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Feature Article - October 2007

Making Waves

Big Waterpark Trends Hit Smaller Facilities

By Emily Tipping


O
nce upon a time, municipal pools were just pools. Rectangular, with a shallow end and a deep end, and if you were lucky, a diving board and perhaps a small slide. In the mornings, kids would show up for swim lessons, and adults would swim laps. In the afternoons, bathers of all ages would take a dip, while sunbathers lounged at poolside.

But that's not enough anymore.

These days, patrons at facilities of all stripes want entertainment. It's not enough to provide a puddle for them to jump in. They want a fun-filled experience. They want to be thrilled on slides, chilled with water play elements and spilled on—with dumping buckets that drop gallons of water over their heads.

"In the 1980s, we saw the birth of the family aquatic center, which added slides and other elements to the rectangular pools of the past, and it went on from there," said Melinda Kempfer, business development coordinator for Water Technology Inc., which has designed waterparks around the world, as well as municipal family aquatic centers, and just about every type of aquatic facility in between. "Now we're asking, 'Is there anything new we can still do?' and we're seeing more of the elements of commercial waterparks coming into municipal pools."

Why would a local pool adopt the trends seen at big waterparks?

"The expectations have been raised, and a lot of kids want more," Kempfer explained. "When I was growing up, the most exciting thing they had at the pool was clams you threw to the bottom and dived for. Kids nowadays need to be entertained."

And across the country, trends are trickling from the biggest, most successful waterparks down to their municipal counterparts, whether those are municipally owned waterparks with all the rides and thrills of their privately owned competitors or simple family aquatic centers that have added slides, cabanas, themes and other amenities to their previously simple facilities.

So what can you learn from these successes? Read on to learn how big waterpark trends can make waves for your smaller facility.