Award Winner - May/June 2006
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Hail to the Chief

Henry Moses Aquatic Center
Renton, Wash.

S U B M I T T E D    B Y:

Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative in Denver

Size: 51,000 gross square feet

Project cost: $5 million

Quick tour:

  • 9,000-square-foot activity pool with zero-depth entry, two 26-foot-tall water slides, wave pool, lazy river island lagoon, toddler water area, spray garden and other amenities
  • 3,300-square-foot 25-yard, six-lane competitive lap pool
  • 6,400-square-foot building including pool house and lockers as well as the Shark Bites Cafe

Renton's city swimming pool was leaking.

Built in the 1950s and named for Duwamish Indian chief and local high-school sports legend Henry Moses, the pool was beloved.

"But it couldn't be salvaged," explains Dennis Culp, Renton community services administrator. Since the structure would no longer hold water, the city transformed the site into a skatepark. And although Renton's citizens—particularly the teenage boys—were thankful for this new entertainment option, they missed the pool.

"It was quite an established feature of the city," Culp says. "So when it went away, they wanted it back."

In an effort to attract a broader segment of the Renton and surrounding East Puget Sound populations, the old lap pool was reconceived as an amenity-rich aquatic park. And fortunately for everyone involved, the city of Renton had a 2003 budget surplus.

"The mayor and the city council agreed that this was a worthwhile use, so we paid cash for the pool," Culp reports. "We had it designed and built and came in under budget by $10,000."

But that's not all they did. Rather than plopping the pool in just any open space, the city wanted to incorporate the new aquatic center as the third component of the City Complex in Cedar River Park where traditionally styled masonry buildings house a theater and community center, and a popular picnic spot and selection of soccer fields complete the area's offerings.

While fitting into such an established site naturally was challenging, the design of the aquatic elements themselves also posed plenty of obstacles. Not only did the city replace the beloved lap pool (with a 25-yard, six-lane beauty), they added a 9,300-square-foot activity pool with all the trimmings.

"The main challenge of the pool design was to incorporate waves, a lazy river, slides and amenities into a single body of water, which bucks the current trend of separate pools for different uses," says Charlie Snider, aquatic designer for Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative (OLC) in Denver. OLC wanted patrons to be able to move to different activities without leaving the pool. To purify the water in this large, heavily used body of water, the aquatic team combined a UV-disinfection system with a clarifying bag filter for crystal-clear water every day of the season. Also, a system of skimmers and gutters handles the ever-changing water line elevations around the pool.

Such careful planning is evident in the resulting aquatic center, which packs many fun elements into just a 1.6-acre plan, using the tight site to its best advantage.

"I think what sets this apart in this area is the size—that makes it very family friendly," says Associate Principal Steve Shiver, AIA, who managed the aquatic center project for OLC. Unlike, say, the giant waterpark in an amusement area 25 miles south of Renton, which is a vast space that can be crammed with roughhousing teenagers. "What I appreciate is you can go [here] with little kids and you don't lose them," he says.

Likewise, the arrangement of the aquatic elements encourages kids to play in the spots safe for them. Zoned into three areas—activities for little tykes, an area for more proficient swimmers and the slide that requires a minimum height—the activity pool provides separation that's critical for safety.

Since it opened in summer 2004, the center has received rave reviews, and profits have exceeded expectations. After the 2005 summer season, usage was up, and season ticket holders were up.

"Best is the excitement it brings to the community," Culp says. And there's no end to that excitement in sight. "We designed with a 10-year amenity master plan," he says. "We can add things each year or every other year to make it new and different for those coming back."


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

Takes some cues from adjacent civic buildings while creating a unique complimentary appearance of its own. Layout responds nicely to site conditions/constraints. Creative use of technology to allow for all functions to occur in one pool of water.

Greg Garlock

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Architect of record:

Northwest Architectural Company

Aquatic designer:

Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative

Structural/civil engineer:

Coughlin Porter Lundeen

Electrical engineer:

Huntley Pascoe, Inc.

Mechanical engineer:

Halvorson, Beach & Bower, Inc.

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