Supplement Feature - February 2011
Find a printable version here

Catching the Wave

Staying Current With the Latest Aquatic Designs

By Kelli Anderson


Drawing the Crowds

And while saving money is certainly a big factor in designing today's aquatic facilities—whether it's in heating systems, water treatment solutions or in building more for less—designing aquatic facilities today is also about getting attention and drawing the crowds.

"It's asking what can we have that is unique and makes us stand apart because we're competing for customers and for loyalty and willingness to give you money," said Dave Schwartz, owner of Water's Edge Aquatic Design in Lenexa, Kan. "You want a facility with enough unique things that they'll come use your facility."

To that end, many facilities are turning to interactive waterpark elements (more affordable in recent years). Whether with big budgets or small, those that are particularly successful have learned that even one distinctive element can make them stand out and get noticed.

"Features like lazy rivers are becoming more common and so are more exciting slides—not the same old boring stuff," McElyea explained. "There's an aspect of having to keep up with the market you're in. Quite often in the Midwest where you have cities that replace an old pool and add nice features, you need to try to get your population back to your pool and to draw from a more regional basis."

For the small community of 5,000 to 6,000 in Republic, Mo., spending $3 million was enough to ensure that regional traffic would cover the cost of replacing an old pool with a simple aquatic design that includes zero depth entries, lap lanes and a slide complex. But one element was very unique—an in-place surfing feature.

"It was the first municipal application that had only been available in waterparks and cruise ships," McElyea explained of the community's special attraction. "Every 13-year-old in 150 miles now makes a pilgrimage there. They're always full. They've made money every year and right now are in a position to move forward to the next phase for a lazy river. They're staying relevant to be a premier facility."

Not only does an in-place surfing feature attract that hard-to-reach demographic of high-energy kids and teens, it provides amazing eye-candy for spectators who enjoy watching the surfers hang ten, twist and turn, or just wipe out.

Kenwood Cove Waterpark in Salina, Kan., a project costing $11 million for a population of 50,000 that opened just this past year, however, is an example of what municipalities are beginning to do around the country: go state-of-the-art in every way imaginable. Boasting 1,400 feet of slides, thrill rides, multiple lazy rivers, surfing pool, giant wave pool and more, this community's aquatic experience has gone far beyond lap pools and swimming lessons. "People say laps are needed for obese kids," Redenius said. "But what they don't understand is that you can build a track and can't make them run laps. But if you have interactive features—even lazy river paddling where there's collective excitement of doing multiple things—it's positive, healthy exercise. Multipurpose is a key thing."