Del Mar Family Aquatic Center in Aurora, Colo.
By Deborah L. Vence
Back in 2012 officials in Aurora, Colo., decided to renovate the city's outdated public swimming pool by adding a 25-meter pool with lap lanes and waterslides.
"The Del Mar pool was over 50 years old and really needed updating. The plans for the new aquatic center came out of an extensive effort to get public input and buy-in. The neighbors and pool users wanted to see more activities for kids, but still retain the lap swimming element," said Tracy Young, manager, planning, design and construction for the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department for the City of Aurora.
The pool, originally built in 1956, was largely untouched for many years, though some repairs were completed during that time.
"We added slides and painted the pool and had done some things, but no real work had been done. [It had] the same pump system. In 2013, we began renovation of the entire pool," said J. Byron Fanning Jr., manager of recreation, City of Aurora Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department.
The renovation included leveling the poolhouse, pump room and pool. "We scraped the pool itself completely," Fanning said.
While the pool was being renovated, the city wanted to offer residents a place to go to cool off in the summer. As a result, a new water playground was added by Vortex Aquatic Structures International Inc., a Montreal, Canada-based company that manufactures aquatic play areas.
"We opened it in [July] 2014. We did it as a standalone, and offered it for free for the citizens to splash around in the park," Fanning said.
"We had done public meetings and [asked] what they wanted from the pool. The water playground was an attractive option. It's got several slides and water features, and there is a big bucket on top that dumps [water]," he said. "It's a real fun thing for kids of all ages to play on."
By the summer of 2015, the Del Mar Family Aquatic Center officially opened for business.
"The new Family Aquatics Center has been wildly popular since it opened in 2015. This year the pool was open between May 28 and Sept. 5. Out of the 80 days of operation, we have reached capacity 22 days, mostly on the weekends," Young said. "Our attendance this year has been almost 40,000 visitors, which is up from last year. This is likely due to the addition of another large slide (from WhiteWater) and two new slides on the Vortex play structure."
The upgrades to the Del Mar facility were very successful the first year, and it was not even a full year of operations. The second year, it was decided to add two more slides to accommodate the increase in occupancy, and after realizing that a smaller slide on the structure was not as popular as the taller slides. They now have four large slides on the structure, noted Barbara Lapierre, territory manager, Canada/North East U.S., Vortex.
It was part of the master planning process of the whole park; the entire west side of the park was redone and the pool was part of the whole plan.
"And so, when we opened the pool in 2015 we realized that there wasn't as much to do in terms of slides. We added two big slides and then we added several slides on the water playground," Fanning said.
After the first year of operation, a few changes were made, in terms of the size of waterslides. At issue was whether or not there was capacity to add any slides without adding any pump or water pressure. A design was drawn up with two smaller slides to please younger children with height restrictions of 42 inches taller and smaller, which captured a lot of 5-to-9-year-olds.
"Customers really appreciated that," he said.
Overall, the facility has been a huge success within the community—so much that the facility has a return on investment and the city is looking to do similar projects.
"The visitation and revenues exceeded our projections. People love it!" Young said.
The Del Mar aquatic facility also features a full-service cconcession stand, a bathhouse with family changing rooms as well as shade shelters and party pavilions.