Award Winner - May/June 2004
Find a printable version here


Keller ISD Natatorium
Keller, Texas


S u b m i t t e d    b y:

brinkley sargent architects in dallas

36,720 square feet (including 13,994 square feet of water); 805,000-gallon pool

Project cost:
$8.2 million (including site work) through tax-increment financing funds

Quick tour:

  • 50-meter, eight-lane long course and 25-yard, 25-lane short course competition pool with two movable bulkheads
  • Two 25-yard warm-up lanes segregated from main body by bulkhead
  • Three one-meter diving boards (diving depth planned for future modification to one three-meter board)
  • Continuous perimeter gutter and surge tank for waveless water
  • Continuous toe ledge for teaching
  • Heat recovery from mechanical system contributes to heating the pool
  • Recessed underwater lights
  • Indirect lighting to minimize glare
  • Black-out shades on windows for major meets
  • High-rate sand filtration
  • Bleacher seating for 550
  • Concessions
  • Locker rooms including separate locker rooms for four swim teams
  • Mechanical, storage and office space

Talk about a boom town: Within the past decade, the Keller Independent School District in Keller, Texas, has experienced a doubling of its student population, opening a dozen new schools since 1996, with more expansion on the way. Among all this explosive growth came the need for competitive pool space to be shared by the district's schools (including three high schools and a fourth out-of-district high school that rents space) as well as the community at large.

"Our challenge was a world-class competition venue, so everything's centered around the word 'competition,' the pool design and the building," says Stephen Springs, project architect with Brinkley Sargent Architects in Dallas. "It doesn't have any whiz-bang play features. It was touted as being a training venue."

In the spirit of this, the Keller ISD Natatorium features a 50-meter long-course pool built with serious speed in mind including its continuous perimeter gutter and surge tank for waveless water. There's also plenty of spectator seating for all the meets and events that the building hosts.

"In truth, our biggest design challenge was the site—we had soil issues to overcome," Springs says. "We also had to conform to the city center's design guidelines while still keeping the competition aspect of the pool intact. Getting those two to work together was a challenge. It wasn't going to be a 'look-at-me' building."

The exterior look of the facility had to adhere to Keller's prescribed Town Center design guidelines, which require a more traditional look. Unfortunately, some of the criteria for achieving this look are very specific and not necessarily conducive to a natatorium. Case in point, the guidelines require a minimal (though substantial) amount of windows, which are not favorable to a aquatic center interior because of glare problems. All this had to be worked out in the design.

As for the site's soil concerns, highly expansive soils and a high water table meant that a high-capacity sub-drainage system was installed beneath the pool, and the entire building (including the pool) is structurally suspended.

The final site for this project is actually the second site. Across the creek, the first site had an even higher water table that jeopardized the deep end of the pool. To remedy this, the city and school district traded sites, saving the diving well and demonstrating a good example of civic cooperation.

"The thing that I think about the project that's interesting is how it's a partnership between government entities: The city and the school district made it a team effort," Springs says. "Entities are usually bitter siblings, but they worked together well. That's pretty unusual."

While catering to competitive swimmers was the primary goal, the facility was intended to fill a community need as well.

As planned, much of the pool's extensive programming is not limited to schools, says Lee Feris, natatorium manager.

"From a community standpoint, at the heart and core of our activities is our swim lessons—the need is tremendous," says Feris, who works to keep the programs affordable. "We haven't limited ourselves by out-pricing ourselves in the market."

Likewise, public open swim periods are also a marketing tool.

"Our open recreation swim is vital to the operation of the pool by bringing people in," Feris says. "Once they see the facility, they want to know about our programs."

These programs range from adult lap swim and spring-board diving to scuba classes, water aerobics and even triathlon training. There are also plans for kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing.

Yes, you read that right. Of course, these sports aren't offered in the natatorium, but patrons can sign up for them through the facility.

"If it has something to do with water, we're interested in it," Feris says. "If the public has an interest in it, we're willing to partner with other cities and businesses to bring it."

Sounds like a winning attitude.

"In today's market, you have to look at it as broad-minded as you can," Feris says. "For the general public, if they've never been exposed to it, you can't create any demand."

J u d g e s '   N o t e s

"Well detailed. Each brick course and tile shot was well conceived."

james kemper

"Crisp and clean, but with some exciting architectural elements. Good tile work. Colorful accents in the pool. Beautifully designed building. Windows and glazing have a nice rhythm and flow. Everything about this building is elegant, perfectly proportioned."

Christell Leonard

"Great job of working in vernacular style."

mark wentzell

A s s o c i a t e d    F i r m s

aquatic engineer

Counsilman/Husaker & Associates

Civil engineers

Teague, Nall & Perkins

Mechanical and electrical

G&S Consulting Engineers

Structural engineer

Datum Engineers

Landscape design

Kendall Landscape Architecture


Steele & Freeman

More award winners...