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Feature Article - September 2018
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New Pool Rules

Passive amenities are out; floating creative water spaces can increase attendance

By Rick Dandes

Nowhere is the influence of television shows that feature physical challenges, such as American Ninja Warrior, more noticeable these days than with amenities now in place at aquatic parks and community pools of all sizes in the United States. And that impact of having more active amenities is growing stronger all the time, said aquatic facility administrators and play equipment manufacturers.

These influences are less apparent at colleges and university aquatic facilities. At secondary schools and colleges, from a competitive pool perspective, the amenities are pretty much the status quo, said David Keim, vice president, business development at a Cohoes, N.Y., company that designs and builds waterparks, aquatic centers and recreation facilities. "If the pool were designed and intended for competition and training use, they'll have all the competition and training program equipment and accessories on hand," he said.

It's a whole other story from the recreational aquatics perspective, Keim said. "We have seen a lot of colleges and universities beginning to adapt more creative water space for their student recreation programs, including flume slides, lazy rivers and big lounge pools. And these things are becoming part of a student recreation center, which is a real departure from the old flat-water rectangles of old. They have started to adapt some fun things. The times are calling for it."

Of course, even the more traditional swim lanes can be used creatively, suggested Ashley Clark, a pool products manager with a Constantine, Mich.-based manufacturer of aquatic sports products. As people are trying to do more with their pools, making the most out of every hour, peak hours is always the main focus, she said. "Racing lanes can be a great inexpensive option, where you can easily section off different areas of the pools for different activities without a lot of cost."

Water polo is a growing sport, Clark explained, "and we are seeing more and more programs developing in which people are looking to outfit the pool with water polo goals, course lanes, polo balls and various other equipment. Having a sturdy and secure goal and course set up is the key to a great program. Water polo courses are regulated to a certain extent, but depending on your pool measurements and layout it can be tough to get exactly to regulation. You can work with the lane manufacturer to make sure you get the best layout for your pool.

Nowhere is the influence of television shows that feature physical challenges, such as American Ninja Warrior, more noticeable these days than with amenities now in place at aquatic parks and community pools of all sizes in the United States.

Meanwhile, on the community recreation side, things have been exploding, Keim said. "We've gone from the old days of the flat water rectangular city park pool with a little wading pool next to it to full-blown almost waterpark-like aquatic centers," he observed. "Some of the things we are starting to see a lot more often now in the municipal setting are creative wave pools—wave pools that are different than the original keystone shaped wave pools that used to be the standard in municipal aquatic facilities for decades."

Now there are wave pools that don't necessarily look like a wave pool, Keim said. There are pools that have beaches at both ends and the waves are generated at the center of the pool. You are starting to see communities, especially in the Midwest, that are putting rivers in their aquatic facilities, but rather than being a lazy river that you leisurely float around in a tube, they are adding wave generation equipment, booster pumps and things of that nature to make them more of an action river experience.

"They've stepped it up a notch," Keim said. "What's trending are some form of adventure pools incorporated into the municipal aquatic centers, in that you have a pool that may have a climbing wall, and a jumping ledge built into a wall somewhere. The effect is like people used to do in the old rock quarries. Pools that are actually being built intended to re-create that effect."

Surf simulators are also becoming more common in municipal aquatic centers every year. "There are nearly 30 of them now in municipal aquatic centers across the country, and their popularity keeps growing year after year," Keim said.

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