Supplement Feature - February 2009
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In the Flow

Aquatic Design Trends

By Richard Zowie

Besides offering scaled-down amenities that are common at the waterparks, some places will offer a local deal that turns out to be a win-win for all those involved. Yarger pointed out that in Shawnee, Kan., a local children's museum had this deal: Those who obtained membership at the museum would also get access to the local pool. This, of course, drove up membership at the museum since people wanted to go to the local pool. Combine that with installing a "splash cove" at the pool, and things really took off.

"Every city has a different twist," Yarger said. "The attraction was bringing people in and this was how to do it."

Splash play areas are another big trend, Mendioroz said, with a number of advantages that make them very popular:

  • No lifeguards are required.
  • No standing water means there's no possibility of drowning.
  • What's more, water rolls away when it hits the deck.

"If properly designed, they can be very popular," Mendioroz said. "Some cities have a dozen splash pads. They interchange elements. Some of the vendors of equipment have interchangeable pole elements and ground sprays. If you have multiple splash pads, you can rotate things from one splash pad to the next."

Mendioroz pointed out that in Tacoma, Wash., they are planning six splash pads. They rotate the parts to the different areas and change things up as a way of getting kids to come back.

Sometimes, current trends are determined by simple dollars and cents.

Scott Stefanc, a member of the American Society for Landscape Architects (ASLA) who serves in project development and management at Water Technology in Beaver Dam, Wis., said it boils down to facility owners and operators attempting to provide as many services as possible for the least amount of cost.

Aquatic designers, as a result, are then faced with the task of creating pools that are as compact and functional as possible but yet, at the same time, have the highest possible amount of features and attractions.

"A catchphrase that seems to be in vogue today is 'Universal' or 'Inclusive' design," Stefanc explained. While it's a vague term, he said, "When applying this to aquatic centers it basically means designing in such a way that the pools and amenities can be used for multiple purposes and reach as large a cross-section of users as possible."

Stefanc thinks the long-term impact of this trend will be pools that are more elaborate and intricate, and which will need a greater effort in operations like lifeguards and maintenance. Designers and owners both must understand, he explained, the future growth patterns for the service area and should create a master plan appropriately so that facilities do not become outdated or overwhelmed. And that's all about planning for future trends—both in terms of the population that will use the facility and the likely amenities that will be in demand.