We're facing a crowding issue in our natatorium that is compounded each fall when the swim season begins. We have an 8 lane lap pool, and our current budget only allows us to be open from 5-9am and 330-730pm, with a TTh therapy/exercise time from 1-3:30. The current requested practice schedules from the 2 High Schools would occupy 5 of our 8 lanes during some of out peak lap swimming times, and my concern is given our short schedule that also accommodates water aerobics, swim lessons, and the local club team with decent sized Masters and USA groups, that if we grant this schedule that we will displace too many of our members.
I was just curious if any other operators have faced similar issues and what possible solutions anyone might have.
Can the HS or club teams afford a private rental? As in, using the pool after 7:30pm? Sending you the lane cost formula I use at PAFC.
Thanks Karen:) Met with the coaches today and it not go well, they are of the mindset that this decision is not the norm for aquatics facilities and insisted that if we blocked our pool for programs only during a portion of the morning/evening and left the rest of the time as complete open swim that we would be more successful. I am asking operators to please share their programming/open-swim/lane rental polices and schedules with me.
I have never met a swim coach that didn't think their program was the most important at the swim center, heck that is their job. Balancing is tough, and "impacted water" is a huge issue out here on the left coast. The water space is the water space, do you have an advisory board for the pool, program users from all walks of aquatic life? These help because everyone with a cause has to sit with each other and understand they are not the only ones wanting water time... Good luck this problem is as old as swimming pools themselves.
When I first arrived at PAFC (12 years ago), the aquatic director at the time used ONLY block programming. As in each "thing" aka entity gets a block of time. Having been on the East Coast where lane lines were a major commodity and a big ticket one at that...I had never even heard of block programming. I would have been eaten alive if I "blocked" each group from sharing (every pun intended) times and required each to have their own space. No one would have been happy b/c someone would have landed in the off time. By sharing the pool and looking at each space separately (by lane lines in most circumstances), all of us were able to come to an equitable agreement.
In regards to your coaches, have they only worked at pools that used block programming? I don't think it is the "norm" anymore. Did it exist with in the last 10 years - yes. Did it exist in the Northwest in the last 10 years - yes... Is it financially feasible and prudent for an operator - no way.
They should attend my conference session - "Maximizing Your Pool Potential". I spend the 75 minutes talking about how to program a pool for as many factions as you can and how to look at the pool in different ways. You coudl always send them up the hill....I'd love to give them a reality check! Go ahead, have them call me!
I'm with Jim, it's a problem as old as swimmign pools. All you can do is look at the programming desired, number of participants, revenue generation, and go from there. The more you can fit in the pool at one time the more you maximize your revenue. The school kids are the most limited when it comes to time (they can't come during school hours, or too late in evening). Try giving them just 5 or 6 of the 8 lanes during morning before school and/or early afternoon at 3:30 to continue providing the lap swimmers a few lanes. Bring your club swimmers in behind them, offer lessons/aerobics from 5:30 - 7:30. Just some suggestions, don't know your numbers.
I've never had to schedule anything like this myself, but I have observed a local rec center that hosts up to 6 HS teams every afternoon during the swim season. Though the pool they use is massive to accommodate that many teams, they never have more than two teams in the pool at a time so that they can still have some room for lap swimming by other patrons. They accomplish this by staggering the teams' practice times so that they do not take up as many lanes. They then rotate the teams either nightly or weekly so that each team gets to have the "prime" practice times at some point during the season. You may consider adopting some sort of rotation schedule so that only one team is in the pool at a time and therefore taking up fewer lanes.
A lot of high school teams do also practice in the mornings before school. If your pool is not incredibly busy from opening until whenever it is the team would have to leave you may be able to convince one of the coaches to schedule morning practices, if not both and have them switch off through the season.
I think somewhat more important than that is communicating to the coaches what your constraints are. You have to help them understand whatever system it is they have "always seen", that system of blocking off the pool during your peak business hours will not work and still bring in enough revenue for your facility to function. Unless they are willing to pay premium prices to use your pool during hours you usually have the most patrons they have to learn to work with you. I understand this can be very difficult because most good coaches are good because they are demanding, but I think good negotiating on your part can help to ease a lot of this.