Guest Column - November 2008
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Waterparks & Splash Play Areas: Cool Solutions

Shady Spaces Please Patrons

By Sarah van Wezel


For aquatic facility operators, the goal is to keep visitors in the park for longer periods of time and make them want to return. "Guest accommodations are becoming commonplace at aquatic facilities. Shade is increasingly important today over deck chairs and pavilions where guests seek comfort," Kempfer said. "A comfortable guest spends more time at the park."

At Veteran's Memorial Pool, providing adequate shade for visitors was the main reason they added their blue and green fabric shade structures. "It gets very hot in Central Texas and we wanted to provide ample shade for the folks to stay cool while watching their kids or just lounging next to the pool," Hemenes said. "We knew we wanted the 'soft' fabric shade structures, which were a better fit for our facility than the 'built' or metal structures. Underneath these shade structures the temperatures are 10 to 20 degrees cooler and that is where the majority of the people can be found on a hot Texas day."

Sun safety has become an integral part of daily living. Skin cancer rates are rising, and exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun is a major contributor. Parents with young children are especially aware of the dangers associated with exposure to the sun. "The addition of these shade structures will show your visitors and employees that you care about providing a healthy, cool and comfortable environment to spend time in," Kempfer said. "Your employees spend a large part of the day outside and in hot weather this might lead to heat-related illnesses and an employee who may become less alert and unable to perform their duties well."

A Hot Cool Concept: Revenue Generation

Traditionally swimming pools and waterparks run by cities have not been self-funding. In today's climate with budgets stretched to the limits, more and more facilities are looking at ways to generate additional funds. By providing a cool, comfortable, shaded area they are able to meet the clients' needs and generate additional revenue.

Although not all facilities charge visitors for the shaded spots, many are increasingly discovering a lucrative side business in renting out shade areas where large groups can gather.

"They're a crucial element to the design and overall quality of the park or facility," Stefanc said. "We've noticed an increased demand for amenities such as cabanas and other covered, shaded areas that can be rented out to derive additional income. Aquatic facilities want to provide amenities for their clientele and increasingly they are getting additional funding from it as well."

This cool concept has been successfully incorporated at Northwest Community Park. "We originally added the larger shade structures for rentals for birthday parties. We have now started to utilize our [umbrella structures] as well for rentals due to the popularity. The revenue string is helping our aquatic facility", Hemenes said.


Sarah van Wezel is publicity manager for USA SHADE & Fabric Structures Inc., the largest shade and tension structure manufacturer in the world, and has written for a number of park and recreation, architect and playground publications. For more information, visit