Feature Article - May 2014
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Water, for Profits

Aquatic Design Meets Community & Budgetary Needs

By Rick Dandes

Aquatic Design Trends

Our culture demands fresh choices and alternatives, and the marketplace provides plenty of options, Caron said. The standard for aquatic facilities of the future will be in finding ways to tweak or change existing amenities to offer variety to patrons in a cost-effective manner.

Today's families, from tots to baby boomers, recreate together and expect areas and amenities that cater to each age bracket.

"The fastest moving programmatic element in the industry is the therapy pool, or warm-water pools," Caron noted, as an example. "And it has to do with more and more people aging; people with arthritis, or who have had hip replacements or knee replacements. At a time when boomers can no longer gracefully exercise on land, they are turning to water." The buoyancy and comfort of water as an environment is really attractive, and people will pay for it. So, if you have a warm-water body where you can give lessons or therapy, you have something that will make money for your facility. Examples of this can already be seen at several municipalities across the country where wet play features such as tumble buckets, water cannons and other elements are switched annually between different facilities and projects are being phased to add new attractions to increase and maintain a customer base.

Swimming pools have undergone a considerable evolution over the past two decades. In years past almost all new pools were rectilinear and tried to accommodate all users in the same water space. This resulted in a body of water that wasn't perfect for any group. Over the past 20 or so years there has been a movement within the industry to design separate bodies of water specific to user groups and programmatic functions. In terms of specific amenities, designers say they are getting a lot more calls to find ways to entertain those who are hard to entertain, the pre-teens and teenagers.

Recreational water space is changing radically in modern pool design, agreed both Caron and Markel. Older pools would feature a rectilinear shape with a small area for shallow water and maybe a diving board or slide at the deeper end.

"Today," Caron said, "many of these pools resemble mini-waterparks with a free-flowing design featuring any numbers of elements, including zero-depth or beach entries, river currents, climbing walls, climb-on structures, interactive water play features, a series of waterslides, and in-pool lounge areas, to name but a few."

This move has been made not only as the needs and expectations of recreational swimmers and patrons change, but also in an effort by municipalities to recoup operating costs and turn the local pool into a potential source of revenue generation.

In-Demand Designs and Amenities

The addition of splash pads expanded rapidly from 2005 to 2010, and now it's pretty much a given that a splash pad or multiple pads are included in any architect's design. But what a splash pad can't do very well is entertain 8- to 15-year-olds, who are being brought with their younger brothers and sisters to the local pool.

Designers, Caron explained, are being asked to create something that will entertain those kids. "We are seeing a lot more of the climbing walls, the zip lines and inflatables," he said. "Anything that is a little bit more daring, a little bit more entertaining to do more than once. You give a child a hose, they can play for hours. You give a teenager a hose, they get in trouble in three minutes. What we are trying to do is create ways that teenagers can be given something, such as a climbing wall or zip lining. It's more fun, but in a safe way. And, it's better than having them play in an area where there might be little kids also who could be trampled."