Foresight

Editor’s Note: Parks & Rec Business magazine presents the 12th part in a year-long series of articles that will focus on… Everything H20, from pool equipment, safety, staffing and programming to profiles and perspectives on the latest aquatics facilities, water parks and splash parks in public parks and recreation. The series will continue in 2005 as we cover the latest in aquatics trends, products, facilities and programming.

Everyone knows how easy it is to Monday-morning quarterback. Just ask any Monday-morning quarterback. But what about those Saturday-morning quarterbacks who did their homework (think John Elway) and silenced those who would second-guess them on Monday?

It may be a stretch to liken sports punditry to an aquatics program, but in the case of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, the analogy rings true.

Fresh from a brand-new, multi-million-dollar indoor facility, and having just completed its seventh season running a relatively gigantic outdoor family aquatics center, there is little, if anything, aquatics supervisor Jeanne Wunderle would change. That’s not to say that certain items haven’t been tweaked. Lessons have been learned that necessitated an operations or programming response, but the foundation has been solid.

Realizing the Research

“The best advice I can give is to go out and look at other facilities, and we looked at about 30 family aquatic centers. We figured out all the pieces and components we wanted, and then we went back and looked closely at operations,” says Wunderle.

Working closely with Water Technology Inc., Beaver Dam, Wis., and relying on the firm as a source for effectively designing, maintaining and operating large aquatics facilities, Cuyahoga Falls was able to take advantage of the experiences of Water Technology and their forerunners in parks and recreation to the fullest.

Wunderle cites how users enter the facility as an example, and how concessions can either work for or against a facility’s revenue-generation plan.

“What everyone didn’t like about their facility was how people got into it. A lot of the entrances were unwieldy, so we paid a lot of attention to how people would get into our facilities, and we were able to bypass those problems,” says Wunderle.

“Families come to the pool with strollers, bags and whatnot and a turnstile system just doesn’t work. Turnstiles seem to be built to hit little children in the head.”

Instead, says Wunderle, Cuyahoga Falls has two points of entry — an admissions area and a separate pagoda. The admissions area takes care of day users who are more likely to have questions, need change or other line-lengthening situations. The pagoda is for pass holders who can get their pass scanned and get in quickly.

“Members should get that extra perk, and we also offer them entry into the facility a half-hour early. That way, they can get dibs on a good location in the facility. You’re saying thank you for being a season pass member,” explains Wunderle.

For concessions, Wunderle says they found one operation on their information-gathering travels that broke the mold, where different concession items could be picked up by users individually, rather than a main window for everything. There’s a place to get drinks, a place for snacks and all the warm foods are in warmers ready to be picked up and taken to the register.

“A customer enters at one end, and if you just want a bottle of water, you can grab your water and go right through to the other end where the register is. You’re not in line with people getting a big order, or can’t make their minds up. People don’t spend money when they’re in line. This allows people to go right through and there are fewer lines,” says Wunderle.

Reality Doesn’t Bite

Both the outdoor and indoor centers replaced older facilities. The old outdoor pool was a WPA project from the ’30s. The indoor facility was built about 30 years ago and had two pools.

The design for each would be built around modern realities. Ironically, these “modern” realities have probably been realities since cities began building swimming pools.

The reality is that most people, when they say they’re going swimming, really don’t go swimming, in the technical sense. They want to socialize and play in the water, and this has probably been the case for a long time.

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