- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2003

PHILADELPHIA

The diving boards have been pulled up since the 1980s, and now deep ends are being deep-sixed.

The standard swimming pool, a rectangle with a bottom that drops off to a diving area 12 feet deep, is being replaced by shallow pools of the sorts seen in water parks. The reasons are safety and family appeal.

Some pool operators have been filling in the deep ends, and new pools are less likely to have deep water.



The old-style “drowning pools” won’t be missed, says aquatics specialist Tom Griffiths.

“People were breaking their necks, so they took out the boards, but then they were left with a drowning pool,” with children sinking in the deep end, said Mr. Griffiths, director of aquatics at Pennsylvania State University.

The new pools are usually no deeper than 5 feet, can accommodate more people and are seen as more appealing to families. They often include water slides, spray toys and gradual, beachlike approaches that let swimmers walk into the water. They are often irregularly shaped, because their designs no longer are dictated by the need for lanes for serious swimmers.

“The definition of aquatics has changed,” said Scot Hunsaker, president of Counsilman/Hunsaker Aquatic Designers, Planners and Engineers in St. Louis. “Today, we see the expectation of a family aquatic center.”

Philadelphia has been filling in its deep ends over the past several years, said Terri Kerwawich, the city’s aquatics coordinator. After filling in two more this spring, the city has only 10 deep ends left at its 86 pools. All but one or two deep ends will be replaced.

“It’s not just a safety factor,” Miss Kerwawich said. “The deep ends were underutilized.”

Countryside YMCA in Lebanon, Ohio, built a pool in 2001 with water toys, a slide and a gradual entry.

“We went with our water park because we didn’t have any recreational space for our families,” said Holly Colon, the facility’s aquatic executive. “People are going away from the square hole in the ground.”

Chicago in recent years has built 25 interactive, ankle-deep water parks, said Chicago Park District spokeswoman Katherine McGuire. One pool has a gradual entry and is 5 feet deep.

Every new pool that the city builds will have a gradual entry, Miss McGuire said.

The deep end has not met its end, though. After replacing its diving boards with slides, the city of Phoenix three years ago opened a diving pool to accommodate demand.

Swimming in an all-shallow pool with her 8-year-old daughter on a sweltering day in Philadelphia, Maria Rinaldi said of the new design: “I think it’s safer. I don’t think it matters too much to kids, just as long as they’re in the pool.”

Marina Rinaldi echoed her mother: “I like it the way it is.”

Tom Ebro, who runs Aquatic Risk Management, a safety-consulting business in Lutz, Fla., said YMCAs, hotels and municipalities recognize that new pool designs are safer.

Mr. Griffiths said that while shallow pools probably prevent drownings, it is debatable whether they prevent diving injuries. He said shallow pools need to post their no-diving rules.

“We could be increasing the likelihood of catastrophic neck injuries if we don’t aggressively sign it,” he said.

About 250 pool-diving injuries are reported each year in the United States, Mr. Griffiths said. Most happen in less than 5 feet of water.

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