While residential activity is booming these days, the exact opposite is true in the commercial pool market, where sales are slow and most facilities are closed. Dark days indeed, notes Eric Herman, but also a good time to consider the role “public water” plays in both the industry and society.
Have you ever noticed how commercial pools seem to get a bad rap? They’re inconvenient compared to a residential pool, too expensive to operate, potentially dangerous and often filled with urine, feces and harmful microorganisms. Or at least that’s the impression you might gather from the way commercial recreational water is often covered in the media.
I follow such things pretty closely and sometimes it seems as though commercial pools have a reputation just above Congress and used-car salesmen in terms of trust and public confidence. Nowadays, it’s even worse with the pandemic keeping many pools closed or in limited use. As a result, some builders are reporting that almost all activity in the commercial side of the market has ground to a halt.
This, of course, comes at a time when the residential market is on fire like never before. The current plight of commercial pools, by contrast, seems to be following to some degree the trajectory of the commercial real estate market, meaning downward. Reports of facility closures are common, and have been for years, usually due to the cost of necessary repairs or operational budget shortfalls. While new facilities, especially those funded by taxpayers, seemingly take forever to plan and build.
That’s unfortunate because commercial pools are a crucial part of our industry’s market dynamics and more important, they play a crucial role in helping society at large access and enjoy recreational water
Not everyone can afford their own pool. Places like community aquatic centers, YMCAs and health clubs are for many the only place where they can access water for swimming, relaxation and crucial therapy for various medical conditions.Let’s not forget how many consumers are inspired by their aquatic experiences at resort pools to build their own pools at home. Think about how most vacations destinations put images of their pools front and center on their websites and promotional materials.
In many ways, commercial pools drive demand by giving people a place to learn to swim and by stoking desires for pool ownership. They are the venues for aquatic competition, training and physical development and they are a social hub for kids and parents alike and they are just plain fun!
Commercial pools have certainly been a big part of my life. I learned to swim in a community pool back in the 60s. Growing up I spent many a summer day at the “The Plunge” in my hometown. And later, my son practically lived in the pool at his high school during his years as a competitive swimmer and water polo player. Add to that all the endless hours and days spent at waterparks, roadside motel pools, apartment/condo complex pools, lavish resort pools and ocean-going pools on cruise ships.
Yes, commercial watershapes are experiencing a downtime, and yes they do take a lot of heat in the media. But there is no question that these facilities, troubled though they may be in some cases, are critical to the health and wellbeing of millions of people, and they certainly play a key role in the watershaping industry.
The more commercial pools wither away, the fewer people will come to know the joyful and healthful value of a life aquatic.