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Supplement Feature - February 2013

Buoyed by Innovation

New Aquatic Design Trends Offer a Sea of Options

By Chris Gelbach


Leisure Stretches Across Markets

Recreation has increasingly become the focus at the university level, as well. "Zip lines, large hydrotherapy spas with lots of artificial rockwork, plants—they're literally like resort hotels," Mendioroz said. "Students are like the rest of the population. Two to 5 percent of them are diehard lap and fitness swimmers, and the rest want to have fun." And they want to get their homework done at poolside, so Wi-Fi is also becoming a must.

Resort hotels have also embraced the trend, adding wave pools, lazy rivers, waterslides and wet playgrounds. "They're trying to attract families to do an extended stay and even in some cases, you have to book three days if you want to book a weekend," Mendioroz said.

While the trend for new resorts has slowed, adding these elements in renovations has become critical as resorts recognize the need raise the bar to compete with their showcase brochure attraction. "We just worked on a project for a hotel in Florida where they figure that they've been losing 30 to 40 percent of their capturable revenue because they don't have a good pool amenity," said Cloward. "The new one will have a river, some new slides, waterfalls and spray features, and it's just a much more active space, along with some serene adult areas."

Even municipal facilities are focused on using these kinds of elements to extend patron stays. Riverside County Parks has added splashpads to some of its campgrounds to help encourage weekend stays. And the new waterpark and 50-meter competition pool it is building in Perris, Calif., will be located near a Big League Dreams sports facility, and the district is considering placing a campground in the area too. "The idea is to create a destination," Brown said. "If they're going to a sports tournament with their kids, they can come and recreate during their breaks or spend the night at the campground, and spend the day at the pool the next day."

Wellness Doing Well

On the flip side of the recreation trend is the emergence of more wellness-focused aquatic facilities incorporating warmer water for water aerobics in addition to in-water treadmills. Faced with extensive competition from other lap pool amenities, some health and fitness centers are finding a niche by making the move toward water therapy in conjunction with local hospitals.

"It's an emerging trend we see, especially as the baby boomers age," Mendioroz said. "These facilities are scarcer than hen's teeth, and we see them fully booked out if they want to do the marketing and work with local hospitals and clinics."