Feature Article - January 2020
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Worlds of Water Fun

A Deep-Dive Into Outdoor Aquatic Park Design

By Rick Dandes


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The benefit of an outdoor facility, Palmer said, is it is not limited to that natatorium. It is going to intermix the dry land and the wet amenities. Knowing that the family might come, you might have other amenities that older people, for example, might get involved with, that is not part of swimming, but allows the entire family to come and recreate at this destination facility. Provide plenty of shade areas, for example.

Make your park an adventure park. Take that rectangular, flat water and install floating obstacle courses to generate additional revenue. Facilities might put up this obstacle course and then for an extra dollar, patrons would get a wrist band and they get to use that amenity. It becomes more of a personalized program and provides ways to generate more revenue for the same existing infrastructure.

The focus, more and more, is on trying to create a facility that can at least break even and is not a drain. And aquatic parks of all sizes are doing that by stepping up their game, Keim said. "Adding a variety of family-appealing attractions that make the facility a destination for the better part of a day or the entire day. In doing that, it is easier to justify an incremental increase in the gate admission or memberships for the year."

Facilities are starting to do many different things that make it attractive enough for families to part with more money than they had in the past, he said. "But it is still an absolute bargain when compared to going to a larger commercial park and paying a $35 or $40 admission per head that it takes to go to their waterpark."

Attractions like a surf simulator, where you have to learn a skill in order to ride the attraction, can draw a younger, more adventurous clientele. Users who want to ride the surf simulator sign a release, pay an upcharge and get a wristband that gives them access, Keim said.

Other ideas: Facilities with surf simulators can do early-morning lessons, where kids can pay and come in and take lessons and learn how to surf, learn how to flow board. And then in the off hours, after the park is closed you can run a league, with teams that compete against one another.

Event days are a big deal, Keim said. If you have the facility available in the evenings you can rent the entire park for an event: a corporate outing, a birthday party. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination.

Another good thing about the surf simulator, said Julie St. Louis, of Aquatic Development Group, is the opportunity for adaptive programming. "You can provide access to people with learning or physical disabilities," she said. "In that way the facility becomes a learning tool for people who have challenges." RM