Guest Column - May 2009
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Design Corner: Starting Out Small

From Spray Park to Comprehensive Aquatics Complex

By Tom LaLonde


Splash Pad as 'Launch Pad'

How have some park and recreation agencies managed challenges by conceiving solutions to accommodate identified aquatics "wants and needs" and budget constraints? Through an approach defined by a plan for a progression of improvements. The Mundelein Park District in Mundelein, Ill., for example, built a 50,600-square-foot splash pad facility, which was intended to be a springboard for a more elaborate aquatics complex.

Beginning with a project that came in at a cost just exceeding $1 million, the agency—using state grant money to help finance the project—was able to provide a new facility for the community sooner, and follow through with a plan to redevelop it into a larger, modern attraction later when funds became available, replacing an aging pool with a new aquatics facility on the same site. In this agency's case, the initial phase to move to new aquatics facility offerings was augmented with the construction of an indoor lap pool at a community center to provide aquatics opportunities identified as being important to swimmers in the district.

The new spray play facility that was built outdoors features a 2,500-square-foot pavilion with a picnic area and vending machines. Amenities include tot and youth water play areas—each comprising 1,500 square feet, a sand play area, volleyball courts, shade structures and a sun hill. Ornamental stairs connect the outdoor spray play to the existing pool, and a support building with a covered picnic area adjacent to a connective path between the two facilities.

Envisioned in a master plan developed for the site was a series of expansion initiatives to materialize through a multi-phased development strategy. Expansion of the aquatics facility portion of this extensive recreation site, which also features the community center, called for the construction of a plunge pool, a zero-edge-depth pool, a lazy river and support structures.

Thinking Big, Starting Small

Not far away, in St. Charles, Ill., the park district has embarked on an ambitious plan for what is to be the Campton Hills Aquatics Center, a Greenfield facility envisioned to contain an assembly of amenities that the district anticipates will appeal to the expanding community it serves. The roadmap to get to the realization of this new, multi-featured outdoor complex also involves a phased approach, which began with the construction of a spray-park component that opened in 2005.

Completed at a cost of $1.3 million, the 40,000-square-foot "splash" playground represents the first phase of a two-phase plan for the aquatic complex on the chosen park site, which is expected to eventually hold a multi-acre aquatic center that can accommodate 1,750 bathers, as well as encompassing efforts to build a nature center and a community center through an additional phase. With completion of the aquatic center expected in time for the opening of the 2010 outdoor pool season in Illinois, work is now under way to design and construct the $11 million facility.

Features of the aquatic complex being developed are to include a zero-depth-entry activity pool with a separate eight-lane, 25-yard lap pool; a zero-depth-entry children's pool; and a plunge pool rigged out with a slide tower and body flume slide. A 560-foot-long lazy river with a zero-depth entry and a 100-foot-long "rapids ride" component is also planned, as is a bathhouse with administration space; a concessions/filter building housing storage space; and a concession deck with adjacent rental lawns.

This pool is being constructed on the west side of the community where most of the new housing has been developed over the past 10 years. Once this project is complete, the existing Pottawatomie pool on the east side of town will be reconstructed and reopened 2011. Both pool initiatives and the nature center were part of a successful 2008 referendum.

The entire site is being developed over a 10- to 15-year period based on an overall master plan that includes ballfields, parking, roadways and detention (already completed), the sprayground, the aquatic center, nature center and a future community center that will require a future referendum.