Christina Connor and Karen Cotton report on commercial pool trends in the UK…
Taking the plunge with a holiday park swimming pool can be as daunting as diving off the highest board. Investing in on-site swimming offers many avenues for return on investment from initial visitor appeal to encouraging maximum ‘on park’ spend.
Maximum payback is usually achieved from an aquatic feature that does not just offer lane swimming, but entertains all ages and abilities with excitement and splash appeal.
“It is our experience that holiday park operators view swimming pools as a very necessary evil, “advises Tim Bareham of multi award-winning, Cresta Leisure.
“Some small privately owned operators resist the need for a pool, particularly if they are not family oriented,” Tim continues. “Larger operators invest heavily to deliver ‘water leisure’ facilities to customers.”
With the trend to offer longer seasons or even all-year round appeal, many parks now have both indoor and outdoor pools. When holiday park operators first contact potential suppliers, they will generally have carried outcome and could have an initial wish list. “The initial big questions relate to what can be achieved in the available space to maximise and enhance their guest experiences, how much will it cost to establish, how long it will take to build, and what maintenance will be required, “reveals Michelle Minns-Sykes of water play specialists, Ustigate.
“The installation of a pool and a flume alone is a mistake as the overall aim should be to create a wet environment that pleases many people in one space at the same time, “Michelle advises.
“Whilst a flume is great and exciting it is an attraction that has to limit rider’s descents for safety reasons. “In a one pool and one flume scenario, the flume would be in great demand and holiday guests would spend more time queuing than playing! “Cresta’s Tim Bareham says there are many challenges to water leisure investment but probably the most significant is safety, life guarding and plant operation.
“A large freeform pool looks appealing but is impossible to cover and expensive to heat. An indoor pool without adequate dehumidification will cause serious problems to the fabric of the building.” The good news is that pools do not have to be built out of reinforced concrete and finished with mosaic tiles, there are more cost effective solutions.
However there is no cutting corners when it comes to safe operation. “Commercial pools require high capacity pumps to meet turnover periods required but the inclusion of inverters and variable speed drives will improve efficiency,” advises Tim. The ability to cover the pool, when it is not in use, will reduce energy costs as well as insulating the pool tank when building the pool. Heat pump technology must be considered for both outdoor and indoor pools to minimise pool water heating dehumidification costs.
Ultra-Violet disinfection units and PAC dosing improves filtration and water quality thus saving on pool chemicals and can reduce backwashing to make significant savings on water and reheating costs. Like the holiday industry, the hotel sector continues to invest heavily in top drawer leisure facilities. Atypical example includes Newquay’s Headland Hotel.
Scheduled for completion in mid-spring 2020, the multi-million pound Aqua Club will feature five pools, not to mention a sun terrace with impressive ocean views, and a new restaurant, The Deck.
Three pools will be created inside The Aqua Club:a 25-metre training pool, a hydrotherapy pool, and a children’s pool for families staying at the Headland Hotel and its five-star self-catering cottages. Outside,a heated infinity pool will enable visitors to immerse themselves in the beautiful surroundings and relax while taking in stunning views of the Atlantic. A further ‘vitality’ pool, complete with a water feature, will provide a place for guests to release the stresses and strains of everyday life.
John Armstrong, owner of The Headland comments: “The Aqua Club will take The Headland into the next decade and beyond, providing the luxury experience that the destination has become well-known for.”
Lilly Lewarne Architects designed the building in line with the Headland Hotel’s vision, as . Senior Associate Mark Duston explains. “Our challenge was to produce an exciting contemporary building that neither competes with the iconic Headland Hotel, nor visually disrupts its beautiful surroundings. “He continues: “Half of the building’s volume is underground with the equivalent of 3.5 Olympic sized swimming pools having been excavated during the groundworks stage.”
While hotels and leisure resorts prosper, local authority community pools remain the poor relation in a climate of budget cuts and squeezing resources.
Inevitably met with an outpouring of public emotion, nothing galvanises community spirit more than the threat of closure of a local swimming pool. There are legitimate grounds for concern.
Research carried out by the Amateur Swimming Association found that, in the18 months leading up to October 2018,300 public swimming pools in the UK were closed. Overall, the 2018 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report reveals the number of pool sites remained static during the 12 months reporting period. In fact, there was a marginal increase of just 0.1%. Often the publicity surrounding threats of closure provide the catalyst for new avenues of partnership-funding that offers a vital lifeline. Only this summer, Tring Swimming Pool officially reopened following a £2million refurbishment to improve the site’s pool and changing rooms. The management of Tring Sports Centre was taken over by Tring Sport and Leisure Ltd (TSLL), a subsidiary of the school’s multi-academy trust, the Ridgeway Learning Partnership (RLP).
The refurbishment, which was funded by Dacorum Borough Council and Tring School, has been well received by the public, with one swimmer commenting: “It is almost unrecognisable from the very sorry and rundown facility that was closed last summer. The changing rooms, the pool room, the water – all fantastic. ”In Reading, news that Arthur Hill Swimming Baths was going to be closed in 2016 led to the launch of Arthur Hill – Save Our Swimming CIC. In addition to fundraising prior to the closure, the group is contesting the site’s subsequent sale by Reading Borough Council for re development, in a situation which continues to be hotly contested. their experience.”
With so many negatives, there are also some obvious green shoots with commercial pool specialists, like Devin Consulting, flourishing in a contentious environment. “If I was to tell you our practice doubled in size in the last few years, you might draw some conclusions that the market is growing,” reveals Managing Director Tom Devin who established the specialist engineering design consultancy team at the turnoff the century and now boasts the largest team of aquatic consultants outside of the US. Tom explains: “What we’re seeing at Devin is an increase in the number of hotel pools, as well as commercial residential developments such as apartment buildings with residents’ pools and spas, in the UK. “Devin Consulting has several areas of expertise, including water containment and treatment, heat experiences (sauna and steam) and moveable pool structures. The company is currently working on projects with all types of pools. As well as three waterparks (Coventry,Ireland and Bognor Regis), the team are working on the Sandwell AquaticCentre’s 50m pools and high-end residential developments in the UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa and China.
The new pool at Butlins Bognor Regis features a British seaside themeand can accommodate up to 950 guests at any one time. Regardless of a company’s specialty, geography or even access to technology, they are facing a real challenge, according to Tom Devin of Devin Consulting. “The biggest challenge the industry faces is maintaining quality in the face of increasing commercial pressures. Projects must proceed on the basis of explicit and thorough design criteria, otherwise clients will be exposed to unnecessary risk. “Achieving this demands a design first approach. “Get the design right in the first instance… then consider price,” Tom recommends. “Remember that, at the end of the day, we must ensure the health and safety of the bather, as well as the quality of their experience.
01305 259253 / cresta-leisure.co.uk
0191 258 1653 / devin-consulting.com
01322 424445 / ustigate.co.uk