JOHN RHODES COMMUNITY CENTRE POOL “A” INTO THE BLUE
On hot early June day, as Kate Smith stared out at the John Rhodes pool through her office window she wondered: Where do we go from here? Kate, Aquatic Supervisor of the John Rhodes Community Centre Pool, gazed appreciatively at the walls and thought back her history at the pool.
Kate had previously worked for the Queen Elizabeth pool, which the city of Sault Ste Marie turned into a parking lot. Out of the asphalt, like a phoenix, rose the John Rhodes pool. The pool opened in 2000, but many customers feel a familiarity with the pool that would suggest it is much older.
The facility is in excellent condition and the layout is all about fun. The main pool is 25 metres long and eight lanes wide, with a diving board and a rope swing. There is also a pool dedicated to swimming laps and another toddler pool reserved for small children - the toddler pool is one of the biggest attractions. It has a large water slide, two smaller slides, water fountains, and a beach front area.
The lifeguards at the pool are well trained and ensure the safety of all swimmers, big and small.
There is a sign on the wall displaying the pool rules such as: no running, no food or drink on deck, no shoes on deck, no diving in shallow end, and keep small children within arm’s reach. There are also some more specific rules. Each of these rules is supposed to be strictly enforced by the lifeguards. Sometimes kids just don’t want to listen, but some lifeguards do not enforce the rules as strictly as they should. The lifeguards don’t want to ruin swimmers’ fun by being overly strict.
Better education of the swimmers about pool safety and the dangers of breaking the rules is an option Kate had considered.
The pool also has a spectator viewing gallery that seats 400, separate male/female/family change rooms, three special function meeting rooms, barrier free access to most of the building, several multi-purpose classrooms, lounge and restaurant facilities, concession areas, and a pro shop.
The local Sault Ste Marie Aquatic Club, Soo Tridents Underwater Hockey Club, Soo Masters Polar Bear Club, Algoma District School Board, and the Huron Superior Catholic District School Board all use the John Rhodes pool on a regular basis. It is the preferred training facility for any serious swimmers.
Aggressive parents have become a major trend in recent years. For some reason, more and more parents shout at their kids in the pool, either with praise or with reproach. This aggressive behaviour sometimes makes the swimming instructor’s job more difficult due to the fact that the parents are in the balcony watching and hearing everything. Aggressive parents also pressure Kate to pass a child who has failed a swim class. Kate has so far remained impassive to the pressure.
Some of the more common complaints Kate receives are:
Instructors not getting into the water; they spend most of their time talking to other instructors instead of teaching; there are too many different instructors during the courseschildren need continuity.
Lifeguards are not enforcing the rules.
The change rooms are small, dirty, and showers being too cold or too hot.
When customers are unhappy, they let staff know! Sometimes they take their anger out on the canteen staff, other times they complain to lifeguards or instructors. If the situation is not resolved at that level, the person is then directed to speak either to the head lifeguard on duty, or Kate, if she is in her office. On those occasions when complaining only to the Boss will do and she is not present, Kate’s business cellphone number is given to the patron. In many cases the complaint is so important that the upset patron doesn’t even bother calling her.
The swimming lessons are divided into a level system which is derived from the Red Cross’s AquaQuest swim safety program. Kate has decided to update the current swim program to a new Red Cross Swim program. This will simplify the levels and add a fitness component to address the growing trend in unhealthy lifestyles, even in children. Most parents don’t understand the level system or just don’t care (at least until their child fails the course). It is usually only the kids taking lessons who truly value their achievement. But, Kate is still not sure this is a good idea, something new to explain to parents. If Kate decides not to go with the new Red Cross program, all the materials are refundable if they are returned before September. Kate must make the decision relatively soon, as staff must still receive training. The training period is projected to take at least a month.
HOME TOWN PRIDE
The John Rhodes centre is located in Sault Ste Marie (Sault). The town is on the US – Canada border, in Northern Ontario and a population of approximately 75,000. As a whole the economy in the Sault has been in decline for years. The underperforming steel industry has had a crippling effect on the town which has previously been dependant on the Algoma Steel plant for a large portion of its employment opportunities.
The neighbourhood surrounding the John Rhodes is in one of the wealthier districts of the Sault, and is near the local University. Because of the baby boomer generation, a noticeable and growing percentage of Sault Ste. Marie’s population is composed of seniors who have a strong interest in healthy activities.
