A Checklist on What to Do if Your Pool is Threatened with Closure (Or: Saving Pools Saves Lives) by Sue Nelson, USA Swimming (2013)


[introduction, by Tim Welsh]


Okay, business track, part two, in the afternoon.  Begin by observing that if you are in a pool business that is threatened with being closed or having difficulty staying open and you’re coaching at the same time, that you must think you need to be in at least in two places at the same time.  Mick and Sue Nelson are doing exactly that right this minute: they are upstairs doing, Build-a-Pool conference; Sue is down here helping us keep our pools open when they’re threatened with being closed.  Mick refers to Sue as the brains of the outfit, and she is skilled at being a resource person for USA Swimming.  She works in drowning prevention, she works in diversity conference, she works in save-our-pool conference; she is a resource person who is constantly presenting ideas and strategies and plans for helping pools stay open, because open pools prevent drowning, because open pools are good for our community.


They began in Indiana, once upon a time; where they built their own pool, created their own team.  They were the Nelson Turtles, at that time.  They added a swim shop, they added therapy; they wound-up training therapeutic people to use water in their therapy.  And they have since moved to Colorado Springs, where they help the whole nation build great pools.  Sue we’re glad to have you; welcome.


[Nelson begins]

I know it’s really hard to be here on a Saturday afternoon.  I’m just visualizing this whole room filled with people, but I’m really going to be directing it to all of you guys.  You noticed on the title, it was a little lengthy.  I did not make the title up; I think ideally it really makes sense for four little words and it’s: Saving Pools Saves Lives.  It really says what it’s all about, no matter if you are in competitive swimming or if you are in learn-to-swim or whatever.


Two questions up there: Are you ready? and What if your pool closed tomorrow?  And did you know that USA Swimming clubs are actually the largest renters of water?  We have this question posed to us every day.  People do not really know what happens in an aquatic center at a pool, even though we say competitive Swimming.  So we really have to give a visual of what is going on in the pools.


So what does happen when a pool closes?  Anybody?  Speak up.  What’s the first thing that happens?  (I’m looking at you.)  Learning to swim, the community suffers.  And we can go down point by point by point.  Children no longer learn to swim, so unfortunately you’re not going to get kids on your swim team.  Lifeguards, we start losing the effect of our lifeguards.  We have already seen that effect happen, because we’re not real strong in a lot of our swim programs.  We only push them to swim maybe one length or two lengths, and then okay, mom says you’re good to go.  We really don’t explain why we are really learning to swim.


Neighborhoods deteriorate, we have heard gangs come in, and take over at that area because now we don’t have anything else to do.  Adults increase their chance of a plethora of health issues.  You’re going to learn some terminologies; we talk in terms of vertical and horizontal aquatics.  It’s pretty fun to go to our staff meeting now, when we can actually have our staff, coaches, and our directors talking vertical aquatics.  And some will go, Well, what is vertical aquatics?  Well that’s the fitness side, that’s the vertical/upright side, versus what you guys all do which is the horizontal side.


The council people and the Parks & Rec administrators, they need to be informed actually what happens in facilities before they go to vote to close those facilities.  There are simply no pluses; it’s a disastrous situation and you have an opportunity.


Some of the concerns that we started listening and hearing about.  In 2002, Mick and Sue were still in Danville, Illinois at Poolside Health and Wellness Center, but still very much involved in USA Swimming.  USA Swimming starts to hear rumbles of: what is the future going to look like?  You’ve probably been in ASCA meetings where they try to project what the future is going to look like.  Our pools are getting older.  Our model is not fitting what we actually do right now.  Our model right now is one singular pool, and we try to fit everybody into that pool.


So 2004, the department was developed that addresses the brick and mortar part of the facility and the programming side.  So when you hear us say that we’re over at regional Build-a-Pool Conferences; what a Build-a-Pool is is building a new model, it is renovating a pool that already exists, it’s covering a pool that maybe could be a year-round facility.  So Build-a-Pool has many meanings.


We soon found out between 2005, when we started hosting the national Build-a-Pool Conference, trying to start on this new model of multiple pools to meet the community’s needs, more pools started closing.  That’s when the term saving pools saves lives came to fact, reality.  We’re losing… our clubs who would come to us and say we have a pool that’s closing, what do we do?  So we also started working at that part of the other spectrum of saving the pools we have, because we can’t build pools fast enough and we need to maintain what we have.


December 19, 2010, 60 Minutes.  It was the day of reckoning, and everybody said that the budget was in deficit and moneys would be allotted to this group and to that group.  And we were running in deficit in many programs.  Well the largest program was the aquatic area.  And this was very disturbing, because it just fit-in with what was happening.  Our federal government identified that we had problems in the pools, but there was not going to be any money to help those pools.


