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Supplement Feature - February 2014

Fun & Functional

Aquatic Design Trends

By Deborah L. Vence


Fit for All

Advancements in aquatic design also have enabled people of all ages and abilities to enjoy aquatic facilities more.

"In waterpark design, I see more teenage and adult attractions being scaled down to a size that even young children can enjoy. At the same time, the large tube rides that can have anywhere from two to six people allow those with big families or just a lot of friends to experience the fun together in ways that were not really possible in the past," Colvin said.

Kempfer said the ADA does not have an overt impact on new facilities in any market. But, a skilled designer incorporates accessibility into their new design and many manufacturers have stepped up to accommodate these requirements.

"It is not limited to the ADA and the disabled. It is providing amenities and attractions that can be accessed by everyone. Our designers' work begins with the thought of how to make facilities more open and accessible to people of all abilities," she said. "Facilities that have to be renovated will see the greater impact due to working with what is present and reallocating financial resources to respond to the cost associated with the refit."

Meanwhile, Keim added that the rectangular "kiddie pool" and the rectangular lap pool have long been things of the past. "Splashpads, activity-based features, such as climbing walls, [surf machines], ropes courses and wave pools coupled with mandatory ADA accessibility requirements, have made parks answer the needs of individuals of virtually any age or ability," he said.

The inclusion of ADA into pool design technically has opened the gates to more users of a variety of different abilities.

However, "The challenge to aquatic designers and operators," Snyder added, "is to develop pool solutions that provide access without creating any negative experiential impact to the masses, nor create an unsafe condition to traditional popular attractions like wave pools."

A Boost to the Top Line

Advancements in aquatic design also have contributed to an increase in revenue for aquatic facilities.

"Rides that increase turnover, competition and the thrill level have people clamoring to stay at parks longer and return over and over. The rides that increase competition, (i.e., mat racers with timers to show who won) can actually increase bystanders' food and beverage consumption as people want to watch the 'competition'," Colvin said. "Surf machines and surf wave pools are becoming more popular and worth the added expense due to the increased food and beverage sales from those witnessing the activity."

Besides that, "Another source of increased revenue that many people don't think about, but is essential to long-term profitability, is decreased costs from engineering the facilities correctly in the first place and not skimping on quality consultants and materials," he added.

That is, using better filters, like regenerative filters, having exceptional secondary sanitizing systems, such as ozone systems and using variable frequency drives on motors and pumps, can save facilities a great deal of money and thereby increase profits. At the same time, many of these things decrease water, power and chemicals consumption, Colvin explained.

"We have even used solar pavers on pool decks, which draw heat from the sun and then transfer the heat to the pools, reducing heating costs. If done right, a park can definitely have a lower carbon footprint and make better use of the resources that are used up in these facilities," he added.

Increased revenue at aquatic facilities also can be attributed to placement and adjacencies of elements, Kempfer said.

"For example, placing a 'spectator' amenity, like a surf rider, near a concessions stand helps to increase concession sales," she said, adding that the use of cabanas is another outlet for revenue; as well as iconic rides and theming that help the marketing of a facility; and multi-generational designs that help to attract the whole family, not just parents dropping off the kids.

"Understanding the needs for multiple programming spaces is a design consideration often overlooked by an inexperienced team. Knowing what areas can double as teaching spaces, training areas and recreational swim/buy outs and rentals, while still meeting guests' needs is an acquired skill," Kempfer said.

For example, current channels or lazy rivers can be used for resistance or assistive walking classes during one time of the day and can then be used as a recreational river to serve another group. Warm-water wellness pools provide a place for therapy and rehabilitation, but also present adequate and appropriate depth and temperature for learn-to-swim lessons.

And, "The more exciting the park, the better attendance may be expected. Adding revenue-generating, skill-based activities or other features or attractions that may justify an upcharge from the basic park entrance fee increases revenue," Keim said. "Having features that increase a guest's length of stay adds to in-park purchases of food, drinks, etc., all of which add to the bottom line."