Feature Article - May 2016
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Aquatic Evolution

Design Trends in Outdoor Aquatic Facilities

By Dave Ramont

Find Your Theme

WTI's marketing literature details how themed environments and attractions within a park, and the ability to package some sort of adventure, add to the visitor experience, will increase their length of stay and increase value to the entertainment dollar. A well-thought-out theming package allows the waterpark developer to create an instant atmosphere when guests enter the park. Examples of various themes include pirate coves, water jungles and rainforest temples.

One place where creative theming was implemented is in the desert of Washoe County, Nev. Officials there determined that a splash pad would provide a cool respite for kids without the operating expense of a typical community swimming pool. But they didn't want something generic. Their hope was to complement the region's beauty and reflect its history.

ADG became involved with the project, and several ideas were pitched, but it was an aviation theme that prevailed. That's because the National Championship Air Races are held nearby every September, and the event has been a cherished part of the region's heritage for more than 50 years. The project proved challenging, with ADG enlisting four manufacturers to supply all the various aviation-themed amenities, some resembling the planes and biplanes that typically partake in the races. One water-spraying feature was made to be a miniature replica of the Reno Stead Airport control tower. The splash pad's "runway" divides the facility into two zones: one for tots and one with water cannons and slides for older guests. Water jets, flush to the rubberized surface on both sides of the runway, eject columns in a synchronized, escalating pattern to resemble a plane's takeoff.

An Ongoing Evolution

Outdoor aquatic facilities continue to evolve around the wants and needs of visitors, the innovative ideas of designers, new technologies and sustainability considerations. LaLonde and Klarck of Williams Architects sum it up by saying that in order to attract the most patrons, a facility should provide multi-functional and multi-generational water areas and activities. These include recreational and leisure components, teaching and training, fitness and therapy, and competition. "A facility that can successfully overlap uses of waters will attract a larger audience and generate more revenue," they said. "Current channels are wonderful for recreation, but can also be used for fitness and therapy."

WTI's Whiteaker added, "What facility operators understand is the importance of multi-faceted programs with water temperatures and water depths that appeal to all age groups. Current designs are incorporating a minimum of three to four pools to accommodate this wide variety of programs."

Berkshire of ADG agrees, and said that a lot of centers look for creative ways to generate revenue by cross-purposing their facilities, using wristbands and fees, etc. And by doing so, some are able to provide free or low-cost lessons and swim times for those who can't afford it, for the betterment of the community. After all, he asks, "How do they reach that 15.7 percent of the population if it's a pool designed for one-half of 1 percent?"