The conference “the swimming pool, equipment serving a territory”, led by Louis-Frederic Doyez at Piscine Global Europe 2018, informs public authorities about the crucial factors to be studied before launching the construction or the renovation of a public swimming pool. If you couldn't come, here is an abstract!
Trends in public swimming pools require appropriate strategies
Previously dedicated to schools and athletes, since the early Eighties with the introduction of water games and the Aquaboulevard (Paris - France) swimming pools become places for fun. This new dimension was supplemented at the end of the Nineties by the addition of wellbeing in these structures.
“Public swimming pools used to be “turn-key” facilities. The more uses developed, the more this place of life became iconic. Instead of being normalized and stereotyped, pools now have to stand out in the crowd to become showcases for the territory they serve” explains Louis-Frederic Doyez, formerly Chief Executive Officer of the French Swimming Federation.
This is a challenge for public authorities, as the average age for public swimming pools in France is very close to 40. They have to be renewed either by building new ones or renovating those that exist (and telling the public what is being done!), so that public swimming pools can meet all these new uses while respecting new standards. What are the “must” factors in formulating these decisions?
Challenges inherent in the construction or renovation of a public swimming pool
User target group(s)
“Before deciding on what public swimming pool to design, you have to define the services the population wants” Louis-Frederic Doyez points out. However, resolving this equation is a complex matter, as there is a plurality of publics and practices: schools, families, groups of teenagers, associations and individuals in search of wellbeing and good health…
According to Gilles Glad, Director of Equipment for Grand Chambéry, France, there are two sorts of public:
The infra-territorial group, basically schools and clubs, which need equipment in their vicinity, organized proximity customers (works councils, medical centers…) and individual users.
The extra-territorial group, which concerns organized sporting customers from outside the territory, individual customers having a link with the region and tourists.
This plurality can involve conflicts of uses, which is why it is interesting to design different spaces in the public swimming pool before starting construction or renovation.
Finding the most appropriate space
Downtown or on the outskirts? If buying land in city centers is not always possible for public authorities, they should always assess the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
“Technically, designing a public swimming pool on the outskirts of the city is simpler. Moreover, that makes it possible to propose parking and even to recover part of the market catchment area of other swimming pools in the neighborhood” explains Gilles Glad. “However, pools inside the city support ecologically-friendly travel, profit from the image of a historical site and contribute to change in the district”. Marcel Van Der Meer, Department of the sports of the Town of Rotterdam, thinks the same. His new public swimming pool in Rotterdam is part of the renewal plan for a whole district.
Lastly, public swimming pools' design must be adapted to the size of their territory, although you can be bold! The French city of Chartres built an Olympic pool and this model functions, even if the equipment appeared disproportionately big for a small town!
Give the public pool a personality
A pool with an identity is a “must” for developing users - and keeping them loyal! Here are 4 criteria proposed by Gilles Glad to build a brand image:
how the public thinks about the pool: i.e. the way the public perceives the equipment and the quality of its services;
the architectural concept: this includes the equipment itself, but also its integration into the landscape and its accessibility;
the name: a name must convey a concept, a positioning statement, a Community attitude;
and finally, the positioning of the services on which the swimming pool will communicate.
“According to a report by the French Cour des Comptes, on average a public swimming pool in France loses 600,000 euros a year” underlines Louis-Frederic Doyez. “There is a management method to determine so as to meet the problems of profitability and this is why the fundamental idea is to run it commercially. Public service is not antagonistic to the adoption of a sales strategy in the financial context in which public authorities currently operate. Operators must optimize their business models!” Increasing income, optimizing funding sources, reducing overheads… Every public swimming pool must find its own model. Choosing a building with low power consumption is a step in the right direction, as attests the new public pool in Holmen (Norway).
To renew his public swimming pools, Gilles Glad chose, for example, to function step by step: “We built a new public swimming pool, then closed an old one for the time it took to renovate it before reopening. Now we have two new swimming pools meeting all standards”. This strategy made it possible to continue income flow, even if the initial outlay was higher.
It is also possible to work on complementary offers in partnership with the Tourist Office or other leisure structures. In Chambéry, ski lift passes can include swimming pool admission.
Public swimming pools are excellent ways to structure territories and their success with residents is long-lasting. But there are pitfalls to avoid when designing a public pool. If the territory has several pools already, it is essential to measure their complementarity or their differentiation beforehand. Wise advice from experts to read, learn and inwardly digest!
© Photo credit: mr green / stock.adobe.com