Supplement Feature - February 2009
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In the Flow

Aquatic Design Trends

By Richard Zowie

Current Trends

Whereas the swimming pool of your childhood may have been the standard rectangle, today's aquatic centers focus more on leisure activities and less on competition, according to Yarger.

Pools are going toward zero entry because it helps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, Yarger explained. Besides this, there's also a trend toward swimming activities that appeal to children and families and do so in a way that can draw in business during the summertime. Among the ideas used are warmer water, play elements like currents, lazy rivers and shade. It gives kids a chance to play and puts their parents at ease.

"It's more of a jungle-gym-in-the-water kind of feeling," Yarger said. "Kids want to play on things and run around. Mom wants to sit in shallow end and watch her child without worrying."

If you're looking for a facility that will bring in enough revenue to offset the cost of building and maintaining it, it's important to make sure you offer features that make it different from a swimming facility that's a 20-minute drive away.

At one facility, they didn't just build one pool, but several pools: one for teens and another for parents, grandparents and small kids. This helped to alleviate the overcrowding of one pool while another pool that was 30 years old was hardly getting any activity.

After the newly geared pools were opened, things evened out as attendance increased, Yarger said.

"We also try to do special theming and look for different ways to look at it and try not to use same pool we've used before," he said. "We try to differentiate. When clients are happy, pools fill and business is good, good news travels a lot."

In the early '90s, Yarger explained, families began looking for alternatives to the simple rectangular outdoor pool. With that, waterparks came along and started to add more activities. But as people traveled to waterparks, the question lingered: Why can't we have something like this locally? The result was competition all over the country that began to influence local thinking.

"Communities as a whole demanded more," Yarger said. "They might not have said it, but they did so by not going to their local pools. If the attendance goes down while population is stable, then that's really a vote that your community is not happy. It gets to be keeping up with the Joneses. Two cities compete against each other."