On Deck & Beyond

Achieving a cost-effective and successful pool environment needs to be predicated on a pool deck and surrounding facility that is “built right” on the first try.

There is nothing more discouraging than investing in the construction of a new pool deck area only to find it riddled with maintenance headaches, high repair costs, or seeing it contribute to camper behavior problems.

How to Avoid Design Mistakes

1. One of the most common (and costly) mistakes in pool deck designs is made before the first design document is started — not identifying how the pool itself will be used.

If you can work with your camp staff to identify both the current camp aquatics programming and project the cutting-edge activities for the future, you can avoid many costly mistakes.

How important are these aquatic activities: swimming instruction, adventure programming, free-play, health-fitness aerobic and strength training exercises, a wide array of water sports from polo to volleyball, competitive distance swimming, injury rehabilitation, water-park and water-toy fun and opportunities to for participants to just socialize.

Once you have identified and prioritized the type of aquatic activities that would meet your campers’ current and future needs, you can make much more effective decisions about what to build, how much to spend, and how to maintain a safe and effective pool environment.

For example, if you decide to build a permanent, zero-depth access ramp into the pool for people with disabilities, you will probably take away at least one competition lane that can be used in a swim meet. This may save you from the extra cost in buying a portable ramp, cut down on storage space needed when it is not in use, and labor to move it but be sure that you make the decision knowing what flexibility (and pool rental income) that you might lose.

2. Not learning from the success and the failure of other camp directors who have gone before you in constructing pools and pool decks. You will need to make critical decisions about pool deck materials, drainage, safety equipment, handicap access, spectators, traffic patterns, storage, signage, and even the number and type of electrical outlets to install. The choices that you make can impact safety, the intensity and frequency of maintenance, pool equipment purchases and replacement costs, and how many campers will choose to return to your camp for another season.

Visit at least three other pool facilities that are similar to the one you are planning. Watch the campers in action, talk to the lifeguards and aquatics instructors, ask the maintenance workers about what they appreciate about the design and what they wish had been designed differently.

Then take this information and talk to the camp owner. Ask about the lifecycle costs (initial investment, labor and supplies for maintenance, utility bills and repair and replacement costs). What do they like and what do they wish that they could change about their aquatics facility?

3. Selecting a pool deck surface material based primarily on keeping costs down. What many camp business owners find after the fact is that the material that is the cheapest, costs more in the long run.

Certainly the material selected for the pool deck needs to be easy to clean and it needs to stand up to the elements of sun, moisture, humidity and pool chemicals but the deck surface that does not provide adequate traction for campers and proper drainage to prevent puddling can literally cost a fortune to pay for camper injuries and that requires early replacement because of premature degrading.

Safety, construction costs, maintenance, durability and aesthetics should all be considered. Deck surfaces can be as simple as treated wood (short on longevity and it can cause injuries as it ages), poured in place concrete (easy to clean but provides little traction for campers to tread safely), a light broom finish on concrete (gives more traction but requires more care), exposed aggregate (requires highly-skilled installation and is more difficult to clean than light broom finished concrete), coating systems over concrete (which can degrade quickly and can be expensive to repair or replace), or a ceramic tile with a coating that enhances foot traction (the initial cost is probably the highest of all the materials available).

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