Aquatics Programs: Plunge into Profits
Pools are great for attracting members and cooling them off on hot summer days. They are also great for hosting various aquatics programs that drive revenue for your club.
For Cincinnati Sports Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, the aquatics programs that have the highest return on investment (ROI) are youth group swim lessons and private lessons. “Having a combined total of eight aquatic facilities on campus, the club is able to provide year-round instruction for beginners and move them through our swim clinics for swimmers who are building endurance, perfecting strokes and gaining strength,” said Jill Cordonnier, the youth director at Cincinnati Sports Club.
Cincinnati Sports Club also offers a popular complimentary parent/child swim class designed for parents and children ages six months to four years. Cordonnier said families take to the water together to get familiar with swimming basics and prepare for swim lessons. These families then become engaged in the club’s group or private swim lessons as their children progress in their swim skills.
Additionally, the summer swim team at the Cincinnati Sports Club engages about 120 swimmers each season. Many of the swim league participants will enroll in the year-round swim and stroke clinics to continue to refine their technique.
“The club provides a fun, safe and enriching environment where participants will be physically active while having fun and making new friends,” said Cordonnier. “We run a structured, engaging program with numerous activities where children build life skills, learn good sportsmanship and make lifelong memories.”
Franco’s Health Club and Spa in Mandeville, Louisiana, has also gained additional members through its swim team.
“Our year-round swim team, Franco’s Fins — which includes the fall and spring clinics and the master’s swim team — has the most ROI at our facility,” said Robby Fritscher, the aquatics director at Franco’s Athletic Club. “Master swimmers must be members of the club to be on the team. Another perk to the club is over 70% of the year-round swim team are also members of the club.”
The Franco’s swim team and swim lessons drive their revenue in the summer. Fritscher said they also have a spring clinic that helps with summer registration, and a fall clinic that continues the success they have in summer. However, in 2020 their participation numbers were down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite low numbers, Franco’s was able to cut a lot of costs, allowing them to make more money than in the past. “I think our aquatics programs were able to survive and thrive because people show more interest in outside activities since COVID-19,” said Fritscher. “Because we are outside and in an environment that has been shown to be resistant to the virus, people feel safer in the water than inside a closed area.”
COVID-19 has also had an impact on Merritt Clubs’ programming over the past year. Andrew Barranco, the regional operations manager for Merritt Clubs with locations throughout the greater Baltimore area, said they reduced the class size of their swim lessons, which had been their best performing ROI program. “We typically see a revenue to payroll profit of mid 80% profit — 83% with just three students in a class and 88% with four students in a class on average,” said Barranco. “Pre-COVID restrictions we would put a max of six students in a class, which of course would make that profit per full class even better.”
However, due to the pandemic the club had to utilize a reservation system at their outdoor aquatic centers, which included implementing time limits. It has also changed the way it conducts swim team practices, as they now utilize both ends of the pool and have additional safety measures in place to protect swimmers.
Despite the challenges, Merritt Clubs’ revenue in aquatics has been stronger than some other areas of the club.
“We reached 91% of our 2019 revenue despite being closed for three months,” said Barranco. “We have found with other options limited, swimming was viewed safer by many parents as a COVID-19 friendly activity. Our swim team for example took swimmers who normally played other sports and any other year would not have been at the competitive level needed to participate. By adjusting our program, we were able to create three new training groups on the team.”
While the coronavirus pandemic created many struggles for the industry, it also revealed your health club can bring in great profits through your aquatics programming. And while some clubs saw growth this year in their pool programs, there is still room for improvement moving forward.
“For future growth we will need to continue to develop trust with our members and participants,” said Barranco. “We are trying to build back our business while at the same time having capacity restrictions still in place. It is critical to communicate and keep proper safety precautions in place for members to feel comfortable using the facility and participating in our programs.”