Facility Profile - July 2010
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Give Them What They Want

Otter Cove Aquatic Park in St. Charles, Ill.

By Kelli Anderson


"The Otter Cove project will be connected to the existing spray park," LaLonde said. "It was a success—this whole project was always in the plans. It is a little like the tail before the dog but it worked well. The park district has done an excellent job of planning future needs of the community."

After scores of community surveys and many ad-hoc groups created and consulted over the years, the park district's resulting design is decidedly more programming-based. "We realized we were looking at youth and multiple-child needs and began asking questions like, 'Can you see all your family members? Is it safe for toddlers? Are we keeping deeper water where only older users walk?'" Cabel said of the design planning process. "We went through many surveys. Anytime you go without them, it's going to be harder. You have to make sure you have all the information."

Good sleuthing and information gathering also resulted in what Cabel admits was a main area of concern—cost estimation. In an economic climate that would tolerate no waste or unwanted frills, making sure that needs and wants were clearly identified as well as the costs to achieve them was paramount.

When the design team recognized, for example, that a portion of the original design was going to put them over budget, cost-cutting changes didn't sacrifice community-dictated amenities. "There was a separate pool originally intended for the slides but it was a little more economical to meet the budget to combine the slides with the activity pool," LaLonde said of the amended plan. "It works."

But a bear market wasn't all bad news. With the economic downturn, bids for the project were also very competitive. The park district was able to get a great value for their money and be picky in the process. "We re-bid this," Cabel said. "The first bid was denied because it came out over budget, then it re-bid and came under."

The Otter Cove Aquatic Park hasn't hurt PR, either, in a community that sees this project as one that is putting people to work. And in these challenging times, that otter make anyone happy.


FOR MORE INFORMATION

St. Charles Park District: www.st-charlesparks.org

Williams Architects: www.williams-architects.com