Anybody know… (what do we say on there, pool closings?).  Look at the state; look at your state.  In California, that’s actually -100 pools, because before we really identified this issue, we did know in 2004, it was reported that 100 pools in L.A. closed.  They are just now starting to bring some of those pools back, due to some funding, due to some entrepreneurialism.  So that’s pretty scary.


So some facts that you need to know and be prepared for.  1,100 pools have closed over the last four years.  If you need to have information about those pools, we have a document that you can email us, we can send it to you.  It is information from city council meetings of reasoning why pools close.  It really starts to have a pattern when you go through those.


Has your team been threatened by pool closing?  Let me see your hands if you constantly are worried that your pools are going to close?  (Oh.  Okay.)  And are you prepared for an opportunity?  What are those opportunities?  Do you want to do it?  Do you have contacts, relationships, that can go in and create a business to keep that pool going?


And you know what that picture is?  It’s definitely not a parking lot, but it could be right now.   It is a pool in California; this was their answer to closing a pool.  When we find funding, we’ll reopen that pool.  Do you think that will happen?  Not likely—not likely.


So we set out to pull-out some of our information from Build-a-Pool, and decided well if we have a problem, we’re supposed to present a solution.  Well we’ve identified: there are three reasons pools close.  This is going to be helpful for you when you have to go in and talk to city council, talk to your boards or to talk to a partner who might want to come in on this.


So it’s renovations.  Should not have been a surprise, but we have found out that they are always very surprised when something falls apart.  So we know that dollars are not put in any budgets, they’re pulled from other buckets of other programs in the cities; and when something breaks they try to borrow-from-Peter-to-pay-Paul type thing.  And so they think it’s unexpected, but it doesn’t need to be for renovations; there should be dollars put into that budget.  This is a new concept for the aquatic industry.  It’s a new concept to have your own budget, because typically city councils look at the overall budgets and you have the running track, you have the baseball track, you have the senior citizens center, then you have the pool.  And each one of them shows a bottom line, but they move it around so what fits best.


When the council started looking at all budgets, and they know that their total budget you are $800,000-$900,000 deficit.  And when they come to the pool and they see it’s $700,000 – $800,000 deficit, guess what pops into their head right away?  Let’s close the pool, problem solved.  Not thinking through the steps which we will touch a little bit on.


Your income for the pools is not enough.  There’s a bunch of terms we use.  There’s no more free water.  This article was written in 2004; one of the first articles that Mick developed, put out on the website, spread-out through our blast [email]: there are no more free pools, somebody has to pay.  So we have to understand that we have to pay.  We have to understand both sides.  We have to put a facilities hat on and understand everything that they go through.


Now, definitely, there are problems, concerns.  However, do we really know what that relationship is with those aquatic directors/aquatic supervisor—whatever title they have because they are different all over the U.S.?  Do they really know the problems, do they know the budget problems, or are they just given a set of directions?  We have to create a relationship to really understand what and how we can work to solve that problem.  And of course expenses are always too much.


So those are the three reasons that pools close: expense budget, income and renovation problems.


So how do we help with that, how we have the solutions?  We need to look at, we’ll discuss briefly, three things.  It is called value-received pricing, understand it really comes from the business world.  It’s pretty easy: if you’re going to offer service you provide a valuable service and you should be able to have a price for that service.


Programming.  We are really struggling in programming.  When we look at a pool and we talk about programming, the first thing that comes to people’s mind is: oh, yeah, I have lifeguards; I have a head guard and I have guards.  In the new model this is not the kind of programming we’re talking about; we’re talking about having: learn-to-swim coordinator, we are talking about having an aquatic fitness instructor, who because maybe you are not qualified or you don’t want to be on that vertical-side, someone building that staff besides lifeguards.


What we see when we go into pools, we see lifeguards going okay it’s your turn go over there and do the little aerobics class.  Where are we at this week?  We are here for continuing education, become certified.  We’ve been promoting certification for years, and yet we put somebody in charge of our patrons, our members, who do not probably have a background in fitness, physiology, much less the different age populations to know what they can and what they can’t do.  So we need to have programming and staffing that are well-trained, certified; and that’s where we can help our facilities.


The invisible employee.  This is really one of the interesting things that, I guess I didn’t really realize that we did this in our own personal facility.  But because Mick is the number guy, I get to have all the fun and he thinks about all the bills.  So I couldn’t understand why I had to price certain things, just like apparently like the cities.  And once he got through that process of putting it into a story problem, it was pretty plain, why.  The invisible employee is about your capital improvements, and you actually take dollars and put them back, put them away, just like you’re paying an employee.  You put them in your bottom-line; you put them in that budget, just like you’re going to pay.


