Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball

 | Monday, February 27, 2017

If you want to plan a new facility that looks like the ones built ten years ago – or for that matter 2 years ago – then this article is not for you.  However, if you do not mind planning for the facility of the future without needing to rely on current examples of moderate success, then read on…..


First ….. You need a crystal ball – for a prop only.  What you really need is a talent to cultivate foresight into what will be needed for sustainable success.  The main ingredients for this are:



1.    Some good solid experience for where the aquatics market is headed - if you do not have this then ask for help from people who do

2.    An understanding of how immensely important operational and maintenance cost are going to be

3.    The ability to tell when someone is giving you a “sales pitch” and when someone is giving good advice

4.    The willingness to leap into the future when others are advocating the present based on the past

5.    A trusting group of supporters that are not constantly asking you to prove everything you say


Second ….. Practicing the art of communicating which includes not only presenting your ideas in a concise and understandable form but also listening to what others have to say.  When you ask a question and hear a “No,” many times it is not an answer but just a request for more information.  Seldom are there “pat answers” and you have to have the talent to rely on #5 above.  Sometimes “the prove it to me” or “show me” scenarios are your hardest to overcome.   You can only formulate your response based off successes like Microsoft, Starbucks, and Google – etc.  These were pioneers who accepted the risk of doing it a new and better way and were rewarded beyond anyone’s expectations.


Third …. You have to be the leader but not the whole parade.  You need to spend the time to turn adversaries into advocates.  Convince the skeptical – convert the non-believers.  No shortcuts here.  The cliché “small leaks sink mighty ships” fits well. Evaluate potential collaborators and then decide who brings what to the business plan.  Too many partners can muddle up the plan and make it difficult to get the proper programming matched to the ideal facility.  Too few partners can financially inhibit the project. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. You will need to lay out ownership and management plans via contract early in the process. .


Fourth …. Get outside the box and stay there! Traditional planning and approaches may not be the best way for your project.  Don’t try to do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and still be in business tomorrow.  Be aggressive with your program planning and make sure you consider all aspects of aquatic programming and services.  Be innovative with your design demands for the facility itself.  Cost to build, cost to operate, and cost to maintain are all important. Technology has advanced and keeps doing so at a rapid pace. Be aware of what is currently available and be willing to do the extra work to make it fit your project.


Fifth ….. Challenges and Change – You will have nothing but challenges that require creative problem solving, so get used to it.  Everyone around you will probably resist change so be prepared to listen to the problems and then develop solutions.  Your project should not be just like someone else’s. It needs to be what is best for your situation.  Enlist the help of those who understand this, and not just those who offer cookie-cutter solutions. 


The five concepts listed above can be achieved and enhanced with the help of a professional aquatic programming feasibility study.  These can be contracted from an independent firm that specializes in this service.  The Facilities Development Department at USA Swimming can supply “general” information but does not have the staff to conduct feasibility studies.  Most entities would not accept studies from USA Swimming since we are considered to be a biased user group of the proposed project.  To assist USA Swim Club friendly projects, we have established a list of feasibility firms who are reputable, understand total aquatic programming, and who offer best pricing to our USA Swim Club projects and their associates.


For more information please contact:

Mick Nelson  or
Sue Nelson




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