Supplement Feature - September 2020
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The Water's Fine!

What's New in Waterparks

By Dave Ramont


COVID Impact

And what other changes might evolve from this current situation?

Hazelbaker said that in discussions for future planning, owners are considering crowd limitations, seating layouts or providing no seating at all. "From an operations standpoint, we're seeing park staff utilizing a 'reservations only' system with limitations on bather loads and extra sanitizing time for equipment like chairs, tables, tubes etc. As designers we're watching the current pandemic situation as it evolves, and we believe that the best thing we can do is remain aware and informed for potential project implications."

Looking back over the summer when most parks had limited capacity, Mahoney said that spacing revisions, along with creative adjustments for lines, seating areas, etc., seemed to do the trick to sufficiently meet social distancing requirements. "That being said, I do think it will become a talking point and something that will be taken into consideration as we move forward, ensuring that a park design must be flexible to work in both 'normal' times and in times when we're facing issues such as this pandemic."

Mahoney said these considerations might include creative design solutions that can be easily adjusted, allowing for simple in-park changes to ensure social distancing when needed. "For example, planning ahead for adequate spacing for allowing alternate guest flow patterns throughout the park; adequate deck space with larger umbrellas to ensure social distancing; ensuring queue areas are sufficient to handle longer spaced lines when needed; spaced out seating areas around food and beverage outlets; single flow entrance and egress capability; etc."

"Historically, throughput has been a major focus for waterparks and recreation centers alike," said Ford, suggesting that headfirst mat racers or multiple person rafting rides may be one way to address capacity issues. "The current pandemic situation has presented challenges for designers and manufacturers alike. We're all focused on the safest, best way to provide recreational experiences where we can increase the space between individuals and families. Whether these solutions come from queuing on the tower from deck to deck to maintain social distancing between nonfamily members or facility layout, we're all working to examine the best path forward for these safe environments."

Our contributors also said that sustainability initiatives were an important design driver, and agreed that the pandemic has put even more focus on water treatment, filtration and air quality. "With disinfection being a top-of-mind concern, more and more parks are looking to advanced, secondary disinfection such as UV and ozone to provide an added layer of protection against recreational water illness," said Mahoney. "Sustainability and energy efficiency are also gaining momentum at parks nationwide. Where possible, the addition of variable frequency drives to motors and installing LED lighting has proven to reduce power consumption and reduce operating costs."

From thrilling attractions to a good hotdog, there are many factors that add up to a successful waterpark. And it's important to ask the people what they want. "Successful designs take place when the local community or target market is considered in the planning stages of the project," said Gerber. "We want to be sure that there is an opportunity for aquatic engagement for all ages, abilities and types of guests." RM