What are the invisible employees?  We have heaters.  Manifolds and coils, that really need to be replaced about every three years, 30% cost of a new heater.  We know those heaters are going to go out.  How many of you have been in at practice and they go Oops, sorry!  Or they close the pool because the heaters go out.  The industry knows when this is going to happen, it should not be a surprise.


We have pumps; that’s about three to four years at 40% of the cost of a new motor.  We can budget for that.  We have filters; that’s a replacement of four to five years of about 25% cost of a new filter.  Again we know those costs.  Starting blocks, deck equipment; yearly maintenance and replacement parts on these.  That should not be a surprise.  HVAC systems; sometimes when those go out they sort of stay out, they don’t get them repaired.  Then what happens: we have a rainforest in our pool, rusting starts, and the whole process happens and we can’t get it fixed, cost goes up.


UV bulbs.  I think by now probably everybody has heard about the UV, it’s pretty important.  We think the future, we will see this as mandatory on new pools.  But you have a replacement on those bulbs; you just can’t keep working them, you have to replace them to make them work properly.  Chlorinators; maybe every two years.  Shower rooms, other parts of the building; monthly maintenance.


In your facilities that you’re renting, do you think that the facility has a daily, a weekly, a monthly, cleaning procedure?  A process put in place.  If they don’t, that needs to be happening because it’s saving dollars.


Putting a place… the roof.  We have visited many, many pools, and you see the roof.  They’ve got rust, they have got opening holes.  They’ve just never gone to get capital moneys put-back to get that done.  But again it’s a hardship on that facility.


So why wouldn’t you have that money put back, so when it happens you can go get it?  It doesn’t mean you’re going to use it every year.  What happens?  I have all this money now built-up, and it’s like oh, wow!  No.  It stays there.  When it does happen; something is going to come about.


We had the lovely ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]; we had the Virginia Graeme Baker Act.  Did that cause pools to close?  Some, because it was a really-nice excuse to not be compliant: costs too much money.  Are some of the pools is it unnecessary to have that drain actually happen there: yes.  But it is a fact, it is a law, and we do it.  And we should be ready for that.  Now we have the lifts.  How many of your pools have actually… are in-compliant or have you got a waiver?  All in-compliance?  Yeah?  So what’s next?  It’s not that we might agree with some of these, but what is next?


We know it’s about—not we, Mick, this is Mick, not Sue—a dollar-per-square-foot-per-year that you would put back for a facility.  Is that just not simple?  And yet when something breaks-down, facilities go: We’re surprised. Oh, we can’t do it.  Oh, we have to have a fundraiser.




[audience member]:  Dollar-per-square-foot-per-year, is that the square foot of the entire facility?


[Nelson]:   The aquatic venue.  Your shower rooms, your deck, your pool, yeah, filter room.


Now, obviously a dollar-per-square-foot-per-year is not going to stay there.  So we would work-in that 5%.  Which every facility, when they have this budget….  We just had a conversation in the back of the room.  They are good at recharging us more money, the facility… and it’s always the facility’s fault we’re going to charge more money.  No, it’s probably the way they do it; the way they bring it.  You have a fee rate, a per-lane rental or per-meet rental that’s going up.  But if we would start-off in a typical business budget, you would have that 3% increase automatically built in.  We wouldn’t be so taken-back when we say okay, we’re going to raise it a $1,000 per event.  So we have to think about more business-mind and have that in.


But it’s a lot of education.  You have to educate your swimming families.  You work with the facilities; you have to pass that message on.  And it’s matter of education, of how important.  Put your facility hat on, just like you owned it.  To take care of your house, you have to paint the windows, you have to scrape, you have to get a new roof on how many times?  (Hopefully not too many times.)  You have to replace your heaters, your air conditioning.


Pools are the same thing; we have to take care of them.  We have to explain that to our families and to our community, because they think that pools are jabbing them.  In some instances they are, because of the way they have done it.


So the next step is: who’s going to step up?  Who’s going to take this opportunity?  Do you know the demographics and the culture of the area that you’re considering?  Maybe you are renting a pool that the neighborhood used to be filled with children coming into swimming lessons and now those children are grandparents.  So we have to rethink how we want to market to them, or is this pool really viable to stay open?  Can we really meet those budgets?


And I think you have somebody in the room who has wonderful experience in this, right down here in the second row.  Out of Ohio, his business is run in multiple pools across the city.  Probably when he hears there’s a possibility of a pool closing, he’s going oh yeah.  He’s excited because he has a business plan.  So I would hook-up with him and say, “How do you do it?”


