Resort Report

Design considerations to manage guests and operations

By Chris Krosner

What's the secret to designing an indoor waterpark resort to make it a destination that creates an atmosphere that leaves guests with such a memorable experience that they return time and again? The answer is in the design details.

Behind the scenes

The basic components of an indoor waterpark destination resort include the hotel units, lobby, restaurant, conference rooms and indoor waterpark. Each of these elements has a public side for guests and a private side for day-to-day operations. The guests need to have easy access to each of the resort amenities, while owners want certain amenities of the property to be more visible to guests. Meanwhile, efficient behind-the-scenes operation of the resort requires centralized service areas for the delivery of products and services to support facility operations.

In order to accommodate these various needs, a series of interrelated networks is developed. The guest network allows for ease of movement through the various activities of the resort. The service network may be underground or in isolated areas that easily link all the service personnel out of the site of the guests. These networks are often layered throughout the facility so the guests do not cross paths with facility operations including: maid's carts, waste removal, food service, laundry and other operations.

Recommendations to create efficiency in the resort operations include designing a central receiving area where all deliveries can be checked in, stored and distributed. This could also serve as the employee entrance for secure monitoring of staff, which could easily vary from 300 to 500 employees during peak periods. The design of the receiving/employee entrance may include staff areas such as break rooms and lockers. The other operations component that must be considered during design is the laundry facility that serves not only the hotel guest rooms for linens and towels but also the indoor waterpark patrons. The most efficient design is to locate one central laundry area that can easily serve both the hotel units and waterpark. Additional corridors or basement tunnels for service personnel may need to be developed to keep the laundry service areas hidden from the public eye.

Something for everyone

It's a balancing act to serve both leisure and business conference guests at an indoor waterpark resort. Often, the requirement is to separate the business clients from the leisure guests, allowing everyone easy access to the resort amenities without mixing everyone together. The solution is to place the hotel rooms in the center with a convention center on one side and the waterpark on the opposite side, providing guests the opportunity to have equal access to either the meeting rooms or the waterpark activities.

Conference centers should be designed as multipurpose facilities. There are trends for conference centers to not only be used as state-of-the-art corporate meeting facilities but also large meeting areas for holiday parties, hobby clubs and groups, and wedding receptions. The layout of the conference center on resort properties should be designed to accommodate both business guests and after-hours party guests without disturbing the hotel guests.

The design of the hotel rooms is also changing. Guest units should include room sizes and layouts to accommodate the business traveler during the week and large families on the weekends.

Indoor waterparks can create traffic congestion in the lobby and corridors of a resort, especially if the indoor waterpark is open to both hotel guests and the general public. To achieve an efficient flow of guests to the waterpark attractions, a quieter and direct route should be designed, possibly through small retail outlets within the resort. The location of higher-end retail spaces could be placed in a more visible location to the hotel guests, such as near the check-in and check-out areas of the resort. The entire retail component within a destination resort should be carefully considered in terms of the interaction between business conference guests, hotel guests and families on vacation.

Setting the tone

The tone of the resort is set with an entry space that presents a memorable image of what awaits the visitor inside. The entry should easily accommodate a drop-off area, valet parking and short-term parking.

Once inside the resort, the lobby is the space that creates the 'wow' and is critical for creating the mood of the guests upon their arrival at the resort. This area needs to be thought out carefully to consider volume of visitors, lighting and views to the various areas of the complex. Retail becomes a very important part of this area and how it surrounds and draws in customers.

Once the guests orient themselves to the lobby, a visual reference to the various parts of the complex is extremely important. Guests should feel they can freely move through the entire resort complex, taking advantage of the various amenities, either going to their rooms, conference center, waterpark, or to get lunch or dinner in the restaurant.

A restaurant, diner or café are integral parts of the lobby sequence, which easily serves three different time periods during the day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Socialization of guests tends to revolve around food and beverage. A well-planned food-service area enhances the entertainment component of the resort, creating a meet-and-greet environment, as well as joining groups for other activities during various times of the day.

Waterpark size does matter

There are varying viewpoints by experts in the industry in determining the size of the indoor waterpark in relation to the number of hotel units of a resort. The trend today is a mixture of the two elements, allowing access to the indoor waterpark by both resort guests and the public, which can create a more optimum use of the waterpark component and creating another source of revenue for the resort.

The size of the indoor waterpark should match with what type of environment you want to create. A basic pool expanded with a couple of slides is one thing, but if the desired result is to draw people back into your resort time and again, the indoor waterpark should be designed to be interesting and appealing to a wide range of age groups—from toddlers to grandparents. To accommodate this range of patrons, the indoor waterpark should be a minimum of 30,000 square feet. This size will allow a variety of slide attractions in the waterpark. A 30,000-square-foot waterpark can be a costly component for a small hotel complex where the number of available units will not provide the critical mass needed to compensate for the investment and operating costs of the indoor waterpark. Guidelines are available to size the waterpark to keep the number of hotel units in balance with costs of the indoor waterpark.

Conventions and meetings

The guideline for designing the size of the convention and meeting space at a destination resort is 75 square feet of space per hotel unit. The basic rule of thumb is to allow enough space for the rooms, but this rule is also dependent upon the market and type of services that are being offered by the resort. Some resort owners today are developing projects with a convention facility that will accommodate display booths to allow for a medium-size product show for an adjoining convention. In addition, weddings and class reunions are using convention space for their celebrations, which require seating needs from 500 to 1,000 people. All of these meeting requirements are being driven by market analysis studies that dictate what type of business guests are available to use the convention facilities during the week and the market for after-hours and weekend use of the facility. It has also been noted that the resort that includes indoor waterparks along with convention space will attract more families during the week—in today's way of vacationing—while dad or mom attend a convention, the family enjoys the waterpark and shopping amenities of the resort.

Providing the guest experience

The sequential movement through a resort can be related to a musical score with crescendos and valleys, sightlines and enclosures. An integrated, collaborative approach between the resort owners and a design/build firm can facilitate the best possible layout options. The integrated process assures that the guest experience is maximized but also balanced with the day-to-day functions of the resort. From check-in to towel huts for the indoor waterpark and conference rooms for business guests, the proper placement and design of all of a resort's guest interfaces reinforce the quality of the development and the ultimate value for the owners.

Kristen Z. Volk

Once you determine the size of your hotel waterpark resort facility, you will want to fit the highest possible entertainment value into what seems like a very small space. Your Market Analysis & Economic Feasibility Report should specify what components you should consider. In reality, there are a lot of variations in the possible components you could install. Consider the following guideline for three different sized indoor waterparks:

Less than 15,000 Water slide
Wading pool with individual water features
Kiddie slide
Activity pool
15,000 to 30,000 Multiple water slide tower
Wading pool with splash play structure and/or individual water features
Kiddie slide
Lazy river
Activity pool
More than 30,000 Kiddie slide
Multiple water slide tower
Water ride
Wading pool with large splash play structure and individual water features
Kiddie slide
Lazy river
Wave pool
Activity pool

Source: Information supplied by Jeff Coy of Hotel Waterpark Resort Research and Consulting based in Rochester, Minn., and Kristen Z. Volk, president of Volk International,Inc., an attraction-consulting firm based in Conifer, Colo. Coy can be reached at, while Volk can be reached at

Chris Kronser is the chief architectural officer of PLANNING Design Build, Inc. of Madison, Wis., which has designed and built more indoor waterparks than any other firm in the country, including the nation's largest indoor waterpark, the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. For more information about PLANNING, visit

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