Turning Pools Into Profits
Best Practices: Find out how water programs can boost your business.
Fitness centers invest a significant amount of their budgets in maintaining the pool, but they do not necessarily receive an adequate return on this investment. In some cases, the pool is viewed as merely a value-added amenity to reinforce a positive member experience. Other than for occasional lap swimming and water classes for older adults, most gym pools are not being used to their full potential. It’s time to focus on the profit-generating power of the pool and increase pool usage. Implementing and marketing innovative aquatics programming can generate substantial revenue and minimize pool costs overall.
You can use the pool for profit in numerous ways. Consider these options:
Personal Training in the Pool. Since personal training sessions do not require much pool space or equipment, run two or more of these sessions within the same hour&mash; you'll still have space for lap swimming or group exercise classes. Trainers can facilitate strength training workouts that use body weight as resistance. For more advanced exercisers, the trainers can use specialized aquatics strength equipment, such as water weights, kickboards or weighted jogging belts.
Rehabilitation Services. Offer aquatics rehab to assist clients recovering from a wide variety of injuries or conditions; this option is also great for deconditioned members. The population interested in water therapy tends to be underserved (Peavey 2009). The buoyant properties of water allow exercisers to
- exercise without significant physical impact;
- increase and maintain joint flexibility;
- improve mobility and range of motion
- increase muscular strength; and
- improve coordination, balance and postural alignment.
Of course, you need a qualified instructor or a personal trainer qualified in aquatic rehab to teach these workouts.
Swimming Lessons. Schedule classes that apply to a wide range of ages and skill levels—from parent-and-child lessons to competitive athlete training. Also, offer the option of private lessons.
Arthritis Aquatics Classes. The American Arthritis Association has developed a specific arthritis aquatics class that you can implement in your facility. Refer to www.arthritis.org/aquatic-program.php for additional information.
Lap Swimming. Even with great water programs available, some members prefer to swim laps. Accommodate these clients by keeping a minimum of one lane open for lap swimmers at all times, regardless of other programs going on in the pool.
Pool Memberships. Consider offering discounted memberships for people interested only in using the pool. These clients would not have access to the rest of the gym, but they could use the pool and locker room and participate in all pool classes and activities. Pool memberships can be targeted to specific populations, such as seniors or pregnant women. These memberships may lead to full memberships over time, as individuals see everything your facility has to offer.
Special Training Courses. Make your pool the place for members and nonmembers alike to come for specialty classes, such as scuba diving certification, triathlete training, lifeguard certification and water safety training. Bring in certified teachers, and regularly offer courses for an additional fee. If offered consistently, these classes can be a significant source of extra revenue.
The best way to market your aquatics program is first to educate people on the benefits of aquatic exercise and then to get the word out about your offerings—to both members and nonmembers.
Many people are unaware of the benefits of water exercise. Offer lectures that teach the health benefits of swimming and water workouts. Emphasize these key points:
- According to the Aquatic Exercise Association, water’s unique properties allow the pool to provide an environment for people of all abilities.
- Water is a gentle environment for members with musculoskeletal injuries, arthritis and other physical conditions that make frequent exercise on land difficult or painful.
- Water workouts offer variety and cross-training for regular exercisers.
- Buoyancy creates a reduced-impact exercise alternative that is easy on the joints, while the water’s resistance challenges the muscles.
- Water is a great medium for strength training, cardiovascular workouts, balance training, sport-specific exercise and rehabilitative exercise (Heller 2007).
- Despite their low-impact nature, water workouts improve bone density, build muscular strength and provide cardiovascular benefits (Walters 2010).
Communicate this information to members and nonmembers alike. Offer lectures regularly both to members and to your community, and allow nonmembers to use your pool for a fee.
Publicize your aquatics offerings as widely as possible. Develop a thorough marketing plan to get the word out to members and the community. These prime marketing mediums are either inexpensive or free:
- signage at your facility
- fliers distributed both at your facility and at local businesses
- your website
- your newsletter
- e-mails to members
- networking with physicians and rehab facilities
- local newspapers and magazines
- local television and radio stations
- Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs)
Pool maintenance is a significant expense. The point of optimizing pool usage is to make more money than you spend. Although increasing usage can be difficult, if you launch, market and run the programs properly, you can accomplish it.
To avoid major expenses, set up preventive maintenance and ensure that all employees possess basic knowledge of pool upkeep. Check pool chemicals several times a day to ensure proper and consistent balancing. Improper balancing can lead to pool mechanical equipment failures. In addition, ensure that your aquatics staff members are trained and have current Certified Pool Operator (CPO) and Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO) certifications. To help with preventive maintenance, bring in an outside pool company to check your pump room once per quarter.
Consider what you would do if you had to close down your pool for a short time. You might want to partner with a local pool so clients can continue their exercise there in the event of a temporary shutdown. This way you don't lose money or anger members.
Give as much attention and as many resources to the aquatics area as you do to any other part of the facility. With proper programming, marketing and cost minimization, you can turn your pool into a substantial profit center.
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Need a little help getting started with water programs? The following websites provide useful information on aquatic exercise programs and equipment:
Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES, is a certified health education specialist with a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Carolina. She currently resides in Connecticut, where she is a health writer for a variety of trade and consumer magazines. She can be reached at email@example.com
Heller, J. 2007. Aquatic exercise benefits everyone. Ezine Articles (Nov. 15). http://ezinearticles.com/?Aquatic-Exercise-Benefits-Everyone!&id=835634; retrieved May 15, 2011.
Peavey, H. 2009. Three aquatics directors talk percentages, programming, philosophies. Athletic Business (Jan.). http://athleticbusiness.com/articles/article.aspx?articleid=3485&zoneid=20; retrieved May 15, 2011.
Walters, J. 2010. Aquatic programming can improve retention and revenue. Club Industry (May 1). http://clubindustry.com/forprofits/fitness_power_pool/index.html; retrieved May 15, 2011.
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