But there is an opportunity for us who want to keep our pools open.  So we need to think about: if this opportunity arises, what are your building options?  We teach about the four aquatic pillars of an aquatic center.  So are you going to be for-profit, are you going to be non-profit, or are you going to be combination?  And I know in your leadership schools you go to, you talk about all those different types of programming.  We have individuals out here who have operated learn-to-swim programs, swim teams.  They have a business mind; you need to know who those people area and pick their brains.


Develop a business plan out of need not your wants; what are the needs of the community.  This opportunity, of pools closing, could make you look like a hero.  We could actually stop thinking about ourselves being USA Swimming, since we are such a small portion of our community; we’re a really a drop in the bucket compared to what the communities needs are.  We still want our needs met, but what about the community?  What are their needs and how can you be a help to them?


What does your business team look like?  Is it you; is it your assistant coaches?  Do you look at independent contractors coming in?  That’s why we’re on staff.  You can call us, we can talk about it, we can talk about the different business models of what you have an opportunity to do.


Another… the Facilities department [at USA Swimming] has created what we call professional providers.  They are not preferred providers—it’s not exclusive.  They are professional providers who have bought-in to the new model of building multiple pools, plus how do we save pools that are already out there and somebody wants to close them.  Another one of those professional providers is Team Unified.  And they have a tool that really helps us be able to raise-the-bar on your business skills.


Will you be ready to purchase or lease-to-own.  There are all kinds of opportunities for you.  Some people… just recently a team in Ohio had the opportunity to buy a YMCA.  Is that just the weirdest thing?  How many of you have seen We Bought a Zoo?  Have you seen it?  Yeah.  We don’t really want to go that route with a pool.  You want to know something about the business, you want to something about the building, you want to know something about it.  Although there are times that opportunity arises and you have to jump up and build the business plan on the way down.  And hopefully that… USA Swimming is here to help with that.  But those opportunities come up.


Had this team not taken-over and decided to purchase that YMCA, they would’ve been out of space.  And those are kind of stories that we get pretty close to everyday.  So are you prepared to purchase or lease or work on a contract?  Do you have things in order?  Do you know who to go to?  How do I know what size of pool I can actually operate and pay for?


This [on slide] is something I think is very important.  Typically in our Build-a-Pool and Save-a-Pool workshops, we provide a flash drive for you and it’s on there.  All you have to do is email Mick or Sue, we will get you this slide.  This is a visual that all of you can relate to; but when we are talking to the community, they really can’t visualize a 50m pool.  We know that because they tell us that Oh yeah, I have an Olympic-size pool and it’s at a hotel.  So it’s hard to visualize.


We also know that 50 meters, talking to some individuals in the city, scares a lot; scares them.  So the ideal way is to say Oh, we could take over that 22-lane pool.  And oh yeah maybe in a summertime we’ll turn it the other way and we’ll be able to swim lengths of it, but we would have 22 lanes if we went the width of it.  We need to respect the other people in the community to help them understand what we want.  So if you’re in a community 25,000, this is the size that really works.  And then we go up to 50.


Those numbers are exactly what we work with, day-in and day-out, for people to figure out what size of pool do I want to build.  Well they really want to build the biggie, but when they go to find out that they live in a community of 25,000 to pay for a 50-meter that’s indoors, they can’t do it.  So this is a graph that might help you give you a visual, after you figure out what do I want to do.  Do I want to have a training center?  Do I want to have an event center?  And, again, just email us and we will provide that for you.


Some of you obviously work on contracts.  What is the average contract out here: one year, two years, three years?  Three?  Dave over here, goes to a lot of pools, and we’re all seeing one.  One.  Man, you sign a contract and the next day you have to start negotiating.  If we assume we have it by the end of the deadline, a year, we could be out of a pool.  But if you can work to get a three… ideally a five year—we do know some people have got five years.


Bob, if you have three years, when do you start negotiations for your next contract?  (18 months.)  A lot of relationships, a lot of negotiating, needs to be going on.  Five years, many times they start on that third year of: what they want, what they need.  Keeping in touch, communicate is the key; communications.  Know what they need; ask what they need, not just all about us.  So your price negotiations can be annual, but if you can learn to expand that out and benefit for both sides probably the best.


High schools, health clubs, are right in-line with some of our cities.  They are tired of running the pools.  Because they see big red letters, deficit, pools that aren’t making money, the whole picture.  We have to go in there and show them the benefit if we want to run that.


