Planning For Aquatic Renovation

Located along the southern edge of Oklahoma, the city of Ardmore’s only outdoor facility was a 50-yard rectangular pool without a wading pool. Years of use had caused visible deterioration in the pool and bathhouse, and previous improvements had only addressed the piping and filtration system, and not the facility’s lack of recreational amenities. As a traditional pool, the facility had little to offer beyond lap swimming and diving, and it no longer fit the demands of the patrons. The city wanted to improve the facility’s condition and enhance its limited recreation value, but could not afford a new pool. Instead, city leaders chose to evaluate the existing facility to determine its renovation potential.

Sound familiar? Growth in aquatic centers over the last decade continues to impact communities with aging pools. Attracted by thrill rides, fun features and other amenities, citizens choose to visit the newest pools, which have a negative impact on the surrounding outdated aquatic facilities.

Unfortunately, many communities are unable to compete with these state-of-the-art centers. They face typical barriers, such as funding, higher community priorities and a general reluctance to put significant money into a new facility.

For communities in this budget-conscious category, planning for a pool renovation may be a realistic option to re-energize both the facility and attendance.

The Renovation Planning Process

While all pools are not suitable or feasible for renovation, there is a planning process that can help you understand a pool’s renovation potential, and give community leaders the information they need to make an informed decision:

Step 1: Identify The Project Goals

There are different goals a community may pursue when undertaking a potential pool renovation, but typically they include:

· Extending the life of the pool

· Adding features

· Increasing attendance

· Providing programs to the community

· Reducing risk

· Revitalizing the pool

· Fixing broken or damaged systems and structures

· Preparing the stage for a new pool in a growing part of the community

· Reducing operating subsidy

· Maintaining historical value

Leaders that spend the time to correctly identify the goals of their community build a strong foundation for the remainder of a project, so include the community in the entire planning process! Schedule and advertise open houses and public forums, and invite key community members for intimate focus groups, where you can encourage comments and drum up support for the project. The earlier you include residents, the more you incorporate their meaningful suggestions, the more probable your project will succeed.

Step 2: Understand The Community

After identifying possible goals, you may want to consider the aquatic needs and preferences, as they will differ depending on a given community. For example, is there a large population of older individuals that may want to use the pool for therapy? Is there a swim team in the area that may need a home facility for practices or meets? By examining the community, you will be better equipped to determine whether a renovation will meet the needs of the population.

Step 3: Evaluate Existing Pool

Pool replacement may be the typical consultant recommendation for deteriorating structures, but it’s not the only choice. If you have an older facility and you’re not sure whether it needs to be replaced, you may want to evaluate the existing pool to determine its overall condition.

An evaluation by a qualified consultant–many times a licensed professional engineer–can include a combination of items, such as structure analysis, water-loss testing, systems review and more. At the very least, a thorough evaluation will address both the physical condition and the ability of the facility to continue serving patrons.

In Ardmore, the evaluation report outlined many concerns, such as a poor gutter design, no ADA access and unsafe diving clearances. The report also provided nine alternative improvement and recommendation options, ranging from the most basic improvements to a complete facility replacement. After reviewing the evaluation report and recommendations and verifying the pool structure was able to withstand renovations, the city chose to renovate and add features of a modern aquatic facility.

Step 4: Decide Whether The Existing Facility Can Meet Community Goals

After completing an evaluation, a clear course of action should be defined in the form of consultant recommendations to address deficiencies to meet your goals.

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