Mountain View Pool attendance spikes

Chris McDaniel
cmcdaniel@ptleader.com
Posted 1/8/19

Long-term efforts to improve attendance at Mountain View Pool have resulted in a threefold increase in foot traffic during the past five years, according to data released by the city of Port Townsend.

It was a combination of several strategies that led to the dramatic growth, said Alex Wisniewski, city parks, recreation and community services director.

“During the past four years, we adopted more of a business-like approach to improving the attractiveness and use of MVP,” he said. “We did this through three primary avenues — data collection, customer experience and marketing.”

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Mountain View Pool attendance spikes

Posted

Long-term efforts to improve attendance at Mountain View Pool have resulted in a threefold increase in foot traffic during the past five years, according to data released by the city of Port Townsend.

It was a combination of several strategies that led to the dramatic growth, said Alex Wisniewski, city parks, recreation and community services director.

“During the past four years, we adopted more of a business-like approach to improving the attractiveness and use of MVP,” he said. “We did this through three primary avenues — data collection, customer experience and marketing.”

Data collection

The city started to collect user data at the pool in 2015. It tracked visits by day and month in addition to membership and registration, Wisniewski said.

“This was then used to identify information, such as low visitation times, that we could use to help inform decision-making and future planning,” he said. “Our data-collection efforts have evolved over the years and now are used for trend analysis, setting short- and long-term goals, and benchmarking to measure our success and failures.”

Customer experience

Also in 2015, the city began to improve the experience pool visitors received by investing in staffing, enhancing and expanding programs and making the aging facility feel more  welcoming.

He credited aquatics program supervisor Seth Leighton with creating that atmosphere.

Additionally, staff focused on providing lesson plans and formalizing fitness and swimming classes to ensure programs were meeting community needs, Wisniewski said.

Staff training  

The city also began to cross-train pool instructors in different programs by sending them to professional development trainings, Wisniewski said. He highlighted head lifeguard Jon Plueard, and how he has improved morning fitness classes.“We’ve certainly benefited from his previous experience with Portland Parks and Recreation and his captivating presence when leading a class,” Wisniewski said.

Programming

In addition to expanding the number of fitness classes available, pool staff members have focused on implementing special events and taking over the management of the REDfins Swim Club, Wisniewski said.

The club was taken over in 2016 by Emily Harrenstein, who has concentrated on growing the roster. She said there are just under 30 kids participating currently as opposed to about six when she took over.

“Before the REDfins it was the Barracudas, so we had some kids that did transfer over from that program,” Harrenstein said. “When I took over the REDfins program, I started to really think about the kind of program that we wanted to create.”

She decided to base it on the program she was involved in at the pool when she was a child.

“We had a lot more attendance,” Harrenstein said.

To grow the roster, she said wanted to create an environment based on fun.

“I think a lot of parents and kids alike are really drawn to that kind of atmosphere, in sports especially,” Harrenstein said.

She said she always keeps an eye out for talent among the students participating in swimming lessons.

“I really know these kids,” Harrenstein said. “Oftentimes I have hand picked them from lessons I’ve put them through because I see potential. That is a huge stepping stone, especially for young kids.”

Facility improvements  

Since 2012, the city has invested in funding major improvements including the installation of a new pool liner, LED lights and repair of the concrete pool deck in 2012-13; a new HVAC unit and boilers in 2014; new wall and floor paint in the locker rooms and the pool room in 2015; new shower heads and changing stalls in locker rooms in 2016; and new lockers in 2017.

“The more minor improvements have been focused on improving the customer experience and are, in large part, based on comments staff have received from visiting pool users,” Wisniewski said.

Installation of a new automatic lobby door that began last year will continue into this year.

Marketing

Getting exposure in the community also has been an integral piece of the pie, Wisniewski said, adding the main goal has been to get more foot traffic at the pool.

Such efforts have been guided by Lena Curtis, aquatics program coordinator, who follows a strategic plan based primarily on matching programs to a target population, creating messaging focused to impact that target population, and delivering the message via avenues that will best reach that audience, Wisniewski said.

Community gathering place

As a result of such efforts, the pool is becoming a place where residents gather, Wisniewski said.  

“This is evidenced in more ways than just providing a pool to get a physical workout,” he said. “MVP also provides an outlet for social connections, where people meet and create long-lasting friendships.”

The various special events each year at the pool also are a great way to build a sense of community, Wisniewski said.  

“At our Spooky Swim event, we had 94 children and families join in the Halloween festivities where they got to meet and play with other kids from the community,” he said.

Second Sunday swims

Second Sunday swims concluded after five years in early December because the goal of increasing pool attendance was achieved, said Earll Murman, JAC president.

“Jefferson Aquatic Coalition is grateful for the incredible community support we have received from local businesses, organizations and individuals who have provided the funds to support the Second Sunday Swims,” he said. “

At its conclusion, more than 4,300 visitors participated in the free Sunday swims, a news release said.

At the time the series started, the pool had very limited weekend access. The pool now offers multiple fitness classes, lap swimming and open recreation swims between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Looking forward

In future, the city will continue to focus on attracting new users to the pool, Wisniewski said.

“We will evolve our efforts as the community and resident needs change,” he said.

And, the city is planning to unveil a new website for the pool in the near future.

“Then we will begin an effort to look into using social media to help reach more segments of our community,” Wisniewski said. “I am really excited for this as this will give us another tool in our toolbox to reach out with and attract new MVP visitors.”

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