Facility Profile - July 2010
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Give Them What They Want

Otter Cove Aquatic Park in St. Charles, Ill.

By Kelli Anderson


iming isn't everything—but it helps. When the St. Charles Park District in St. Charles, Ill., passed a referendum in 2008 to build a new aquatic park, it couldn't have foreseen the economic downturn looming on the world's collective horizon.

Now, almost two years later, the project, while still moving forward with a projected opening date sometime next year, has benefited first and foremost from exhaustive planning built on strong community input to ensure a quality outcome. The economic downturn, meanwhile, has had an impact but not necessarily for the worse. In some ways it has made this well-planned project proof-positive that leaner doesn't have to be meaner—just smarter.

The $10.2 million dollar project, when completed, will house a 7,000-square-foot bathhouse, several pools including a zero-depth activity pool, shallow toddler pool, eight lap lanes, a tube and body slide for the teen community and a much-anticipated lazy river.

While the roughly 22-acre site is sure to please its residential community of more than 32,000, it is really just the latest project in the master plan of this nationally award-winning park district to demonstrate that careful attention to community input counts for more than bells and whistles.

"What is very successful about this is the planning," observed Tom LaLonde, architect for the project and principal of 16 years with Williams Architects of Carol Stream, Ill. "It takes careful planning to achieve something for everyone involving teens through tots with large slides, a lazy river and a family compound with a state-of-the-art changing facility with family rooms."

A further example of a design-done-right, the space will not only include something for everyone but pay special attention to layout, traffic patterns and proximity of one area to another to ensure that younger users will be kept far from deeper water.

With a mandate to please everyone from parents and teens to toddlers and taxpayers, features and amenities had to be selected with care. "Parents like the shallow water and fenced-in toddler pool design," said Holly Cabel, superintendent of recreation for the St. Charles Park District. "We wanted to give an area of the pool for toddlers that's gated so children can't run off without their parents to catch them. It's also close to a zero-depth pool for families with multiple aged children."

The aquatic park is not the first to feature water for family recreation in this suburban community, however. Starting with a master plan in 2003, the community surveys and focus groups made it clear that an aquatic space was high on a list of wants. Rather than begin with the full-blown aquatic park, however, the city began with the Campton Hills Splash Park built in 2005.