Shortage of Pool Space in DMV

By Reach for the Wall Staff.

The Washington DC metro area (i.e., DMV) is a hotbed for swimming, but a shortage of enclosed pool space in our area between September and May each year restricts the number of people who can participate in the sport (as well as in learn-to-swim classes, adult fitness programs, and other aquatic activities) during those colder months.

Local and state governments often cannot address this shortage because tight public budgets increasingly require officials to prioritize roads, healthcare, education and other critical public services over recreational facilities such as enclosed pools. The difficulty of building, operating and maintaining permanently-enclosed pools on a financially sustainable basis also deters the private sector from filling the void (see e.g., Lab School).

So, what to do? Well, a simple solution to this pool shortage might be right in front of us. Consider that the DMV has hundreds of outdoor neighborhood pools that go unused each year between September and May. Also consider that temporary pool enclosures (see e.g., SERG structures) have evolved beyond bubble technology to offer outdoor neighborhood pools an inexpensive way to become temporarily enclosed during colder months yet remain open-air during the summer. This means a savvy pool operator can run a profitable business by partnering with a suitable outdoor neighborhood pool, enclosing it with a temporary SERG-like structure between September and May, and keeping the pool busy throughout the day and early evening with swim club practices, learn-to-swim classes, and aquatic fitness programs.

If you run a summer outdoor pool that could benefit from additional revenue during the 9-month off-season, let us know by sending an email to Operations@reachforthewall.com. Similarly, if you run a swim club, learn-to-swim classes or aquatic fitness programs and need more pool space during this 9-month period, tell us. Finally, if you are an experienced pool operator in the DMV and want to expand your business, tell us. We’ll put everyone who contacts us in touch with each other, and share with you some preliminary analysis we’ve put together.

5 thoughts on “Shortage of Pool Space in DMV

  • Feb 11, 2018 at 3:06 pm
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    Given the size of The NCAP franchise, building a facility of size to acccommodate major and other meets is entirely doable. The rental rates (as high as $50k for weekend meets reportedly) and the fees available as the renter would provide key resources. PPPs are done like this all the time and the huge swim club means it is not that hard if we have some leadership.

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  • Feb 11, 2018 at 4:13 pm
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    I understand from USA Swimming that running meets at pools is not a money-maker (i.e., they create lots of wear-and-tear on pools, and meets only provide sporadic sources of revenue). I understand that the better approach is to NOT run meets in the facility and instead try to keep the pool busy with swim club practices, learn-to-swim classes, and aquatic fitness programs while keeping CapEx and O&M costs as low as possible.

    As for PPPs, it would be wonderful if, say Montgomery County or the City of Rockville granted a concession to a private operator to finance, install, operate and maintain a temporary pool enclosure at one of its outdoor pools (e.g., Rockville, Bethesda, Germantown, Glenmont, MLK, etc.) during the 9-months that these outdoor pools go unused. That process might be slow, however, so a more practical approach might be to simply work with a suitable neighborhood pool to create a temporary pool enclosure.

    Finally, note that partnering with NCAP or other swim team(s) in the DMV is just one (albeit an important) component to sustaining a successful pool operation (since swim teams generally only use the pool before and after school). Partnering with learn-to-swim and adult therapy programs who can use the pool during the day when there’s no swim team practice are other important components to successful pool operations, according to USA Swimming.

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  • Feb 13, 2018 at 9:39 pm
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    Would the neighborhood pools run into zoning problems if they put a semi-permanent structure up during the school year? This seems like a great idea to me. I hate to see the dormant pools during the winter. Seems like a waste of resources.

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  • Feb 16, 2018 at 9:17 pm
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    Important to consider wear and tear on pools. Part of reason that neighborhood pools can often go 30+ years without major renovations is they are lightly used for 9 months out of the year. Those 3 months alone take a toll, seems to me that a pool used year round would need renovations on a much more frequent basis which could prove exceptionally costly. Also staffing an indoor pool as a management company is very difficult. Most companies lose their workforce (hs and college students) during offseason so this is why a place like Prep has to pay a premium to staff their pool. I do like the creativity of the idea but I know my management company as well as many others likely wouldn’t be able to pull this off.

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  • Feb 19, 2018 at 2:06 am
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    Easier said than done with neighborhood pools. They are supported and embraced by neighbors when they are centers of summer activities. But most members – and neighbors—turn their attention elsewhere during the off-season, and typically neighbors would oppose running a year-round operation (think traffic, lights, noise) that ends up mostly benefiting people outside the neighborhood. Combine that with the fact that neighborhood kids often staff summer-only pools, while companies staff year-round clubs, and you really end up changing the nature of the club. So, like I said, easier said than done.

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