Managing Aquatic Facilities

Juggling responsibilities requires a unique skill set

By Adam Blackmore

“Aquatic manager” is a fairly common designation in the world of pool management. The manager oversees competition, open-swim, therapy, and instructional pools, as well as water parks ranging from 100 acres to only a couple of activity areas. Each facility requires a unique managerial skill set that is often either unknown or taken for granted.

High-Risk Attractions

Usually the rides that guests think are the most fun also pose the greatest risk for a park operator. This creates the need for stringent staff training on all aspects of a water feature. Since the majority of attractions are not created the same, each has its own set of safety guidelines:

  • Minimum rider height
  • Maximum rider weight
  • Dispatching procedures
  • Emergency shutdown functions.

It is important for a trainer to review all of these areas with staff members and include measures to ensure everyone understands the guidelines; this can be in the form of a written or verbal quiz, the accumulation of a set number of hours “shadowing” a seasoned staff member, or a specific instruction checklist. It is also important to implement a regular audit or inspection procedure to ensure consistency and compliance with safety protocol. In the high-risk world of litigation and enjoying life to the extreme, it is impossible to be too careful when it comes to establishing safety measures.

Photo courtesy of the city of Henderson, Department of Parks and Recreation

Guest Conduct

There will always be challenges and room for improvement when it comes to customer service. However, water parks lend themselves to unique situations requiring creative training and, in many cases, an even-tempered manager. Sometimes, in parks that sell day-passes, the majority of the visitors are only in town for a short time or don’t plan on visiting the facility regularly, which can lead to a lack of respect for or ownership of the facility. Patrons may be more inclined to take risks on attractions, litter, break rules, or challenge management to accommodate their family’s needs since they are “on vacation.” It is important to train staff to be vigilant for any unruly behavior and to ensure rules are enforced consistently. In a large water park, the turnover of the daily customer base may be close to 100 percent, which means the need for patience, service, and policy reiteration is essential.

A number of today’s parks are also trying to make the facilities as attractive to adults as well as kids; this means offering adult amenities, such as private spa areas, cabanas, and alcoholic beverages. The list of questionable behavior that can accompany these types of offerings is endless, and should be discussed during management training. At a minimum, bartenders and servers should know when to stop selling to intoxicated individuals, deck supervisors should be comfortable handling inappropriate displays of affection or altercations, and management should have a broad skill set to adapt to any and all situations.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / artfotoss

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