Feature Article - February 2006
Find a printable version here

Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

Just Add Water

By Kelli Anderson


TO LOOK GOOD IS TO FEEL GOOD

In any case, enclosed pools, whether crystal palaces, brick and mortar, or rising like a bubble on the landscape, all provide a marketing advantage—they're visible.

It helps if being visible also includes looking good.

"To look good is to feel good," a piece of comic wisdom ŕ la Billy Crystal, apparently holds true for buildings as well as people. Designing an aquatic facility that looks good can translate into client's feeling good about coming back. It also can work as built-in marketing for your aquatic programs.

Paying attention to the color scheme, quality and variety of lighting elements, landscaping both indoors and out, and finishing materials (touches of wood, stone or steel, to name a few) will provide effective eye-candy even if used sparingly. In all these elements, consistency to create a cohesive look and good placement will more than make up for quantity.

GOOD IMPRESSIONS

Making a good impression also means putting a lot of emphasis and design energy into the entrance and changing areas. Whether installing a striking reception desk or check-in counter with drop-pendant lighting or just hiding clutter with a colorful band of cloth from a hanging banner, paying attention to what your clients perceive at the beginning of their aquatic experience is thoughtful planning time and money well spent.

Changing areas, often a budgetary afterthought, actually can be the space where aquatic centers separate the proverbial men from the boys, so to speak. If glass tile, multiple showerheads and spa-like amenities are part of the parting experience, clients are sure to notice, appreciate and return.

Even if upscale is not in your budget, there's nothing to keep a facility from considering the atmospheric effects of up lighting, well-placed plants, or creative and colorful textured flooring. Add family changing areas with roomier grooming spaces, enlarged lockers, and private rooms with a toilet, sink and shower stall for family users or those with special needs like the elderly, and you'll create long-term devotees.

It's no secret that changing areas, shower areas and restrooms can be challenging spaces. They must be designed to withstand the harsh, waterlogging environment and stand up to heavy use—all while looking good and staying clean. Choosing elements that are durable, bacteria-resistant and easy to maintain will help make this intimate environment a comfortable and attractive one.

FLOORING

Starting from the bottom, flooring choices need to take slip-resistance, bacteria-resistance and comfort into account. Textured cement floors, for example, can look good with an infinite variety of staining and integral color choices and be easy to clean with a hose. Epoxy coatings can add a splash of color as well as a bacteria-resistant factor.

Tiled floors, an attractive and durable choice, also can clean up well, especially if walls are coved, and grout is sealed properly to resist stains. Bacteria-resistant floor mats can go anywhere, making a more comfortable choice especially in shower areas, whereas even shorter-lived but comfy carpets designed for pool environments are great for dryer (read: not-so-squishy) changing or grooming areas.