Category Archives: Programming

Pools are closing? An issue we should all be concerned about!

Between 2005 and 2007 the Facilities Development Department at USA Swimming began noticing a trend in pool closings. In 2007 we started tracking the closings while keeping a short file on each one. The map of closings depicts a 2 year period between Spring 2011 and Spring 2013. There were almost 1,100 commercial or intuitional pools closed during this most recent 2 year period. The main reasons for the pool closings were:

  • Older pools ignoring or delaying upgrades and repairs to the point that the pool cost more to fix than any budget can handle.
  • Pools relying on simple “day pass” income and water rental rather than offering total aquatic programming options.
  • Budget cutbacks by cities and schools and rather than revamp the aquatic program offerings for the community, the “people in charge” of the budget simply close the pool.

Solutions the USA Swimming FDD Offers:

  • Educate the people responsible for the “fate of the pool” about programming offerings and pricing and maintenance escrows in budget.
  • Offer advice and assistance in the best practices for pool operations and renovations.
  • Supply an Aquatic Programming Manual (at no charge) to help increase the pools community value and revenue.
  • Do our best to make sure all new facility designs have at least 2 pools. The main pool and a warmer water smaller pool for teaching aquatic programming. Programming precedes design.

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Public Sector Waterpark Design

Soaring Eagle1        Although public sector waterpark provenance dates back over 30 years, many counties and municipalities considering developing waterparks today struggle with defining exactly what waterpark is.  So, it is not unusual when dealing with the public sector that everything from a splash pad to a family aquatic center to a full blown waterpark be referred in the media as a “waterpark.”  In times of tightening public sector budgets, water restrictions and controversy over subsidized recreation versus “pay for play,” the term “waterpark” can be demonized by a misunderstanding public with roots in traditional swimming facilities.

In order to clarify what a “waterpark” is in the public sector, the following definitions can be have been used successfully in many communities:

Splash Pad – A small water playground with ground sprays and/or vertical water features typically with no standing water, no lifeguards and no admission cost that often uses potable water that is wasted to an adjacent sanitary sewer or recycled into a water quality pond. Amenities typically include a mechanical enclosure with limited shade and seating.

  • Typical Design and Construction Costs: $250,000 to $500,000 (2013)
  • Admission Cost: $0.00 (No Operating Expense Recovery or Revenue)
  • Attendance: Varies Based on Demand and Size / Up to 10,000 per 100 day season
  • Space Requirements: (One Half Acre) plus limited or no parking

 

Sprayground – A larger water playground with many ground sprays and/or vertical water features typically with no standing water, no lifeguards and no admission costs that often uses potable water that recycled via a pool filtration and chemical treatment system with a secondary sanitation system such as UV light or Ozone. Amenities typically include shade, seating, mechanical enclosure and adjacent restrooms.

  • Typical Design and Construction Costs: $500,000 – $1,500,000 (2013)
  • Admission Cost: $0.00 (No Operating Expense Recovery or Revenue)
  • Attendance: Varies Based on Demand and Size / Up to 20,000 per 100 day season
  • Space Requirements: (1/2 Acre to 1 ½ Acres) plus limited parking up to 50 spaces

 

Family Aquatic Center – A modern public sector pool complex incorporating elements to appeal to the entire family (tots, families, teens) with traditional pool features (lap lanes, diving boards, learn to swim areas), splash pads (ground sprays and vertical water features), and waterparks (waterslides, interactive water play structures, current channels of 5’ to 10’ wide and leisure rivers 10’+ wide to 20’+ wide) including admission costs of $5.00 to $15.00.  Amenities typically include shade, seating, lounge chairs, restrooms, operations offices, shade, and group shade pavilions.

