Creating an Exciting Community Pool on a Budget

With 30+ years of experience, John Dzarnowski has worked on recreation projects of various sizes. Dzarnowski's article in Athletic Business, Creating an Exciting Community Pool on a Budget examines some of FGM Architects' latest projects where budgets were a large component.

Article as published on Athletic Business

A well-designed and programmed aquatic facility is a great community investment and is often at the top of residents’ wish lists. Not only do municipal pools support public health and contribute significantly to the social cohesiveness of a community, they are also very popular.

According to the latest U.S. Census report, swimming is the fourth-most popular sport in the United States. While all ages enjoy swimming, it is the most popular recreational activity for children and teens, ages seven to 17.

One of the challenges involved in putting together a municipal pool project involves choosing the amenities that appeal to patrons of all ages, as well as weighing cost and popularity to maximize the return on investment.

This is relatively easy to do with splash pads, wading pools and smaller slides aimed at toddlers, but amenities for teens and adults are often larger, more expensive and harder to plan for based on perceived interest and predicted use levels.

While many questions emerge, stakeholders and project teams may want to start with the “big picture” question of what their financial goals are for the project.

To assess financial objectives, the first step is to examine the overall budget and estimate the expenditure required to achieve the desired revenue. Studies performed by consultants on pro-forma considerations have shown that larger, more exciting features generate the most revenue and have the ability to draw in crowds from neighboring communities.

Even if the attraction is relatively modest, it may be unique enough to draw in visitors from nearby towns. They may not visit daily or weekly, but a few such visits per season from communities in the region will substantially increase revenues and place the facility in a different category than a neighborhood pool.

Integrate features

One way to set an aquatic attraction apart is to integrate multiple thrill features, such as large water slides, bowl slides and tube slides that are interconnected with another amenity.

One example facility had a fun house attraction set up on the stairs to the bowl slide, where guests could use spray guns to spray people going down the slide, making the slide amenity part of a larger experience.

Another project included a tube slide that emptied into a plunge pool with an option to either stay on the tube and continue to a lazy river, or climb out immediately to utilize a water walk with water guns and other attractions. Tying multiple elements together creates a unique synergistic experience that will attract visitors and keep them coming back.

Compose experiences

While many of these attractions are relatively ordinary individually, by developing a unique composition of experiences, designers can optimize the existing elements of the facility and build visitor fun and enjoyment around them. In this way, facilities that wish to add features but do not have the budget for a major renovation can transform the user experience while keeping many existing elements.