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April 15, 2005


Mr. Arthur Sachs, Chairman

Comprehensive Planning Committee

4A Bluebill Ct.

Ocean Pines, Maryland, 21811


Dear Art,


It was a pleasure to meet you and the members of your committee. The tour of the pool facilities also allowed me to see much of your lovely community.  Your residents can be very proud of what they have.  The condition of the pool facilities is exceptional, and a real tribute to the efforts of the Recreation and Parks Department and others.  The Director, Mike Howell, was very knowledgeable and dedicated. It is obvious that his group does a great job.


In my opinion, any indoor pool should have several components if it is to appeal to the major user groups that are essential to fully utilize, and thus financially support, such a facility. These include: ample shallow water (3.5 - 5 feet deep) for play space,  comfort for non swimmers, and many exercise and instructional opportunities; lap lanes (6 minimal, but 7 or 8 preferred) for swim & stay fit folks, as well as the competitive youth and perhaps Masters groups to train and compete occasionally; shallow water play space for toddlers  (6” to 3.5’ with most at the 2-3’ range) with a slide and water play features; and perhaps at least a 1-meter board and/or drop slide into a dive well for deep water activities. The goal is to appeal to all ages and ability groups and permit concurrent activities that could appeal to families and groups as well as individuals.  Ample deck space on at least two sides is desirable. 


An indoor pool should operate from 6 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays for 50 weeks a year.  Attendance might drop in summer months, but programs such as camp swims, lessons, lap swimming, and family swim will still be popular, particularly to those sensitive to the sun.  The pool should be programmed for simultaneous, compatible activities that turn over throughout the day from every 30-45 minutes (lessons) to 1-2 hours (rec swim).  Lap swimming and water walking can be programmed throughout the day.  Several hundred people should enter each day if the programming is varied and comprehensive.  This will also help pay the bills.


High quality pool equipment, HVAC system and surface finishes are a must to avoid costly repairs and renovations later.  I suggest that the pool in the City of Greenbelt is very suitable and could be the prototype for your community. I would not recommend any community build a pool any smaller than this. Surely you can build less, but doing so would be a short-sighted goal that could produce an undesirable single-use pool that is unattractive, unimaginative, and seldom used.


Our discussions about providing an indoor pool for use by the Ocean Pines residents lead to several scenarios:


1.      Provide a stand alone natatorium with a new pool on land near the Sports Core outdoor pool.  This could be master planned along with a future community building and/or recreation/fitness center. If planned and constructed in this manner, this could result in significant economies of scale over the cost of building all stand alone buildings.  This would also allow these features to be constructed in phases over time.


2.      Cover an existing outdoor pool with a permanent enclosure. It would appear that the Sports Core pool would be the better candidate since it is on ground level, has sufficient space, and is heated. It does not have some of the features described above but these should be added, and the bathhouse building would probably need to be expanded and insulated for year-round use.  A permanent enclosure will be costly but not as much as starting from scratch.  This scenario limits your design options and also eliminates an outdoor pool for summer use.


3.      Cover this pool with a temporary seasonal structure like a “bubble”.  Surely this is a cheaper alternative, however, in addition to the limitations listed above, a bubbled pool has difficult challenges to provide adequate acoustics, lighting, heat, and air quality.  Utility costs, and set-up, take-down and storage are significant costs to be considered.  Due to the harsh environment, the life expectancy advertised for the bubble may not be realized.  However, if these realities are understood, it could provide a temporary facility until a natatorium is eventually built.


4.      Finally, there was talk about a possible YMCA facility to be built nearby.  The Ocean Pines vicinity will barely be able to support one indoor pool. A pool exclusively for the smaller population base of the Ocean Pines community would be even less able to support an indoor pool.  This would make it very costly to build and maintain.  If the Y were to build a pool and provide the type of facility as described above, I recommend for economic reasons that Ocean Pines put their support behind that effort and let the Y foot the bill. The loss of control and possible exclusivity is more than offset by the savings-short term and long-term.  If the Y initiative fails, consider the other options above.


Finally, an indoor pool is one of the most expensive facilities to build, operate, and maintain. In my experience, it is rare when even a well run indoor pool can meet its operating expenses, and it has little hope of paying any capital costs.  To substantially offset direct operating costs, it will take a combination of: a great design and operation, significant user fees (and/or subsidies from elsewhere), full utilization of the facility to the level of “fairly crowded”, and a large service area of at least 3-5 miles of heavily populated residential development.  This usually means including “non-residents” who would be charged a higher rate.  Exclusive use by just the “Pines” residents would be very expensive.


I have given Jim Duke some contacts that should help in further pursuits regarding design, construction costs and operating information.  If I can be of any further assistance, feel free to contact me. 


Best wishes!




Bill Bullough

Aquatics Consultant

Uploaded: 6/25/2005