Most of John Rhodes’ current customers are small families with one to two kids, who are generally pool program subscribers for a period of three years. Most parents are satisfied with their child’s swimming experience at the pool and believe their children are satisfied as well.
The location of the pool is excellent.
The John Rhodes Community Centre is directly off of one of the major streets in the town. This is an important quality to current customers who appreciate its convenient location. John Rhodes’ largest competitors are the YMCA and the Holiday Inn, both of which have pools. These two pools are much smaller, a 25 yard pool and a 35 foot respectively.. In Kate’s mind there are three main factors which make a pool popular: facilities, price, and location. The John Rhodes centre has advantages in all three areas over the competitors. But, Kate wondered if she was missing something.
A CLOSER LOOK
The pool is funded by the city, through fees from swimmers and venue programming. The price of admission for children and seniors is $2.00, and it is $3.50 for adults for all swims except Aquabics, which is $2.75 for seniors and $3.75 for adults. The price is reasonable relative to the other pools in town such as the YMCA, and the Holiday Inn. John Rhodes offers a large variety of swims. The different sessions consist of: public swims, family swims, preschool swims, lane swims, and Aquabics. The John Rhodes pool provides lessons in sessions. There are eight to eleven week sessions beginning in September, January, and April. The pool offers two week sessions in July and August and throughout the summer season.
During the summer, Kate is incredibly busy supervising not just the operations of the John Rhodes pool; in addition, she is also required to supervise the Sault’s two outdoor pools: The Greco and The Manzo, both of which are provided free to the public. The Greco pool is located near the International Bridge crossing into the United States in the old residential end of town. The Manzo pool is located near the Algoma Steel plant in what is known as the “West End”. During the summer Kate and her staff are divided between these three pools.
Kate is trying to market the change in the lesson program. She is trying radio ads, but has doubts about their effectiveness in getting the message out and across. She has had pamphlets handed out to parents at the Centre, but those parents are already customers. Kate thinks there is great potential to attract new customers, if she could only find a way to reach them. With only a $1,500 budget, Kate does not have the funds to launch a large advertising campaign, so the marketing efforts will have to be cost effective. Kate sat at her desk looking over the figures. During the summer months enrolment in lessons is lower than in all other seasons, but this is offset to some degree (50%) by the increase in public swim revenues. The Centre comes close to capacity during these summer months, but Kate is looking for ways to get more swimmers to get swimmers during off-peak periods (evenings). Kate had been using the City of Sault Ste Marie’s website to provide scheduling information to both patrons and potential users, but few Saulities are aware of the website’s existence, and those that are don’t use it regularly.
Kate also attempts to keep her staff informed, she distributes a newsletter to employees to keep them up to date. Kate’s canteen staff, deck attendants, lifeguards and instructors are mostly composed of high school and college/university students ranging from 15 to 24 years old. Many of them have been swimming at the John Rhodes centre for years. Instructor and lifeguard certification can be obtained once the staff member is 16 years old by taking the Instructor (WSI) course or the Life Guarding (NLS) course respectively. Employee turnover is fairly high, this is especially true for canteen staff as they are generally not old enough to take Instructors or NLS training. The post-secondary students are gone during the school year (September through April), but Kate usually hires them back next summer. Kate does most of her new hiring in September after College/University bound staff has left, at which time she can accurately determine how many new employees are needed.
Kate’s stress levels are rising along with the temperature. The summer season is here, and Kate must decide if the timing is right to implement the new Red Cross Swim Program, and how to market the other programs the John Rhodes centre offers. Kate walked around the perimeter of the John Rhodes pool after it had closed for the night. She wished other people could see the pool the way she did. The calming effect it had on her. How could she market that?
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Kate Smith, the Aquatic Supervisor of the John Rhodes Community Centre Pool, with no doubt is running into various problems which need to be solved quickly. Even though the John Rhodes pool opened in 2000 and has been since the preferred training facility for serious swimmers, like any other business, it has encountered several problems.
One of the major questions that Kate Smith has to answer is whether to change the existing swimming program which requires the implementation of the new Red Cross Swim Program. By following this new system, the levels will be more simplified and a fitness component will be added as a response to the growing trend in unhealthy lifestyles of people of different ages...
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