Double-Duty Pools

Programming should always precede design and should be a collaborative process. Pool managers should be as intimately involved as possible. The more stakeholders involved from the community, the better sharing of information, accountability, and ownership the project will gain. Otherwise, the pool might not meet the goals and expectations of the operator.

When leading a design charette, Doug Whiteaker, President of Water Technology Inc., likes to apply a “lens theory” so that the team looks at the project through different lenses. First, begin looking at the design through a competitive-swimming lens, and then change lenses and look at the pool through a programmatic lens, and a myriad of options will appear. Lastly, look at the pool through a recreation—or “water-tainment”—lens and ask how to bring recreation fun into this pool.

Start With Spreadsheets

Programming should start at the spreadsheet level. Document all of the swimming functions, including competitive swimming and training, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo, etc. to gain an understanding of the number, length, and depth of lanes that you will need. Each sport has a set of critical requirements, and an estimated number of users will help determine the number of lanes and depth of water.

• How many swimmers will be using the pool at any one time?

• At what percentages of operational hours will each of these groups occupy the pool?

• How many swimmers are on the competition teams?

• How many lanes will be required?

• What are the length and width of lanes required?

• Will the pool be available for general recreation or fitness use when the competitive team has training scheduled?

• What provisions will be made for warm-up lanes?

Using a programmatic lens, discuss what other programs—learn-to-swim, water aerobics, snorkeling, etc. (see sidebar)—you would like to offer. Poll the residents to discover what programs they may participate in as well as what they perceive to be the immediate and future needs of the community.

There are many ways to adjust a competition pool for recreational uses.

Be creative and open to suggestions from both a collective programming team and peers operating similar pools. These discussions will reveal successful and not-so-successful program offerings.

Lastly, look at the pool through the recreation lens. Could the addition of removable, floatable play-features be a way to add recreation value when meets are not being held? Explore the new innovations in movable aqua-climbing walls, and determine how they fit into the recreation program. Is the addition of a water dropslide a viable option?

Overlay the sports swimming, programmatic, and recreation spreadsheets to help visualize how they all work together. This will help to determine the number of lanes needed and what depths are necessary.

The last challenge is marketing the new facility. Competition pools do not have the instant “just add water-tainment” attraction like their counterparts. Make sure to communicate to community residents the benefits of swimming and the programs you have successfully compiled. Saturate each marketplace, reaching out to the multi-generations of swimmers that will ultimately keep the new pool afloat.

Participation in the initial programming of the pool is essential to a pool operator’s success. When presented with a challenge, recreation professionals know their actions will ultimately impact budgets and bottom lines, and most importantly, the residents. Embrace the idea that there is a pool to program, and dive into the programming phase of the project with recreation resourcefulness!

Appropriate and inclusive aquatic-program development of the new community asset will not only be a source of drowning prevention and learn-to-swim-faster sports programs, but also the catalyst for teaching the “youth” of all ages and abilities in the community the lifelong benefits of aquatic wellness.

Melinda Kempfer is the business-development coordinator at Water Technology, Inc., in Beaver Dam, Wis. Reach her at (920) 887-7375, or


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