Aquatic Renovation Planning: A Step-by-step Guide

The Renovation Planning Process

While all pools are not suitable or feasible for renovation, there is a planning process that can help you under­stand a pool’s renovation potential, and give community leaders the information they need to make an informed decision:

Step I:  Identify the Project Goals

There are different goals a commu­nity may pursue when undertaking a potential pool renovation, but typically they include:

  • Extending the life of the pool
  • Adding features
  • Increasing attendance
  • Providing programs to the community
  • Reducing risk
  • Revitalizing the pool
  • Fixing broken or damaged systems and structures
  • Preparing the stage for a new pool in a growing part of the community
  • Reducing operating subsidy
  • Maintaining historical value

Leaders that spend the time to correctly identify the goals of their community build a strong foundation for the remainder of a project, so include the community in the entire planning process!  Schedule and advertise open houses and public forums, and invite key community members for intimate focus groups, where you can encourage comments and generate support for the project.  The earlier you include residents, the more you incorporate their meaningful suggestions, the more probable your project will succeed.

Step 2:  Understanding the Community

After identifying possible goals, you may want to consider the aquatic needs and preferences, as they will differ depending on a given community.  For example, is there a large population of older individuals that may want to use the pool for therapy?  Is there a swim team in the area that may need a home facility for practices or meets?  These questions can be answered through a number of methods, including focus group meeting, open houses, and public surveys.  By examining the community, you will be better equipped to determine whether a renovation will meet the needs of the population.

Step 3:  Evaluate Existing Facility

Pool replacement may be the typical consultant recommendation for deteriorating structures, but it’s not the only choice.  If you have an older facility and you’re not sure whether it needs to be replaced, you may want to evaluate the existing pool to determine its overall condition.  An evaluation by a qualified consultant (a licensed professional engineer, with aquatic evaluation and design experience) can include a combination of items, such as structure analysis, water-loss testing, systems review and more.  At the very least, a thorough evaluation will address both the physical condition and the ability of the facility to continue serving patrons.

Step 4:  Decide Whether the Existing Facility Can Meet Community Goals

After completing an evaluation, a clear course of action should be defined in the form of consultant recommendations to address deficiencies to meet your goals.

Step 5:  Develop Options

After deciding on the improvements needed, a consultant will develop options to enhance, renovate, or replace the pool.  If your pool is relatively new, a consultant may develop alternatives to enhance the facility and increase the appeal to current and past customers.  New features, such as shade, water slides, toddler slides or floatables can be quickly added to your existing pool with low stress to the facility and renewed fun for patrons.  The options also may be added in phases to allow for funding.

If a facility has specific areas of concern but is sound overall, renovation alternatives can be developed to evaluate the best and most cost-effective option.  These alternatives should consider the remaining life of a renovated pool and its ability to meet the current demands of patrons.

Regardless of the alternatives presented, a replacement option must be developed for comparison purposes.

Step 6:  Compare Costs

Whether the goal is to enhance, renovate, or replace a pool, the consultant also should develop cost estimates for each alternative to compare each scenario objectively.

Consultants may be quick to recommend pool replacement as the best option, as renovation takes more effort, requires more expertise, and can present more risk.  However, pool replacements typically cost more than renovations, and the process for planning and constructing a brand new facility can extend over several years.

Extensive renovations may approach the cost of a new facility, but may be able to fulfill the needs of the community.  Renovations also may serve a short or long-term goal, such as extending a pool’s life until funding for a new facility is realized. A successful renovation project can give a community confidence that a larger project, even pool replacement, may be accomplished by the leadership.  As such, comparing the costs along with the goals is an important step in the planning process.

Step 7:  Educate the Community

Once you’ve determined a course of action, educate the residents!  Put it all out there; give presentations, make brochures, offer interviews, and tell the community what they can expect.  If you are trying to renovate the facility, explain the benefits, the cost-savings and the great new features the renovation will provide.  If a new aquatic facility is to be built, show how the replacement will benefit the community.

Whatever the decision, share the concepts, the costs and the excitement!  The more a community knows, the better it can understand and accept the future.

Getting It Done

Regardless of a community’s unique situation, the momentum behind a potential pool renovation project is a key factor for success. By encouraging an open dialogue throughout the planning process, nurturing the idea of aquatic improvement and increased quality of life, you will create the necessary momentum to ensure a successful project for the community!