entire student body, including ADA populations. It is reported that facilities that offer students a place on campus to pursue exercise, leisure experiences, and recreation opportunities have proven to be populated showpieces and an enormous recruitment tool. Moreover, a major clientele benefit of school leisure pools is the quadrennial turnover; schools are always recruiting new “clients” for whom the leisure pool remains a fresh experience.

Due to the associated health benefits of the warm water wellness experience, therapy pools have grown in medical-based popularity. Aquatic therapists provide rehabilitation movements to clients in warm water pools that involve exercise and motion to increase the dynamics of blood pressure and blood and lymph circulation as well as decreasing swelling in skin and other tissues. Users include injured athletes, post operative patients, the disabled (permanent and temporary), arthritis sufferers, diabetics, pregnant women, aging baby boomers, meditation enthusiasts, and obese patients. Ergonomically well-designed aquatic therapy environments offer easy access ramps, perimeter railings, aerobic steppers, treadmills, underwater benches, flexible pool depths for multiple programmatic needs, high-quality water chemical treatment systems, and an appropriately designed HVAC/DH system. Pleasing environments—tranquil waterfalls, natural daylight, aromatherapy, and ambient music from a built-in sound system—cradles the mind and body in a relaxing, soothing, and peaceful way.

Fierce competitors for leisure spending dollars coupled with the versatility of today’s products make it possible to build imaginative pools and provide authentic, functional settings. Immersive waterscapes have become the norm for waterparks and the resort experience as the hospitality and waterpark industries have exploded in destination waterscapes that create indelible memories in sought after locations. With the continued advancement in the fabrication of water features for safety, fun and fantasy, themed waterscapes create water jungles, pirate coves, and Mayan temples (to name only a few) with physical fitness and imaginative play for a whole day of fun. Some pools blend with their exquisite regional architecture and landscapes while others translocate guests to far away places with immersive environments. A concentration of immersive environments can be observed in the Wisconsin Dells, Las Vegas, and Orlando, where the amusement and leisure industry offer four-season destinations with hybrid segments of water, theme, and amusement parks.

Updating Policies

One of the primary keys to having a successful aquatic facility operation is the development and implementation of policies and procedures.  Aquatic facilities need policies in regards to a variety of issues that will come up on a daily basis, including hours of operations, admission prices and refunds, severe weather, parental supervision, outside groups and camps, swim wear restrictions, acceptable behaviors and whether or not guests can bring in outside food or drink. While this is quite a long list, it’s imperative to your operation to have these spelled out so that both your team and your guests are on the same page.

After the policies are written, there are two main areas to focus on: guest communication and employee training. The policies need to be written and communicated clearly to your guests through multiple platforms such as signage at your park, as well as on your website.  The more information you provide for your guests before they enter your park, the better experience they will have. 

It’s not enough for the guests to know the policies, but also for your employee team.  They need to know all of your policies and procedures backwards and forwards, including the rationale behind them so that when issues do arise they can accurately and consistently communicate them with your guests. 

Be sure to keep a list of policies that get a lot of complaints from your guests so that you can analyze, review and update them on a regular basis.  Once you take the time to develop and communicate policies with your guests, and provide training on them to your employee team, your organization will continue to offer great service for years to come.