  • Typical Design and Construction Costs: $1,500,000 – $10,000,000 (2013)
  • Admission Costs: $5.00 to $15.00 (Typically to recover operating expenses or generate limited revenue)
  • Attendance: Varies Based on Demand and Size / 15,000 to 150,000 per 100 day season
  • Space Requirements: (2 Acres to 5 Acres) plus parking of 50 to 500 spaces

 

Waterpark –  A full scale commercial type waterpark operated by the public sector to generate revenue  incorporating elements from the above but on a larger scale with multiple water slides, longer leisure rivers, a wave pool and extreme or  unique water ride attractions. Amenities typically include shade, seating, lounge chairs, restrooms, operations offices, shade, and group shade pavilions.

  • Typical Design and Construction Costs: $10,000,000 to $25,000,000+ (2013)
  • Admission costs: $15.00 to $40.00 (Typically to recover operating expenses, debt service and generate maximum revenue)
  • Attendance: Varies Based on Demand and Size / 150,000 to 1,000,000 per 100 day season
  • Space Requirements: (5 Acres to 15 Acres) plus parking of 500 to 10,000 spaces.

 

Certainly, you can call just about any water recreation area a “waterpark,” but the most appropriate usage of the term should be to refer to the large commercial type revenue generating facilities with the capacity to attract and hold a large number of people from a destination of over 50 to 100 miles plus.  Therefore, to really be a big “waterpark” you must a have many different slides, interactive water play features, lagoons, a long leisure river and even a wave pool so that you can and accommodate at lots of park users.

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A New Public Sector “Gold Standard”

Many public sector pools were built from the 1950s to the 1980s using the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) standard of one pool for every 25,000  population.  This criteria was developed when many homes did not have air conditioning, many pools were filled and emptied daily with no chemical sanitation and when aquatic recreation opportunities were limited.  Admission costs for these pools were often $0.00 up to $1.00 and even to this day some public sector pool providers still offer these old fashioned pools for free or a heavily subsidized admission costs. (Cities sometimes end up spending $5.00 for every $1.00 received in admission.)

Public pool health scares beginning in the 1950s, coupled with more stringent safety standards, led to increased operating expenses, removal of diving boards and poolside waterslides, which in turn led to decreased attendance at public pools. Just as many of these public pools were closing in the 1970s, the first waterparks were being developed in the United States.  In the 1980s and 1990s, innovative public sector pool operators started adding waterpark features (floatable toys, zero depth entries, small waterslides and water play features, shade furnishings and concessions) to revive attendance and help pay for operating expenses at public sector facilities.  The most entrepreneurial public sector operators built large waterparks and were able to generate surplus revenue to help fund other recreation programming (I.e. Hyland Hills Water World in Colo. & NRH2O Family Water Park in Texas.)

At the same time, a new generation has grown up that demands the public sector to provide aquatic facilities for the entire family (tot, family and teen.)  Therefore, public sector pools are becoming more like waterparks all across the country in order to attract users, recover operating expenses and contribute to the local quality of life.

According the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) over 80 percent of aquatic users are recreation and lesson users, 10% are competition users, and the remaining 10% are senior/wellness users. In many public sector communities, the most vocal and the most dedicated voters are the not the largest user group (family recreation and lesson users) but instead the organized swim team groups (competition users) and senior groups (wellness users.)

The facilities required by each of the three public sector groups require different pool configurations, different water depths and different temperatures. To compensate for this, many public sector providers have started building fewer traditional 1950s pools and more splash pads, water spray grounds, family aquatic centers and mega indoor recreation centers with indoor competition, wellness and recreation pools coupled with a large seasonal outdoor recreational pool that can generate most of the revenue to offset operating costs.

Therefore, in lieu of the old NRPA planning criteria of one pool for every 25,000, the new “Gold Standard” minimums for the Public Sector should include at least one of each of the following for every 50,000 to of one pool for every 500,000 in population:

 

Indoor Competition Pool – One 50M or 25YDx 25M Lap Pool constructed and funded by the source of the users. (City/county for city/county leagues, recreation districts for their leagues, school districts for school leagues and private swim teams for independent swim leagues or a combination thereof).