Right now you have a couple of options—I think I mentioned it before, but I want to restate it.  You can have a staff, who might meet the skills to be able to operate this pool.  Who want to maybe quit their other full time job to be in Aquatics full-time.  That’s the nice part about it: you’re around the environment that you love, and I don’t have to negotiate back-and-forth from my real job.  What do you really do?  I sort of like that question.  For 45 years, what do you really do?  And that was from my mom.


You have a lot that you do; we assume everybody knows.  You need to tell them what you really do.  So health clubs, high schools, they are looking at closing as well.  Those are pools we could use.


Retrofit an existing pool for training and teaching use.  This is what… when we go out and have that pool, that all of a sudden you find you had a community that you didn’t know was even there.


Build new facilities.  However, Mick made me put in: but understand what a million dollars means.  (He’s over there explaining that right now, what a million dollars really mean.)  Maybe it’s not so bad where we at, if we work on our relationships.  To do that, you really have to go start right here: This is the pastOh yeah, but we already tried that; no that doesn’t work; nope, they don’t like that.  We don’t want to hear that.  We want to find some other way.  Which is why we’ve created tools for you to be able to educate, inform, get people as advocates instead of adversaries, of why we want to build that or why we want to keep that pool open.  So if you really want to know what a million dollars is, and you want to have a monthly fee of $7,200 a month—just to pay that, back nothing else—you might want to consider where you’re at is not a bad deal.


The tools that we have set up for you, we’re very fortunate to be part of a grant that USA Swimming was contracted, to develop a very comprehensive drowning-prevention program.  We were lucky enough—finally after years and years and years of negotiating and explaining—that drowning-prevention doesn’t mean barriers only—alarms, doors, locks, gates—but it means teaching people how to swim as a drowning-prevention skill.  So Saving a Pool, Save Lives became part of the drowning-prevention comprehensive plan.


And that’s what this Aquatic Resource Manual is about.  It is now available free electronically; you email me and I will send it to you.  So it is used as a tool to educate your adversaries, train your staff on value-received pricing.  It talks about customer service, it talks about the compliance of a pool, it has research papers.  Just multiple things that you can utilize to start changing the mind-set of our aquatics.


[inaudible audience question]


The National Drowning Prevention Alliance, NDPA, actually put in for a grant through the—here’s a bunch of acronyms now—the CPSC… which if you are in Aquatics, you need to know what all of those acronyms mean.  CPSC is our lovely Consumer Product Safety Council—good or bad, they are there.  And we put this grant forward and we received it, the NDPA received it.  And the NDPA put-out subcontracts to develop the program.  So it’s all about drowning-prevention.


[inaudible audience question]


This is what it’s all about, and this is the hardest thing for all for us to know.   This goes from either our swim teams to our facilities: it applies to both.  There are two parts to everything: it has to be income and expenses.  The other thing that goes along with that, is that we need to understand (remember this [talk] is only an hour, so we don’t get into all of it).  But I want you to remember the words optional programming supports community.


And so we have to understand what kind of programs that we can come in here.  (Again, I mentioned story problems because I really do not like math, but again this was Mick’s lesson for Sue.)  How many hours are in a week?  (Dave, you can’t answer.)  How many hours in a week?  (Please record this, that nobody knows how many hours.)  [There are 168 hours in a week.]  Thank you, yes.  How can we run a business if we do not know that?  And aquatic centers are usually open approximately… anybody guess?  On average, I would say 75 hours a week.  So if we know those, we know we have to program all of those hours.  Not just our wonderful program: from 4:00-7:00, 4:00-10:00, whatever your training hours are.


This is a graph to show you an aquatic center.  Now, this is actually done in a single pool.  And we have the four Pillars: we have the learn-to-swim, we have therapy or rehab, we have fitness—the adult fitness—and we have rental—team and parties.  And under that rental and team and parties is actually where we would put… that’s the icing on the cake.  That would not be your cash-flow.  That is your swim meets, because you don’t have a swim meet everyday.  And we want to design a budget to where we can actually see what’s going on.


So we know that learn-to-swim is very, very conservative.  So we want you to be able to blow this away.  20% of your income.  Therapy rental can be about 10%.  And your events, your parties: 20% of your income.  What’s the largest percentage down there?  What does it cover?  50% is actually the blue—it just is under the line of miscellaneous, so you’ve got green, purple, blue.  50% is your adult fitness exercise.  So that is what pools can actually be making.  Again that’s conservative.


So let’s look at it this way: 12,000 square-foot facility, 30,000 in the community, with a medium income of $45,000 per year.  That’s sort of the breakdown of what your monthly income can look like.  Pretty easy.  However, you do have to have the people in-place.  You know, it’s like the pilot and the airplane, which is more important?  The people; it’s a people business.  But you have swim lessons at 25%: that is so conservative.  Bob, isn’t that low?  Absolutely; it is low.  Adult training.  And WOE is actually for window of exercise; it is a type of exercise program that allows you to have programming going on every single hour, and every hour you’re trying to get more people in all these different areas.  In other words, it is structured chaos.


