Award Winner - May/June 2005
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Dolphins Cove at Prairie Athletic Club
Sun Prairie, Wis.


S u b m i t t e d    b y:


36,000 square feet of water activity space

Project cost:
$2.5 million

Quick tour:

  • Sea Turtle Trail 245-linear-foot lazy river and 742-square-foot plunge area
  • Dragon Bay Water Walk 630-square-foot activity area
  • Octopus Lagoon 205-square-foot whirlpool
  • Angel Fish Falls 2,313-square-foot interactive play area
  • Sea Serpent Pad and Waterwalk
  • Two basketball hoops
  • Slippery Seal tube slide
  • Barracuda Speed body slide
  • Porpoise Plunge body slide
  • Sand volleyball courts
  • Parrot-dise Palms Beverage & Snack Stand
  • Pelican Park Playground
  • Private Party Paradise

Prairie Athletic Club operates under the philosophy that fitness should be fun. And, fortunately for its patrons, the cutting-edge center in Sun Prairie, Wis., puts its money where its mouth is.

In 2004, the club added a $2.5 million waterpark to the facility, which already held claim to Wisconsin's largest single recreation fitness center. Dolphin Cove bolstered Prairie Athletic's existing programming by giving customers a fun reason to head outside in the summer. It also enhanced an aquatics program that primarily consisted of a lap pool, a zero-depth-entry pool and sunbathing areas.

"We really felt once a child was 8 years old, the ambience wasn't inviting to them," Club Manager Jill Grundahl says.

Water Technology, Inc. in Beaver Dam, Wis., created a plan that encouraged total family recreation. The concept takes the facility beyond a typical children's attraction and provides amenities that appeal to all age groups. The Cove's design impressively integrates all its elements into one, holistic aquatic experience. The waterpark—still a relative rarity among private fitness clubs—harbors 36,000 square feet of aquatic activity.

"The minute guests enter the waterpark it is hard to distinguish where one activity ends and another begins," says Project Designer Scott Stefanc of Water Technology. "This is somewhat of a figurative thought because in a literal sense, we can see the edges of the pools and the end of slides. But on another level, guests can go from one activity to the next without feeling disassociated from everything else in the park."

While Prairie Athletic wanted the waterpark to be a diversion, it also needed to promote healthy activity and more than just a place where patrons would splash and sun themselves. In keeping with this goal, the club wanted amenities that provided both fun and fitness. The lazy river, for example, doubles as an aquatic option when patrons walk against the current. The club schedules the lazy river for morning fitness and recreation in the afternoons and evenings. The Dragon Bay Water Walk requires children and adults to use balance, agility and coordination to cross the floating dragon. The best part is that patrons don't even realize they're exercising.

"It's a facility that serves a variety of people," Grundahl says. "Some of our older patrons are the ones who get the most enjoyment out of it. You don't often think of grandpa and grandson enjoying the same facility, but that's what's happening here."

In order to build the park, designers were forced to work within a constrained site, a spot wedged between the athletic club and parking lot. They began with moving existing volleyball courts to make space available. The relocation allowed for the pools, as well as concessions, a playground and private party area. Attentive planning allows more than 30 interactive water play activities to be located within a controlled space. The slide exits into the lazy river saving deck space and maintaining traffic flow throughout the facility. Off the children's attraction, the slides use "run outs" that eliminate the need for large splash down pools. The design also incorporates the facility's two existing free-form pools, which were at the existing building elevation. The new pools, however, were required to be at a lower grade to match site requirements. This offered an opportunity to use the difference in elevation to enhance the design.

Rockwork and signage define each space, including waterfalls that add a natural visual along the lazy river and whirlpool. The signage and theming continue a tropical motif, creating an instant atmosphere and sense of arrival when patrons enter.

And from the reviews the aquatic park has received, patrons like what they see once they're inside.

"The response has been great," Grundahl says. "We've done surveys, and there is just a high amount of satisfaction."

J u d g e s '   N o t e s

"Packed a lot of activity in very small area very successfully. Creative theme; used vertical space well to maximize limited space. Nice work with artificial rock and theme development. Quality materials and equipment selection."

jim maland

A s s o c i a t e d    F i r m s

pool contractor

Neuman Pools, Inc.


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