Feature Article - July 2008
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Splash City Roadmap

Trends in Aquatic Design & Programming

By Kate Bongiovanni

Changing Face

Take a visit to the park district pool, the nearby recreation facility, or the indoor or outdoor waterpark, and no longer will the main attraction be the single pool with the springboards at the deep end. That's reserved for swim meets and high school or middle school facilities. The latest trend in aquatic structures is going bigger and better and creating a massive center to appeal to users of all ages and abilities, from those who want to play in the water and not just entertain themselves with games like Pom Pom or Marco Polo, to those who seek the water for exercise and therapy.

According to the WWA, the waterpark industry is seeing one of the greatest booms in growth and attendance figures, and this encompasses waterparks that are independently owned, corporate-owned, indoor waterpark resorts, and municipal or city-owned pools with waterpark features. Over the past five years, attendance rates in North America have grown 3 percent to 5 percent each year, and roughly 78 million people are visiting these parks. Indoor waterpark resorts and municipal or city-owned parks are responsible for the bulk of this growth—the WWA says they are the fastest-growing segments of the waterpark industry.

Waterparks and aquatic facilities with waterpark-like features help feed the family's need to spend time together in a world that's pushing them further apart, with growing commitments to work, travel, school, extracurricular activities and more. As families look for activities to do together, they might turn to an aquatic center that offers a little activity for everyone.

"If a park wants to have a broad appeal, it needs to incorporate features and attractions that excite and entertain all the different members of a family," Ezra said. "Whether it is a speed slide for the teenager or a zero-depth play area for the toddler, the right mix will bring families into the park time and again."