[inaudible audience question]


I can send this to you, absolutely.  And nothing is proprietary.  I mean we do it… you pay our salaries, buy your dues.  And so anything that we develop, it is for you to use.  You can take the whole PowerPoint, you can take the sides that are appropriate, and you need to go in and sell it to somebody, absolutely.


[inaudible audience question]


Yes.  The projected income is gross.


So do any of those pictures look like anything you’ve seen in your facility?  We have a classroom up on the left-hand corner of an aquatic educator training individuals in a certain type of exercise.  You have a fitness swimmer, in the middle.  You have a little baby with special needs that’s actually in a spa and they are training a parent on how to start working with the child in their bathtub, or their spa if they have one.  You have a sports guy down there, who is a swimmer as well but he’s also a golfer, and he had some trouble with his back and was out for a while so we did very specific training in the water with him.  We have our swim team.  We have in the middle there, the couple that’s dancing.  Actually one of them had therapy and now they like the water so well—they are not swimmers—they wanted to continue-on into a program.


These are the people in your community getting benefit out of water, in vertical or horizontal plane.  You have swimming lessons going on and we high-performance vertical aquatic exercise.  Aquaerobics/water aerobics: the term, throw it away; we want to educate individuals, they are exercising.  It’s aquatic exercise, what they are doing in the water.  Cute little names is putting that image… we say water aerobics, what does that look like to you?  What does that say?  (Go ahead.)  Grandmas and grandpas in the water, bouncing up and down; or not even bouncing up and down, just standing there.  We have to understand what the field of aquatic fitness has gone to, so that you are comfortable with terminology, or somebody in your staff is, and know what you can offer.  And again I will say: your community, do not assume they know what’s happening in the water.


To have these programs we need to understand three letters, and it’s called TAD.  Anybody want to take a stab at what that might stand for?  Yes?  TAP, Total Aquatic Programming would work.  TAD (oh development, I’m sorry I’m looking at my screen and my brain went right to that).  So, yes, TAD is: temperature, access, and depth.  To be able to utilize total aquatic programming, we have to understand: what temperature would your community adults need?  What temperature does the… maybe if you wanted to do an infant program?  What temperature do our swim teams need to train in?  Average temperature across the U.S. right now: 84°.  And some of our teams are training in as high as 87°.


However that’s when we need to have that aquatic coalition, we need to have that partnership.  We need to understand the needs of: what kind of programs are you going to put in your pool.   Let’s don’t have a swim team at 84°; and then have a therapy, that’s very passive range of motion, in that same pool—that’s who you’re going to market to.  You want to market to the groups who match the same temperature.


What about access?   In ’72, we built a pool: 25 yards, 6-lane, starting blocks, no ladders, no steps, no ramp.  What did I need it for?  I was 20 years old.  I soon found out.  The ageing process does go pretty fast.  And so we need to understand that even the ladders for some of our members in the community will not work.  If you want to be an inclusive aquatic center, we need to think about that.  We need to have ramps… well, it’s mandatory to have a lift—that’s not going to be used, we know that; we have to address that in our new models.  But what we have, we have to make sure that we’re compliant.


So when you want high performance; let’s say you have high performance you’re in a college town and you want have an aquatic boot camp course class.  Maybe I would mix that with my swim team, because their water temperatures are going to… they are going to get their heart rate up, they are going to be sweating in the water.


So you have to think about temperature, access and depth.  TAD and TAP.  And it’s very funny, because we actually have in Colorado Springs, license plates that are TAD.  And I run into it everyday going to work.


So this is, again, another tool for you to explain to… when you have somebody coming to you, Well why don’t we have this kind of program going on.  Well does it match?  Are you going to put all your energy and efforts into designing a program and then you’re marketing to the wrong group of people?


So we want to know about our contracts in our pool.  We want to start price negotiations starting at least an annual, but we think we should do it a bit farther.  We want to look for renting existing pools.  How many have gone out into the HOAs?  [Home Owners Association]  (Yeah, absolutely.)  If you’re successful, please let me know because we have a couple right now in the Build-a-Pool Conference that, in the Texas area, that have tried to go to HOAs and they keep getting the door slammed in their face.  They are not quite sure what they are doing wrong, but they keep saying no, no, no and it’s about liability.  So we’ve given them some ideas.


But if you’re open to talking with anybody, let me know because this is important that we have people needing to get into pools and so they will operate those pools.


