Facility Profile - January 2004
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Timber Lines

Scott's Splash Lagoon
Erie, Pa.
Splash Country Indoors
Branson, Mo.

By Don Jaenicke

Indoor waterparks are no longer just mom-and-pop operations—they are often huge structures than can cost millions. But no matter what the facility size, there seems to be a constant stream of innovations for these crowd-pleasing facilities.

Some indoor waterparks now are being built of treated laminated timber framing because timber resists the corrosion experienced when steel is exposed by moisture and humidity in enclosed spaces. Wood laminated beams are also a renewable material in contrast to steel and concrete, which can deplete natural resources.

One observer has said a year-round, indoor waterpark was particularly needed in Erie, Pa., because the area often has only two seasons: August and Winter.

Scott's Splash Lagoon draws visitors from a 300-mile perimeter, which includes Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cleveland. It is the central attraction in a waterpark that includes hotels, restaurants and shopping arcades. Splash Lagoon was designed with a South Sea Island theme, including spectacular electric "coconut palm" trees to give the feeling of a tropical island. The facility includes all of the current waterpark attractions, including a winding leisure river, treehouse, tube slides, a huge tipping bucket that spills on visitors below, whirlpools, and rides including an 80,000-gallon activity pool featuring eight water basketball hoops.

A rugged, exposed laminated timber framing system was designed for Splash Lagoon's roof, with long spans so there would be a minimum number of support columns in the interior. The 77,000-square-foot, $17 million structure requires only 10 interior columns because of the long-span capability of 84-foot glulam trusses with chords that are more than seven feet deep. Glulam timbers are a stress-rated engineered wood product comprised of wood laminations, or "lams," bonded together with strong, waterproof adhesive. This means that no large, old-growth trees are needed in the fabrication of the beams.

Other glulam girder beams used at the facility are 14-1/4-feet wide; 75 feet, 5/8 inches deep; and 84 feet, 5 inches long. The "Christmas Tree" laminated timber columns and knee braces are 12 inches by 12 inches, connected to curved and tapered beams, rafters and purlins.

David Steele of Steele Engineering in Erie says the unique tree-shaped glulam columns made it possible to specify narrower size girders and trusses. The glulam trusses weigh almost 22,000 pounds each and lift the roof structure to a height of 60 feet.

The Splash Lagoon entrance is framed by a complex series of 10-1/2-inch members that are 12-feet deep and 60 feet long. To complement the laminated timbers, a 3-foot-by-6-foot laminated wood deck serves as combination roof sheathing and exposed ceiling.

The rustic laminated wood timbers helped achieve the warm aesthetics for the aquatic environment, says Rick Avon of Weber Murphy Fox Architects in Erie. Meanwhile, skylights allow natural light to illuminate the interior.

Laminated timber arches were also selected for the dramatic new Splash Country Indoors waterpark in Branson, Mo. The centerpiece of Splash Country Indoors is a three-level, 50-foot treehouse with a 500-gallon bucket that dumps water into the two giant tube slides, a 2,000-square-foot toddler pool, basketball pool, whirlpool spas, and a 150-foot indoor lazy river where patrons float downstream on inner tubes.

While exposed laminated timber beams and trusses are increasing their share of the roof framing market for many types of commercial buildings, Splash Country contractor Frank Turner of FTC Construction in Branson says owners and designers are specifying laminated beams more often because of their economy, strength and natural aesthetic appearance.

"We wanted the ambiance of laminated wood to avoid the 'barn' look of a steel building," says Splash Country owner Glen Robinson. He says traffic has been excellent since the 20,000-square-foot facility opened in November 2001. Total capacity is about 700 people. Robinson keeps the temperature of the building and water features at about 85 degrees, with the spas at 100 degrees.

The main structure is 165-feet long by 110-feet wide. The graceful tapered, curved laminated arches span the entire width of the building, supported by 16-inch-by-16-inch-square glulam columns. Each of the 23 50-foot-high arches were delivered in four pieces and fabricated together at the job site. The laminated timber arches are five inches wide with a depth that varies between 27 inches and 39 inches to achieve the tapered effect. They are pressure treated with Penta preservative. The finished roof above the arches is 2-foot-by-6-foot laminated wood decking.

"Timber framing was the preferred material because of its appearance, durability, competitive cost—besides the fact that it won't rust," says architect Pat Fitch of Fuglerberg Koch in Winter Park, Fla. The laminated wood framing also avoids the expense of suspending or hanging ceilings to cover structural framework. The furring, sheathing and finishing often required with steel or other materials can be eliminated, which means faster construction at lower cost.

The growing use of laminated timber in waterparks is at least partly due to the technical skills of laminated beam companies who use the latest technology to manufacture and deliver high-strength, long-span beams to exacting specifications—in this case, Structural Wood Systems of Greenville, Ala., was the glulam producer for both parks.

For more information
American Institute of Timber Construction: 303-792-9559
or visit www.aitc-glulam.org