Feature Article - May 2017
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Evolving Aquatics

Trends in Municipal Aquatic Facility Design

By Deborah L. Vence

Community Expectations

Today, the public has greater expectations than ever before when it comes to municipal aquatic facilities.

"As they have the opportunity to see other pools and facilities, their expectations at home increase. In addition to greater expectations in features and programs, patrons today expect better water and facility quality," Berkshire said. "A successful facility will balance the levels of technology that it uses with the capabilities of their staff."

Community members are looking for activities the family can enjoy together, such as lazy rivers, double tube slides and aquatic play structures.

"They tend to be multigenerational activities and are low risk," Valdez said.

The proliferation of private waterpark venues has shown community members what opportunities exist for aquatic attractions, and many are expecting similar experiences, though at a smaller scale, at their local municipal aquatic center, Sells noted.

"While the experience expectation has increased over the years, community members typically demand the admission cost of their centers to be far less than private waterparks," he said.

Sells noted that school districts are taking the lead more and more in developing swim venues for competition and teaching. "This has allowed municipal aquatic centers to shift their focus to facilities that offer increased entertainment value to patrons," he said. "Community leaders are not only listening and responding to the needs and desires of their constituents regarding leisure activities, they also see the success of existing similar facilities. The 'country club' atmosphere offered by many municipal aquatic centers provides families with an affordable leisure experience close to home."

Mahoney said communities are looking to offer more than just a town pool these days.

"As competition for people's dollars and attention gets more sophisticated, communities need to keep pace by offering new experiences for their members," she said.

Skill-based attractions, such as the surf simulator, provide a path for repeat visitation as members return more often to improve their skills.

"These skill-based platforms also provide a path for entertainment and group gatherings, community contests and events that are always important in a municipal setting," she said.

As municipalities increase the amount and types of attractions they offer, they provide a viable option for a day of entertainment.

"People continue to look to spend their time and money on rewarding experiences for the entire family. As parks develop their programs and add attractions to meet this demand, they increase and grow their membership base substantially, generating community pride and keeping entertainment dollars within their community," Mahoney said.

"Unique, attractive and entertaining town centers and water recreational parks," she added, "are a high source of pride for a community and serve as a draw to potential new residents, setting communities apart."

LaLonde said community members want to have programmable water for use by all ages (toddlers, teens and adults).

"Expectations are to spend a better part of the day at the aquatic facility," he said. "Providing opportunities for all the different demographics (young kids, teens, parents) ensures every age group has something to do, from lap swim/resistive walking to waterslides to splashing in the water with young children."