[inaudible audience comment on “HOA”]


Oh, I’m sorry: home owners association.  You know what, I didn’t know what that was either until I moved to Colorado Springs; they were always neighborhoods.  But now they are HOAs; with rules.  And usually a lot of them have pools; and sometimes they sit there, sometimes they don’t.  We’ve had one club in Colorado actually approach the association, home owners association; and they worked out a deal where they put the cover over the pool.  Probably in the next two weeks, actually, this building will be going up; not a bubble, it’s a building.  And the team pays for it.  And so they teach swimming all day long and then have swim practice; and the members have access to the pool when they are not there.  So that’s sort of nice.


How would we really go about promoting that?  Would we go in there and say I have a swim team and I want to go in there.  Or I have children in your neighborhood, in your HOA, that should know how to swim no later than the third grade and it’s about drowning prevention.  We want to make sure that we’re selling the right thing. Oh, yeah, by the way it’s part of the swim team that runs this.  But you want to go with drowning-prevention, because we need everybody’s help on this.


So what we learned?  There’s no more free water, somebody has to pay.  We need to figure out how that works.  Facilities, cities are not are enemies; we really have to tear-down the barriers that we’ve put up.  Because a lot of our coaches will go-in, lot of our teams will go-in, and really not respect that facility.  For whatever reason, the development of that relationship it needs to be mended.  Optional programming precedes design.  Means you’re going to offer those programs, aquatic personal training.


Custom classes for swim lessons: that means that’s a one-on-one, and I want your master teacher, and I’m going to come in Monday.  But you know what, I can’t come in on Tuesday at that same time.  Yeah, they are going to pay a little more for that.  We have people out there that will pay for customer service.  That allows you or the facility to give back to the community.  So everybody is really getting their fair share.


Turning the pool to an aquatic fitness center.  Think of the pool as safety, health and wellness gives you more ideas on how to develop that pool.  It’s a little beyond recreation, although we are not going to take recreation all the way out of it.  But you want to something that’s going to pay for the pools.  What we think about, when we have recreation, is that it’s free.  We need to understand that when we work with city pools, tax dollars may have paid to build the pool but they did not put in to operate the pool.  That’s an education process that we just can’t assume they understand; it has to be like a town-hall meeting.  We have to educate, we have to inform and do it in a way that we’re doing a community service.  So thinking of the pool in a different aspect then just a pool, the neighborhood pool, John’s pool—name it.  Think of a pool as an aquatic gym, just like your health club.


We need to also make sure that they understand pools are essential.  It was stated on national TV that pools are no longer vital services.  Now this is true: we are not in the same category as firemen, policemen.  However, they are essential to the life of a child, an adult; and that’s the message that we have to get across: that they are essential.


So what are you going to do?  Our emails are on there; we’re there for you 24-7—just about 24/7.  Email is the best way to contact us.


You have resources you need to be using.  If you don’t know about Make a Splash, you need to find out about Make a Splash.  This is a great marketing tool for you, and it covers drowning-prevention.  This is through our foundation [USA Swimming Foundation].  The Make a Splash Initiative is a tool that you need to tell your community about, because they need to be part of that initiative that every child should know how to swim no later than the third grade.


And I’m going to leave you with this last information: Tina Dessart, raise your hand.  Make a Splash program manager.  We both work for USA Swimming, but we do a lot, a lot of work for the Foundation and their initiative.


And we were very excited when we got involved and part of the Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation.  To find out we are collaborating, we are making affiliate partners, we’re trying not to recreate the wheel, we are using our resources.  And if you want something to share with your community, find out about the Safer3 Water Safety curriculum.  It is the first national curriculum written to meet the standards for teachers in a classroom.  And it is actually, I look at it as the dry-side to your wet-side of swimming lessons.  Provide a dry-side, water-safety curriculum as a prerequisite to getting into your swimming lessons.  Sell that to HOAs, sell that to a community pool that wants to close; and say, “Oh yeah I have some statistics for you.  You could close the pool, but what happens when that next drowning does?”


And you don’t want to always be the threat; it’s the fun thing that we do.  But we have to let them know that this is why we can’t categorize learn-to-swim in the same class as dancing lessons, piano lessons; it has to be outside of that.  So you really have to market to the fact that you are saving a life, you’re making a difference.  It’s about being safer in the water, and this is the start of that.  You have access to this.  You need just to call us, email us, and we’ll explain the whole program.


Any questions?


[inaudible audience question]


It’s called the Aquatic Resource Manual.  ARM.  If your email will not take it, we can always put it in Dropbox, we’ll get it to you.


