Feature Article - May 2008
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Always in Season

Transforming Single-Season Swimming Into Year-Round Fun

By Kate Bongiovanni

Basking in the Sunlight—in January?

It's true: Pool-goers can sit on the deck working on their suntan in the middle of winter. And they don't have to visit a tropical climate to do so.

While it might seem that the only way to have that sun-kissed glow year-round comes through the use of self-tanning lotion, tanning salons or a trip to a warm climate, technology is one of the latest mediums to provide solace to sun-seekers, arriving in the form of a specially fabricated roof found at some indoor waterparks.

At the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio, a 93,000-square-foot expansion opened in January 2008 featuring such a roof. Not only could the space boast new attractions and the title of largest indoor waterpark in Ohio and the United States, but the resort helps make Ohio as popular as Florida in the winter with its transparent roof.

The roof system provides a degree of durability, transparency and insulation that fosters indoor vegetation and keeps acoustic sounds at a minimum. And most importantly, it allows ultra-violet light to shine through, providing climate control and year-round sun-tanning for guests.

In Wisconsin Dells, Wis., Wilderness Resorts recently unveiled a new space featuring transparent roof systems. In 2006, the Wild WaterDome, Wilderness Resorts' name for its new 68,000-square-foot park, unveiled an expansion complete with the largest indoor wave pool. Its new roof allows UV light to penetrate and is calculated to save the resort more than $16,000 per month in utility fees according to Joe Eck, sales and marketing director for Wilderness Resort.

Nestled among the Smoky Mountains in Sevierville, Tenn., Wilderness at the Smokies plans to open in the most-visited national park area in the country, feeding off the success of businesses in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The resort plans to open an indoor waterpark with the unique tan-through roof in fall 2008.

Why use transparent roof systems? Facilities incorporating this type of system into their master plans not only appease the sun-seekers utilizing the space, but also aid the creation of a green-friendly environment. With UV rays able to penetrate inside, facilities can rely on some of the heat created to keep the water at ideal temperatures for guests, and the growth of vegetation—integral to many a waterpark's themed design. The acoustic transparency created by the foils helps keep sounds of active play at a minimum, making it sound more like being outdoors. Eck also explained that the UV rays naturally increase the ability to kill bacteria that's present in indoor environments.

Segments of some of these transparent roofs are constructed using a material more commonly referred to as ETFE: Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene. DuPont first developed this modified co-polymer for use in the NASA space program because it's lightweight, at less than 1 pound per square foot and only needs 1/10 as much energy to manufacture and transport as glass. ETFE also shows anti-adhesive properties, which helps keep dust and dirt from attaching to the surface. Dust and dirt can wash away in the rain and the roof self-cleans.