Supplement Feature - May 2019
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Aquatics for All

Outdoor Aquatic Parks Grow More Diverse

By Deborah L. Vence

Outdoor aquatic park design continues to evolve, with more thrills and clever new water features, and even more facilities being built for people of all ages—from young children to seniors. Attracting a wide demographic of people to your aquatic facility involves having a combination of attractions that everyone can take part in.

"I think the common trend we're seeing, probably most specific to the public-sector side, is that facilities that are built have to be multigenerational," said Scott Hester, president, Counsilman-Hunsaker.

"If you go back to the '70s and early '80s, most pools and facilities were still built [where] the pools were rectilinear … and really were not recreation-friendly," he said. "I think today we're seeing more importance on being multigenerational."

For example, there are often multiple pools at a facility—such as a small wading pool for young toddlers, as well as an activity pool for children and teens.

"And then, a lot [are] building pools where the focus is dedicated toward adults and seniors. The facility becomes multigenerational.

"Technology continues to evolve—anything from pool systems technology, filtration, ability to talk to each other and for the operator to have access to those systems from a smartphone. Technology in risk management, day-to-day operations and advancing toward web-based operations to help you operate your facility; those are technological advances."

On the operations side, facilities are increasingly designed to be operationally sustainable, not only the equipment itself, the bones of the facility, but the expectations that facilities need to recover all of their operating expenses.

In the case of the O'Fallon Alligator Creek Aquatic Center expansion in O'Fallon, Mo., a community advocacy team, which was comprised of eight O'Fallon residents, had raised awareness on the positive impact that aquatics and recreation opportunities can have on their community. "This group came to be known as the O'Fallon Parks and Action Team (OPAT) and met bi-weekly for nearly six months, planning and strategizing how to initially educate the community on the proposed expansion," according to information from Counsilman-Hunsaker.

The O'Fallon Alligator Aquatic Center originally was built in 1969 and included only a competition pool. The aquatic center has undergone numerous renovations, including an expansion in 2001 adding a second leisure pool, but this is considered the biggest renovation and expansion to date.

The aquatic center includes: a 13,000-square-foot competition pool with one-meter diving, featuring six 25-yard lap lanes, a separate waterslide plunge area, and three waterslides, including open and enclosed body slides and a dropslide; a 1,200-square-foot leisure pool with zero-depth entry, vortex, expanded open water swimming area, stair entry, multi-play structure, water basketball and volleyball, and waterwalk; a new 600-foot lazy river with zero-depth entry and a large underwater bench area; and a new sprayground.

In another example, Hester noted that the city of St. Charles, Mo., had moved forward with the replacement of the aquatic facility in Blanchette Park, and undertook a major renovation of the Wapelhorst Aquatic Center.

Amenities at the Wapelhorst Aquatic Center include: a 5,625-square-foot lazy river with three stair entries; a 4,900-square-foot leisure pool with large shaded wet deck lounge; a 3,500-square-foot children's pool with multi-level play structure; a 1,100-square-foot plunge pool with two stair entries and two body flume waterslides; and a flagship "Boomerango" raft-ride waterslide.

At Blanchette Aquatic Center, features include: a 4,700-square-foot lap pool with eight 25-yard lap lanes and two 1-meter diving boards; a 4,000-square-foot leisure pool with two waterslides, two stair entries, underwater shelf and various spray features; a 5,000-square-foot children's pool, zero-depth beach entry, various spray features, multi-level play structure, underwater shelf; and a 1,000-square-foot deep-water pool with stair entry, dropslide and climbing wall.

More Trends

Other trends in outdoor aquatic facilities were noted by Robbie Hazelbaker, regional director of project development, Water Technology Inc. (WTI):

  • Competitive opportunities, such as slide boarding and racing, climbing towers, aqua challenge courses, etc.
  • An emphasis on leisure and relaxation opportunities—wet decks/sun shelves, lazy rivers and zero-depth entry.
  • Social aspects. Many communities and neighborhoods have their own individual pools, but these aquatic parks are a great opportunity for community socializing—it is a destination. Designers have to ensure that the aquatic amenities are balanced alongside plenty of deck space, and design teams need to ensure that there is plenty of picnic space, shade and inviting bathhouses.