[inaudible audience comment]


Right.  He’s really stated that we are talking about the demographics of pools, economically.  African-American three-times more likely to drown than their counterpart Whites.  Hispanics/Latinos are running around the same.   However, we as a community have to address this.  Because we know that we have to have optional programming to support community programming.  If you’re in an area that’s part of do I really want to be at this pool.  If the demographics say that income is not there to pay for it, who’s going to pay for it?  We provide grants, Make-a-Splash grants, however, there’s only so many dollars to go around.  And it’s surely not enough to help keep a facility open, but it does help with programming.


Grant programming funding is much easier to get than building grant dollars.  But you have to make that decision: how am I going to have a pool operate, meter-going 24-7, who is going to pay the bill?  There’s still not that answer; somebody has to pay the bill.  And right now our services actually address grants for transportation: we encourage communities to open pools to bring kids into pools.  We’re not ignoring them, we’re saying somebody has to pay so that we can scholarships, so we can provide programs out there.  It’s not an easy solution.


We had a brand new pool five years ago, California.  Beautiful facility, water slide, other pool—50-meter pool by the way.  And it was not open two years.  They built the facility in an area that economically they could not support.  It’s closed.  So if you come up with that answer, let me know.


And some pools are not going to.  Once you do that observation and assessment, some pools are going to find out they are too old, there’s not a neighborhood around.  We need to think another way.  We need to be planning: how about we’re going to go to another area, but then somehow bring in the schools.


The other thing, that I think my dream is, is the Safer 3 is like planting the seed.  When we get this in-hands of educators, kindergarten to second grade; they are going to get the idea that we need to be building bringing pools back into the elementary and lower school grades so that we can have schools, swimming and pools together.  We need to bring back that piece of it.


And actually there are some places.  George Block just walked into the room, and he’s working with a group… his team is with the Safer 3 and their swimming program into the school.  So combining the dry-side education along with the swimming lessons, we’re getting it done.  But to go into an area that they are closing the pools, that literally nobody can afford: how can you operate?   Somebody has got to pay; it’s just no more free water.




[inaudible audience comment]


It’s a money loser?  Did you see the slide, the graph?  No; we’re here to tell you: no it isn’t.


Her question, well it’s more of a comment, is that the average consent out there is that pools are money losers.  Well they are, they have been operated.  Absolutely!  Can they make money?  I have a gal in the back middle, here, who ran three pools and made money out of it.  We have Bob over here; how many?


No.  We have to change the visual; we have to change the expectations of a pool.  It is a paradigm-shift that is happening.  And the more people that understand that pools are… and you know it’s really a turn-off for some people when you say pools have to make money.  Well that’s supposed to be free.  No, your tax dollars paid to build it; they didn’t allow any money in there to operate it.  And the buckets are all empty now, so we have to figure out.


And the way you do that is by promoting not the individual modality or type of program you have, but the benefits.  I’m going to save a life; I’m going to be safer in the water; I’m going to have my grandparent in the water. Or maybe: I’m going to have my 40-year-old sister in the water exercising, because she has some condition that doesn’t allow her to go to land.  We have to follow that health-and-wellness model and sell it to our communities.


Yes, Bob?


[inaudible comments about changing perceptions and programming options]


Thank you.


[inaudible question about funding]


The banks, buying into it.  For the new, when you’re out there to build a new pool?  That’s what 32 people are over-there in that room learning how to develop and put a business plan together.  Absolutely.  I mean you have to show that you have a way to have income.  We show you that.


There are ways to… Bob learned, (I’m so proud of you).  Vertical window of exercise.  This is… listen to this; this is what we need to know.  The new aquatic terms, what’s out there, how do you change adversaries into advocates.


But we have to address all the four aquatic pillars.  And we only do that… yeah I’m selfish: we did it for the Turtles.  The Turtles and a learn-to-swim program figured-out, we were going to have to close their doors.  Literally we had the sign ready to go in that front yard—it literally was our front yard.  And we figured out: wait, wait, wait; what else is out there?  And that is what saved our facility, is by looking at it in a different perspective.  We only did it so our swim team could practice.  That’s our passion; well, then I fell in love with all the rest.  So it all fits in.


You might not have all of them; you might not be the coach who’s going to do the vertical exercise.  But somebody can, if you understand the concept of what this will do for the community.  Yes, they are, if they are done right; if a step is left-out, no: you can’t get the cart before the horse.  You have to make sure that, you know, you plant the seeds, you’re educating.  It can be done, yes.  I believe in it or I wouldn’t be up here.


Are we good?  I’m around; my email, will always answer you.  I’m going to go back to the Build a Pool Conference.  Thank you very much.



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