 

Indoor Wellness Pool – One 4-6-lane 25 YD Pool (with ramp and step entries with two or three minimum depth lap lanes, water aerobics area and a small deep-water cardio area to be constructed and funded by the source of the users. (Hospitals, senior centers, city/counties, recreation districts or a combination thereof).

 

Outdoor Family Aquatic Center or Waterpark – One new-style family aquatic center or waterpark sized to meet the needs of the community and available market constructed and funded by the source of the users. (City/counties, recreation districts or a combination thereof).

 

The Public Sector Design Process

The public sector most often has to build public consensus and City leadership support to do all their projects.  If this is needed, the most effective way of gaining consensus is to develop a city-wide aquatics plan where a park planner and feasibility consultant educate the public on modern aquatic programming, costs, and options.  The big advantage of this process is that the public and decision-makers are led through the process simultaneously, outdated facilities can be documented, myths can be de-bunked about revenue and expenses and the decisions are most often then based on current need and public support.

Additionally, the public sector is held to more stringent designer team and equipment processes than the private sector regulated by state and/or federal procurement rules. Most will select an A/E (Architect or Engineer) led design team that will include engineers (civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and pool), landscape architects and architects.  In the public sector, it is most common that an architect leads an indoor pool project (not the pool designer). And for outdoor aquatic projects, it is typical for a park planner experienced in pool design to lead the project (landscape architect, architect or civil engineer with in-depth pool project experience).

Public/Private Partnerships

With funding difficult to obtain for private waterpark development, there are many private sector waterpark developers partnering with public sector clients to develop waterparks.  In most cases this partnership requires that the land, 80 percent or more of the development and infrastructure costs and undetermined future support for park improvements be provided and paid for the public sector partner.

Ultimately, this means the public sector has most of the “skin” in the game and is receiving only 10 percent or 15 percent of the net revenue.  Such an arrangement can tie up public sector bonding capacity, create increased costs for the very public sector residents who paid to build it with their tax dollars and leave the public sector with poorly constructed facility that is expensive to tear down or fix up if the private sector partner bows out.   That said, there are public sector client who prefer this arrangement since they do not have to plan, design, operate and continue to invest in the facility.

A 3-Year-Old Swimming 50 Meters Twice? Just a “Life Skill” With Video

Note:  Orginally published by Swimming World Magazine.  See link at the bottom for original article.

WATCHING a 3-year-old jump into a pool and splash around the water is nothing new. But to see a child of that age swimming the length of a 50-meter pool twice is a rare sight to behold.

Bruce Wigo, the CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, met the White family at the Hall of Fame complex in Fort Lauderdale and captured this video of 3-year-old Henry White jumping into the pool and swimming 50 meters unassisted. Wigo also talked to the boy’s parents, Eric and Sylvia, about their desire to make the Whites “a swimming family.”

His father, Eric, said this video doesn’t fully encapsulate how much his son enjoys the water. The parents have dozens of videos of Henry showing no fear as he climbs to the three-meter springboard and jumps off. The love of the sport was passed down from the mother to her children, the oldest of whom is 5-year-old Erica. Olivia, still a toddler, is likely to join her older siblings into the pool soon.

“Nurturing plays a big part, but it’s also genetics,” Eric White told Swimming World of his children’s affinity for the pool. “We started swimming as a family in March 2011, but before that when my wife would bathe the kids, she would tell them, ‘kick, kick, kick’ while they were in the bathtub. When they transitioned to the pool, it was nothing more than ‘kick, kick, kick.'”

Discussion of Henry’s ability to swim the length of the pool will be inevitably coupled with discussion of his skin color, and Eric White is fine with that. In an age where organizations such as USA Swimming and ISHOF are implementing programs to reduce drowning rates among minority children and bring more minorities into the sport, White knows his son could be viewed as an inspiration to other black children around the world.

“You can’t ignore the history of the sport,” White said. “If my kids are fortunate to compete at high levels, I’d be proud of them as a parent, and if they can bring along kids that look like them, I’d be proud of that, too.”

