Feature Article - February 2006
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

Just Add Water

By Kelli Anderson

The basic ingredients for any good aquatic center may be design, maintenance, programming and safety, but as any great cook will tell you, a dish is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. Shortchange any one of them, and you end up with a poor product. Choose your ingredients wisely, and even the most ordinary dish becomes superb.


For aquatic centers—the recreational darlings of an American population always clamoring for more—size and age do not necessarily determine popularity or success. Attention to detail, from the very beginning, however, does.


Good design comes from plans and ideas derived from users, staff and reputable designers with a proven track record. Developing a theme for that overall design is one effective way to create a memorable identity with the community.

Sources for a theme can come from just about anywhere your imagination can take you—animals, nautical, fantasy, local iconic features, geographical regions, historical landmarks or ethnic heritage, to name a few.

Whether from the excitement of a treasured pirate cove to the feel-good roots of North-Woods-rustic, themes can corral facility design ideas into a unified whole. Signage, names of concession items, colors, aquatic features, programming choices, landscaping and staff uniforms all can become extensions of a themed design and really help a facility standout.


Good design also incorporates good flow. Louder areas of a natatorium filled with squeals and screams from thrill-rides should be designated to be a good distance away from areas where more leisurely users congregate—decks, lounge areas, whirlpools and lazy rivers. The challenge is to also provide layouts that allow caregivers to keep track of children with plenty of seating and views around the action.