Double-Duty Pools

A recreational professional at a pool can prevent a drowning by teaching a young child to swim, provide the gift of mobility to a grandmother, introduce a toddler to water, build the self-esteem of a teenager on the swim team, and motivate a 12-year-old child to simply play.

It’s important to consider programming before designing a competition swimming pool. Photos Courtesy of Water Technology Inc.

So what if that professional—well-educated in the benefits of swimming—is challenged by operating only one pool that provides all of the above benefits?

Ideally, a multi-generational aquatic center would include multiple pools with multiple temperatures in separate environments; indoor and outdoor.

Alas, in this example, our seasoned professional does not have the luxury of multiple pools, but that does not obscure the importance of his or her role in the initial programming. Early involvement in the design programming will arm the resourceful recreation professional with the necessary input for a successful outcome.


First, consider the three specific challenges that one body of water presents:

• Size of the pool

• Water temperature

• Water depth.

A competition pool designed to accommodate swim teams and meet the requirements of sanctioning bodies defies all of the “design rules” for leisure or wellness pools. These “rules” include shallower, warmer water, with entertainment features like water slides and spraying water, wellness lap lanes, lazy rivers, and vortex channels that can offer both passive and active areas.

A competition pool is oftentimes larger in size than a recreation pool, and the percentage of population use is smaller than with a leisure pool. If the competition pool is to also host swim meets, the size of the natatorium must also be increased for spectator seating.

Aquatic programming must respond to the size of the pool to realize a return on its investment. Movable bulkheads should be considered to help make the pool function at its best capacity, and make it multi-faceted to allow competing programs to occur simultaneously. Maximum utilization of the pool is the ultimate goal.

Ideally, different programs require varied water temperatures. A cooler temperature is preferred for competitive lap swimming or aquatic aerobic exercise. A warmer temperature is more appealing in instances where a patron is using the pool for therapeutic or recreation programming. The pool program should determine what pool temperatures are required. In the instance of one body of water, concessions will have to be made to accommodate these different programs.

A competition pool can have many uses.

A movable floor is an option to overcome the water-depth challenge. Different activities require different levels of water depth, and this solution can help provide the appropriate depths for competition swimming during one hour and small child swimming instruction in the next.

Historically, competition-pool facilities achieve approximately 50- to 60-percent cost recovery per year. A seasoned recreation professional needs to find a way to increase that cost recovery. This begins during the initial programming of the new pool.

Program For Success

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