Innovative programming and good customer service are effective ways to keep current members engaged and get newer members plugged in. If you want to boost the number of guests walking in off the street, however, it’s worth hosting a special aquatics event. When the sun is out, nothing draws a crowd like a pool party.
“Members want a place where everyone can come together and celebrate the end of the week,” said Debbie Meek, the aquatics director at the Valley of the Sun JCC in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Whether you’re an active adult or young family, everybody can do something at the pool. It’s nice for people to come to our facility and see what we do have to offer — we get so many new members in our community because of swimming.”
Whether you host a monthly pool party with live music and free food, a holiday-themed aquatics event, or special aquatics-themed workout, putting something new in the pool is sure to catch the eye of prospective members.
Three years ago, the Valley of the Sun JCC had just finished over $2 million in major renovations, and was seeking ways to show off the facility and grow its membership. The result was a weekly pool party during the summer that’s open to guests called a “J-cation.”
“It’s a pool party getaway,” shared Kristina Brown, the director of member services at the Valley of the Sun JCC. “You can come to the JCC and have a vacation. We host them on Sunday, and we’ll get anywhere from 300 to 400 people. It’s an opportunity for us to showcase the JCC, for members to showcase their JCC, and for us to create a fun atmosphere.”
During a J-cation pool party, guests can experience a huge pool float with three levels and slides that go into the pool, a DJ with live music, barbecue and other food, a variety of activities, a rock wall, a splash pad, an activity pool, and a competitive pool. All the amenities and fun atmosphere give the facility a “country club feel,” according to Brown.
With so many different activities and spaces to swim in its 120,000-square-foot facility, the Valley of the Sun J has something for everyone. “It’s a great area for 400 people to feel very comfortable,” said Meek. “It’s not crowded, and we have about 15 lifeguards, so it makes everybody feel really good and comfortable.”
Hosting a holiday-themed event is also an effective way to draw in prospective members. To get more people to their facility during the holidays, the Innisfil YMCA, a branch of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka in Innisfil, Ontario, Canada, brings its community together through its New Year’s Eve event.
According to Ryan Purdy, the general manager of the Innisfil Y, members can participate in two hours of swimming and pool fun, as well as open gym time, ice skating and fireworks.
“The New Year’s Eve event is well-attended — during these two hours we have over 400 participants swim,” said Purdy. “This event provides an opportunity for the community to access the YMCA for free.”
The event has become very popular in the Innisfil community, and has resulted in several prospective members checking out the facility, according to Purdy. “It reaches beyond our membership and into the community,” he said.
As with any program or event, proper execution is required for a special aquatics event to deliver a great experience members will want to share with their friends.
“There are several things we consider when hosting special aquatics events,” said Purdy. “One question is, do we have enough staff on hand? We require five lifeguards to support our New Year’s Eve event. We also practice our facility’s emergency procedures with both staff and our community partners, as well as review our fire plan.”
According to Brown, having the right people is just as important as having the right amount of people. “Make sure you have warm, friendly people at the pool, because at the end of the day, people love people,” she advised. “You want great lifeguards, a great welcome membership team, a great welcome desk team — people who are here to invite them in and say ‘Welcome in, let’s have some fun.’”
Another smart practice is to collaborate with community organizations to help provide funding or resources. Big events for hundreds — sometimes thousands — of people can get expensive, so having community partners can be a big financial advantage.
“One big plus for us is utilizing community partners for development,” said Brown. “You may not have the funds or budget to provide a $5,000 pool party. But with your community partners and development team, you can have a sponsor to underwrite a lot of the costs that come from these parties.”
With engaging staff members and community partners to support you, the rest is all about the activities you plan. Determine what pool activities your members love most, give them opportunities to partake in them and the community will take notice.