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Supplement Feature - February 2014

Fun & Functional

Aquatic Design Trends

By Deborah L. Vence


"One final trend that shouldn't be overlooked is theming. Themed environments within a park have become increasingly popular in municipal and commercial waterparks. The ability to package some sort of experience and create an instant atmosphere transforms guests into another world as they navigate through the park," she added. "This concept creates excitement and a sense of arrival for the guest and can help to increase the length of stay."

What's more, Ryan Snyder, manager of project planning at Aquatic Development Group Inc., Cohoes, N.Y., said he sees active play coming back. "What is old is new again," he said. "The 'swimming hole' and general swimming lagoons; rope swings; water rock climbing walls; zip-line pools; rock jumps."

Other trends he sees include:

  • That resort feel into waterpark design and the flipside: waterpark excitement-infused traditional resorts. "Both versions are designed to help attract higher-end guests, while still providing that thrilling and family, and adult-only orientated experiences," Snyder said. "Blending of resort and waterpark amenities helps to increase occupancy and spending at resorts that need a draw to bolster their convention businesses and to fill rooms during the weekends when the business traveler has returned home, or to encourage the traveler to bring their families along—extended stays."
  • Amusement parks expanding into water—"Six Flags has proven that waterparks can significantly increase if not more than double attendance at park over their traditional," Snyder said.
  • Surfing—sheet flow body boarding and stand-up board surfing to large wave pools of various types—produce boogie boarding and a stand-up surfing feel. Girls and young women are still the fastest-growing segment of the surfing world.
  • Adventure (Eco) Park attractions layered into traditional waterpark design.
  • Ziplines and wet ropes courses.

Stretching the Limits

Newer technologies in aquatic design include magnetic induction propulsion systems used on multi-person family rides. Along with water-coaster-type rides, hybrid rides that integrate two or more rides into one ride path now exist.

"Rides now are constantly pushing the envelope on zero g-forces to give that truly thrilling experience to park attendees," Colvin noted.

In addition, more attention is being given to water quality and control of recreational water illnesses, UV systems being included not only on pools where required, but on pools of every type in virtually every jurisdiction, Keim said.

"Significantly increased water turnover rates help ensure that the water 'sees' the filter and disinfection system far more often," he said.

Kempfer added that innovations that represent a current and future industry trend include changes in water filtration systems, such as UV filtration.

"UV is quickly becoming a standard for addressing chloramines at indoor aquatic facilities and proactively addresses Cryptosporidium and other chlorine-resistant pathogens in outdoor pools," she said.

"Water usage is an important consideration in the operation of swimming pools. Contributors to water usage include evaporation, bather carry out, splash out and backwash. Control of water usage is important because of the operational efforts placed into the water, including chemical treatment, balance and heating," Kempfer added. "Using regenerative media filtration, it is possible to reduce backwash loss by more than 90 percent. These filters represent a capital investment premium, but one which the client would be given the information to make informed decisions regarding the value of this investment."

For splashpads, there is a new set of products in research and development that bring interactive rivers with working path diverters and pump actuators that have to be controlled manually by children. "These rivers can be integrated with existing splashpads or can be an individual attraction," Colvin said.

"Waterpark design is now focusing on fitting more attractions in the allotted footprints. By having water coasters and other high-capacity rides, park operators can get more people through the lines than ever before, which only encourages return attendance," he said.

Furthermore, splashpad innovations include new features for more education—hands-on water wheels, water flow, etc., to teach alongside with the fun, more sustainable operations on splashpads, Kempfer noted.

Keim added, "A plethora of new and exciting features seem to be introduced on a continuing basis. Education-based interactive features in addition to the more traditional spray features are becoming more and more popular. Theming of feature elements seem to constantly advance and improve."

Additionally, Snyder asserted other new innovations that include light, as well as combined slides and rides.

"Be it the embracing of natural light into indoor aquatic centers and waterparks via ETFE (Texlon) transparent roofing systems, to the use of light effects in pools and with water features.

"Proper use of natural daylighting provides indoor facilities with an outdoor park feel, with the weather safeness of a traditional indoor park.

"Utilizing the benefits of natural sunlight into indoor waterparks," he added, "allows for large reductions in the use of artificial lighting during daytime operating hours, as well as the [fact that] heat gain from the sun can actually reduce the extent and expense of the HVAC systems, thus creating noticeable development and energy savings to projects and operations."

The combination of various traditionally singular water features and waterslide types into a string of two or more different experiences allows for a combination of sensations into one ride or attraction. Some examples include: bowls, funnels and serpentine slides into one combo slide; and waterslides (family rafting) and river channels combined into one varied path.