Academic journal article Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Using Performance Measures to Assess Performance of Indoor and Outdoor Aquatic Centres

Academic journal article Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Using Performance Measures to Assess Performance of Indoor and Outdoor Aquatic Centres

Article excerpt


A recent trend throughout Australia has been to develop multi-purpose indoor public aquatic centres in favour of outdoor pools. Such major policy and planning decisions often rely on consultants' feasibility studies, yet there is limited comprehensive industry-wide data available on which to base such decisions. The industry-wide performance measures discussed in this paper help fill this void by providing objective data to support the contention that multi-purpose indoor aquatic centres tend to outperform centres with solely outdoor pools. The key indicators of performance are based on financial viability and community participation data for a sample of Australian public aquatic centres.

Keywords Performance measures, financial viability, participation, aquatic centres


Based on annual data collected from about 90 centres, the University of South Australia's Centre for Environmental and Recreation Management Performance Indicators (CERM PP) Project provides the most comprehensive performance measures and benchmarks for public aquatic centres in Australia. One benefit of such measures may be in their potential to inform decisions about the future design and location of aquatic centres. For example, specific performance measures may indicate that certain types of centres are more popular for the aquatic consumer of today. Centres with indoor facilities such as indoor pools and fitness gyms, for instance, tend to result in higher levels of visitation and increased income. This information may be important for effective decision-making relating to construction or re-development of what are, essentially, highly capital-intensive facilities and operations.

This paper will examine the use of performance measures to support the generally accepted truism that multi-purpose indoor aquatic centres are more viable than centres with solely outdoor pools. Relevant social and historical trends will be noted, including the changing nature of consumer behaviour, followed by a brief discussion of performance measures and their development for public leisure facilities.


During recent years, there has been a trend in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom away from outdoor aquatic centres to multi-purpose facilities that have indoor pools and other associated facilities, such as fitness centres, gymnasia or sports halls (Benton 2003; King 2004; Whittaker 2004). The period of the 1950s to the 1970s was dominated by provision of mainly outdoor pools throughout Australia (Benton 2003). With impetus from Australia's success at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, these were primarily designed for competition, typically being 50 metre (55 yard) pools. The 1980s marked a major move to include more 'leisure water' in public aquatic centres, such as water slides, aimed at attracting people seeking fun and relaxation. Recent trends have included augmentation of the aquatic facilities with dry facilities and an increase in health and therapy users. Accordingly, there has been a proliferation of multi-purpose aquatic centres throughout Australia - in 2002-2003, it was estimated that about 100 such facilities were either refurbished or newly opened (Benton 2003).

The origin of this trend appears to be the two dominant policy imperatives for local government leisure facilities (Benton 2003; Whittaker 2004). First, there is pressure to cater for diverse community user groups, while there is also the demand for financial viability, particularly in terms of operating costs. Local government in Australia often accepts the higher capital outlays for indoor aquatic centres because of their significantly increased community use and better financial operating performance, compared to lower capital outlays for outdoor centres and their poorer operating performance (Benton 2003).

Therefore, there appears to be a generally accepted maxim that an outdoor aquatic centre - a facility with solely an outdoor pool or pools - will not be as successful, both in terms of financial returns as well as community participation, compared to aquatic centres that include indoor pools. …

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