Feature Article - September 2006
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Special Report:
Recreation Managementís First Annual State of the Industry Report

Our First Annual Recreation Forecast

Aquatic Facilities and Splash Play Areas

In the aquatics market, the private sector is going great guns right now, as exemplified by a number of private waterpark projects that have come on the scene, as well as significant activity in the housing industry.

Resort hotels with major indoor facilities for year-round use are cropping up at a rapid pace, with a concentration in the Upper Midwest. In the housing market, developers are using aquatic facilities to assemble lifestyle features that will attract home buyers.

Along with these private-sector trends, in the public sector, more modest aquatics facilities increasingly are being specified. While there is not a decline in this sector, smaller scale facilities, such as splash play areas, have become more popular because they are less expensive and do not require the amount of maintenance or staff support as larger, pool facilities.

The reason for growth in this market is economics. These kinds of aquatics solutions enable communities with extremely limited resources to still provide recreational opportunities for youngsters but with minimal investment.

The "small-town" market is one, in fact, that seems ripe with opportunity. As such, Williams Architects, through a joint venture, is working to develop a prototype for an aquatics solution that will be affordable to smaller communities in rural areas.

Through the program envisioned, the firm, which has designed more than 100 aquatics facilities, would assist a community-or group of proximate communities banding together-in identifying and tapping financing options, as well as would offer the client a "pre-packaged" design for a basic aquatics facility with a price tag of approximately $1 million. The design could be adapted easily to include additional facilities, such as a teen activity center.

This approach would seek to harness local resources and conceivably feature participation by a range of community groups. This kind of program-as with building a standalone splash play area-can provide a way for small, rural or cash-strapped communities to develop recreational opportunities on an incremental basis.

Partnerships formed to achieve facilities offering benefits for multiple entities are another trend in the recreation market.

By allying resources, organizations can achieve jointly what may have been out of reach had they pursued a project independently. Such partnership arrangements offer a "win-win" solution for groups looking to maximize recreational benefits.

Michael T. Williams
Founder and CEO of Williams Architects Ltd.

Education for Professionals

The future and health of the aquatics industry worldwide rests in education. Distance study programs (online) are a growing trend that enable schedule flexibility and increases access to those currently employed and to those around the globe. Like other industries, the aquatics industry will witness a trend in training and education that allows the student to study online.

The ability of aquatic professionals to obtain an education in their field will build a stronger knowledge of swimming pool facility management, thus a healthier and safer environment for all who use the facilities. Online education also encourages a network with other professionals where they can share real-life experiences, solve problems and find solutions.

Connie Gibson Centrella
Program Director of the online Keiser College Aquatic Engineering Degree Program