Feature Article - May 2014
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Water, for Profits

Aquatic Design Meets Community & Budgetary Needs

By Rick Dandes

Caron suggested several types of recreational pool designs that his firm's clients seem most interested in:

  • Multi-Purpose: With areas for users of all ages, including some lap lanes for recreational swimming, a large shallow water area for small children, an area with more exciting features for older children, teenagers and adults, and an area to just simmer down and relax for those looking to cool off.
  • Children's Play Pool: Should include either zero-depth or very shallow water to around 18 inches of water. These pools usually have interactive wet play elements such as water buckets, cannons and sprays and climb-on structures featuring slides and other interactive water play elements.
  • Spraygrounds: Areas with no standing water but plenty of elements for children to play in. These areas are one of the single fastest growing segments of the aquatics industry today. Spraygrounds, pad walks, water cannons, large play structures and aquatics ropes courses are also in-demand amenities that ought to be considered in any design.
  • Let's See Action: Another growing area in the aquatics world for both children and adults is that of higher thrill attractions. These range from high and themed waterslides and waves that users can boogie board or surf on to climbing walls, wave pools and whitewater areas where users can kayak or navigate using the same equipment they would in rivers around the world. Here, the goal is to create an adventurous ambience, while segregating creative water play areas for various age groups.

Clearly, noted Melinda Kempfer, business development manager, Water Technology Inc., Madison, Wis., in the case of municipal recreation facilities, the concept of providing many diverse amenities has been handed down from commercial waterparks. "Historically, you never saw lazy rivers at municipality-run parks. Even 10 years ago, you wouldn't see them; but you did see them in all the commercial waterparks. It is things like that which are being handed down again. Take guest accommodations. We're seeing more municipal pools with cabanas. People are spending time there, so municipalities, wisely, are starting to take advantage of having rental cabanas as a way of bringing in revenue."

Another necessary element of design is to provide shade—lots of shade, Kempfer emphasized. "If done right, a shaded area can add to the aesthetic value of a park. There are even some socializing areas in three to five feet of water being created."

Now, in a novel twist, she explained, private clubs and organizations are in some ways having to keep up with municipalities. "You'll see private clubs incorporating more of the leisure aspects of municipal aquatic centers into their own programs because that is attracting more families to the health club. So, instead of having your typical lap pool at the health club, they are putting in the leisure pool, multi-level activities, the lazy rivers and making it more of a leisure experience."

On the revenue side, Kempfer said, some year-round indoor facilities can support new multiple programming opportunities to operate concurrently and more during the time of the year when people are starved for classes, programs, fitness and recreational opportunities. Examples of revenue-producing programs can include:

  1. Expanded competitive swimming opportunities, allowing more people to participate at all levels (younger and older club members).
  2. Expanded camps and clinics.
  3. Expanded membership opportunities based on the local area.
  4. Expanded rental opportunities.
  5. Expanded learn-to-swim programs bringing younger families to the facility to teach their children water safety and how to swim.
  6. New wellness and rehabilitation opportunities using the low-impact benefits of a pool facility.