Upgrading aquatic facilities and broadening the scope of programming helps clubs appeal to both the youngest and oldest members.
Before clubs were tasked with offering a wider array of programming and building impressive facilities to bring value to memberships, one large Olympic-sized pool armed with a lifeguard was all they needed to fill the bill of keeping kids entertained. Now, as clubs battle with the endless recreation options families have to choose from, one water-filled rectangle is no longer enough to ensure consistent and enthusiastic usage.
A New Look
Two years ago, when its 2016 centennial was in Sylvania (Ohio) Country Club’s sights, the club began strategically planning for its future. After considering the options, the club found that the “biggest bang for our buck” would come from social members, says General Manager Greg Hibbard.
“We had a bigger need for more social, dining and recreational members, so we put more effort, money and focus on the outdoor recreational component,” Hibbard says, adding that the club’s target age for new members is 38, with a focus on family.
The club invested $1.4 million of its $2.3 million renovation budget in transforming its 40-year-old pool into a resort-style aquatic complex that opened July 1, 2015 (other property updates included a new tennis court, cart barn, grille room, and short-game practice area). The aquatic center expanded the original pool and added a new liner to make it zero-depth entry, and also installed a mushroom fountain, two-story water slide, and a separate new splash and wading pool.
Additional deck space was installed around the pool, with new competitive diving boards. To build a more social atmosphere around the water, the previous pool building was demolished to make way for the new pavilion, which houses a full-service poolside cafe and bar, new locker facilities, and a breezeway that connects the aquatic center with the tennis facilities and short-game area.
“The aquatic center has become a hub of the outdoor recreational areas, tying all three together, and creating a great atmosphere for outdoor social dining,” Hibbard says.
In the new facilities, the club offers individual and group swim lessons, with competitive swim and dive teams that compete in a local community league during the summer (pre-competitive swim groups are welcome to practice along with the swim team, but do not compete in meets). In the mornings, adult members are welcome to use the pool for “peaceful lap swimming,” Hibbard says. The area is also the site for a multi-activity kids camp in July.
A long-standing tradition at the club is the water-ballet program, which Pool Manager Mark Geha describes as “synchronized swimming blended with a theme, like superheroes or Disney.” On the first Thursday of August, groups of girls perform choreographed dances on the deck and in the pool under the lights, using a backdrop drawn and painted by lifeguards and coaches.
To ensure that adults get to appreciate the pool facilities as much as children, the club hosts adults-only pool parties, and the facilities are also available to rent for private parties. Club-sponsored gatherings such as clambakes, football tailgates, and pig roasts have also helped to amplify the social aspect of the space.
The active facility has become a selling point for Sylvania CC. Of the new members who have joined since the amenity opened, 80% are social, and Hibbard estimates that 75%-80% of the current members put the aquatic center to use.
Aquatic fitness classes often require different standards from typical pool use and even competitive swimming use. The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) details some of the standards and guidelines for aquatic fitness programming:
Class format: An aquatic fitness program should be balanced in cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular conditioning and flexibility to promote general fitness. Exercises should be included for all major muscle groups, to ensure muscle balance and reduce risk of injury. An aquatic fitness program should include the warm-up component (thermal warm up, optional pre-stretch and cardiorespiratory warm up), conditioning phase and cool-down component.
Water Temperature: Water varying from 83º – 86º F is the most comfortable temperature for typical water fitness classes. This allows the body to react and respond normally to the onset of exercise and the accompanying increase in body temperature. Cooling benefits are still felt, and there is little risk of overheating.
Water Depth: Pools with a depth range of 3.5 – 4.5 feet seem to be the most useful for typical shallow-water fitness classes; pools with a depth of 3 to 5 feet will accommodate nearly all heights of participants. A pool depth of 6.5 feet or more provides the ideal environment for a deep-water class.
Air Temperature, Humidity and Quality: The general recommendation for indoor pool air temperature is a range of 75º – 85º F. The general recommendation for indoor pool air humidity is a range of 50% – 60%. Air quality for indoor pool facilities should be monitored according to the country, state and local health-department guidelines. Adequate ventilation is critical to maintain proper humidity and remove chemical fumes from the pool area. Humidity level and air circulation will also influence the comfort level of the participants and thus require constant monitoring.
Cadence: Music with a tempo of 125 to 150 beats per minute is recommended for shallow-water aerobic programs for the general population.
Class Size: AEA recommends a space of 4’ x 8’ (32 sq. ft.) per person for a typical shallow-water cardiorespiratory format without equipment. This space requirement may increase if equipment is added. To determine the number of students for your pool, measure the square footage of the useable area (based upon depth and bottom slope for shallow water), then divide by 32.
Professional Education: The AEA recommends that all aquatic fitness professionals receive and maintain certification through an internationally recognized organization, receive cardio/pulmonary resuscitation training, and be trained in the proper use of an automated external defibrillator.
“Our social component has grown significantly faster than the full-privilege golf membership,” Hibbard says.
Of course, pool amenities aren’t only for children. In addition to open swim times for adults and scheduled lap times, formal aquatic fitness classes allow adult members to be active and social with decreased risk of injury.
At Sea Pines Country Club in Hilton Head Island, S.C., half of all the fitness classes the club offers are aquatic-based, using the indoor, two-lane lap pool for most of the year, and the outdoor junior Olympic pool from May through August.
“Our clients’ average age is 73, so water-based fitness is ideal,” says Stephen Sefchick, Director of Fitness and Aquatics. “The classes are non-impact and won’t cause joint and bone discomfort, so it’s something they can be successful with.”
Sea Pines CC’s most popular aquatics fitness classes are finning, a swimming-oriented, hour-long class during which participants use gloves, noodles, balls, kickboards and fins for a total-body workout; cardio splash, which consists of cardiovascular exercises followed by resistance training using balls and dumbbells; and “moving and grooving,” which guides people with arthritic issues and ailments, through a walk in the pool.
On average, the classes have about 10 students, equally mixed between men and women, with one instructor who teaches from either the deck or in the pool. Members have the option of paying for each individual class or purchasing a monthly or three-month unlimited package. All classes incorporate music, though Sefchick notes that it’s kept in the background. “These groups are very social, so there’s a lot of conversation throughout,” he says.
“When people go to the gym, it’s all about the physical component—but here, we focus on wellness,” Sefchick says. “These people just want to be healthy and to feel good.”
While most classes to date have been adult-oriented, Sefchick says Sea Pines is adding kids programs, in response to an influx of families during the summer. A swim club and a game-oriented “fun in the sun” program will also be offered.
“Our aquatics programming is one of our strongest offerings, and it’s very well-received,” Sefchick says.
The Venice (Fla.) Golf and Country Club also offers water aerobics as a self-directed program, with two different groups of seniors meeting 4 to 5 times per week in the morning. The participants listen to a recorded instructor who leads them through the workouts, one that is lower impact and another that elevates the heart rate a bit more, explains General Manager Jim Schell, CCM.
“It is interesting that these groups do not want a live instructor and are content in doing the same routine several times a week for years on end,” Schell says. “It’s more of a social gathering where they can go through the motions of the workout while catching up on the latest news.”
The only rule for the groups is that it must be 70 degrees outside. “Of course, the pool is a balmy 84 degrees year-round,” Schell notes.
For many of the attendees, he adds, the water aerobics classes are the only exercise they engage in on a regular basis.
“[Keeping] active and healthy is what we all strive to achieve,” Schell says. “Living an active lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with slowing the aging process.”