Henry was recently a part of the Black Heritage Meet in Raleigh, S.C., where he was the youngest competitor and completed a 25-yard freestyle in 1:19.38. Obviously, times are not important at this point in Henry’s swimming career, and Eric White says a love and familiarity with the water is what makes him happiest.

“First and foremost,” he says, “it’s a life skill.”

YouTube Video at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2R5BG4Tz7A

Original Article at : http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/lane9/news/usa/34728.asp

What To Include In A Dryland Training Diving Facility

USA Diving currently lacks a world class dry land training facility in the country although many clubs and entrepreneur coaches have established several excellent facilities but below the standards of the major international countries. The main reason is that the foreign countries have their trampolines, springboards and pits sunken in the ground. This is good for diver safety, aids better coaching techniques and much more advanced for hand spotting and overhead harnesses.

Requirements for a ‘world class’ dry land training facility are:

4 – 8 x .5 meter springboards – (boards sit on the fulcrum – fulcrum attached to the concrete ground and concrete cut away at end to enable board to dip into ground)

4 x trampolines – (sunken into the concrete ground)

1 x sunken foam pit – (approximately 2.5 – 3 meter depth) – 1 x .5 meter springboard and 1 x 1 meter platform at end of pit. (Some countries’ have a hydraulic platform that goes from .5 meter to 3 meter’s in height to allow for different standards of diver).  If too difficult to cut concrete for pits and trampolines a great alternative is to simply raise the floor around the equipment and apparatus (provided there is ample ceiling hights).

At least 3 springboards and 2 trampolines must have overhead harnesses for spotting of the diver to learn new and difficult dives. This comprises of pulleys and ropes and a strong steel support overhead is recommended.

A large gymnastics area is also required to enable stretching, gymnastic practice, somersaulting and sports specific exercises.

Hanging wall bars required for core stability work and mirrors recommended in this are for divers to practice dry workouts. Some facilities also have sprung floors in a small area for tumbling practice.

Yards vs. Meters vs. Meters

Every wonder why competitive swimming has three (3) different courses of play; short course yards, short course meters, and long course meters.  And why are there two different “mile” races, 1650-yards and 1500-meters? And for the record, a mile is closer to 1600-meters or 1750-yards. 

America is the only country on the planet using the “English” system of inches, feet, and miles (OK, technically Liberia and Myanmar are often listed as sad-sack English unit users). Interestingly, even England utilizes the metric system. In the 1970’s the United States made an half-hearted and unsuccessful attempt to convert Americans to the metric system. From gallons to liters and from miles to kilometers, Americans resisted the change. In track and field, running tracks were converted from 440 yards to 400 meters; however lengthening all of the nation’s swimming pools from yards to meters never caught on; it is extremely prohibitive to say the least.

USA Swimming’s current leadership is currently making another push toward the metric system. Spring Nationals are to be competed in 25 meters, while the summer Nationals will continue to be in 50-meter pools. The NCAA experimented with a similar plan; however abandon the plan shortly thereafter.

Related to yards vs. meters, USA Swimming’s Senior Swimming Committee previously recommended to stop hosting the spring Nationals altogether. National Championships competed in yards have no comparison to other times in the world or world record possibilities. Even from a marketing standpoint, it is difficult to explain to sponsors why there are two Nationals every year.  There is only one World Series, Super Bowl, or NBA Championship. USA Swimming’s initiative failed, but many believe the Spring Nationals are not truly a National Championship because so many eligible competitors do not elect to attend due to their proximity to the NCAA Swimming Championships, many of America’s finer athletes opted not to attend the USA Nationals due to missed school, financial, and motivational reasons.

It is not expected that 25-yard pools will be obsolete in the near future, but forward-thinking Owners should consider a “stretch” pool with a bulkhead to accommodate multiple race course configurations for yards and meters.  Other design possibilities exist, including a 25-yard x 25-meter pool, but the flexibility of pool length and even flexibility of water depth, though initially expensive, may be of paramount importance in the future.