Feature Article - January/February 2003
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Getting the Biggest Splashes for Your Bucks

Current trends in aquatic design and programming

By Kelli Anderson

The graduate
Leisure pool at Kent State
University's Student Wellness
Center in Kent, Ohio.

Perhaps one of the most dramatic aquatic trends is taking place where teens and high schooler's ultimately migrate—university and college campuses. Students are not only shopping around for schools with the best academic credentials but also for schools providing impressive recreation facilities. Students just wanna have fun.

And it's not just about students—it's faculty, faculty families, married graduates and staff, as well. To their credit, universities have caught on.

"Universities are hurrying to update their facilities," Chivetta says. "We've done in excess of 50."

Student rec centers are now a solid factor in recruitment and retention with national statistics indicating that in looking for a university, students rank recreational diversion second only to school reputation.

"It's demand," says Matt McGregor, associate director for facility and operations, department of recreation services at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center at Kent State in Kent, Ohio. In 1995 the student body voted to tax themselves $55-per-person to have a recreation facility built with the kind of leisure amenities suited for a collegiate environment.

"The leisure component of our facility was a top priority," McGregor says.

These campus facilities can look a lot like their municipal counterparts, but with one distinct difference.

"It's what I call 'flat-water,'" Chivetta explains. "If you look at a traditional community center, you'll see a few lap lanes, zero-depth, vortex, a lazy river and a play structure. We don't see the spray and play features in the collegiate area. College students like moving water like the lazy rivers, spas, whirlpools and vortexes."

A rendering of the future leisure pool at the Student
Wellness Center at Georgia Institute of Technology
in Atlanta

Although fitness still intends to play a role, as at Georgia Institute of Technology's soon-to-be completed $45 million facility in Atlanta, it's also about getting more people in the water anyway you can.

"We realize that about 6 percent of students use pools," says Butch Stanphill, 20-year director of campus recreation. "We're going to have more programming to bring more people into the use of the water. People are looking for other things. In our redesign of the Olympic facility on campus, we will add a leisure pool with water slide, vortex, lazy river, hot tub and shallow water, too, for fitness exercises. Here's our one shot—build for the future and do it right."

Back to the future

Building for the future is exactly the advice that Lewis gives as well. After the diploma and obligatory handshake, these water-recreation savvy graduates begin looking for jobs and—you guessed it—cities that offer attractive recreation facilities to which they've become accustomed.

"In college they've had the opportunity to use these facilities and say, 'that's what I want to do for our family.' Communities have to realize they not only have to attract jobs but have to be able to attract quality of life," Lewis says. Recreation, he concludes, has become more than a pastime—it's now an integral part of our daily living.