Aquatic Enhancement

Memorial Pool in Pasco, Wash.

By Monique Thibodeaux, ORB Architects

The Tri-Cities, considered the heart of Washington wine country, include the cities of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland. A sun-filled area touted as a year-round paradise for outdoor adventurers, this region has been thriving and experiencing a population increase over the past decade or so. But its aquatic facilities have not been keeping pace with its growth, and the need for expansion of aquatic programs in this region has become clear. Municipalities and private developers alike are focused on bringing additional aquatic opportunities to the community now.

The city of Pasco had been steadfast in this endeavor for nearly a decade. As one of Washington's fastest growing cities, Pasco experienced a 55 percent increase in population in the last eight years alone. At the same time, two of its three outdoor pools were small and inadequate to serve its growing population, and all three were aging and would soon need renovations to keep them operating. They were all basic "box" pools, so programming options were limited. The city had a desire to offer more water play and leisure features that would appeal to a broader audience, such as those that catered to differing swim abilities and teens looking for entertainment.

As a partner throughout this exploration over the years, ORB Architects, based in Renton, Wash., worked with the city of Pasco on feasibility studies and conceptual designs for several possibilities—a new outdoor pool facility to replace the two existing small pools, a new regional aquatic facility co-financed and shared by sister cities Kennewick and Richland, and finally, adding a leisure pool and enclosing an existing pool for year-round use. Despite the enthusiasm of stakeholders, each plan faced its own challenges, including getting regional cooperation, obtaining funding and gaining consensus among residents. Unfortunately, none of those plans came to fruition.

Finally, armed with $3.1 million from the city budget and with a new approach in mind, city leaders looked to ORB Architects for help to best use the designated money to enhance the aquatic opportunities for its residents. The limited budget required a very calculated approach to making improvements. ORB Architects teamed up with WMS Aquatics of Ellensburg, Wash., to help the city of Pasco really stretch dollars and determine the most cost-effective aquatics design to meet Pasco's budget as well as the construction timeline.

The focus of the improvements ended up being Pasco's 60-year-old Memorial Pool. The L-shaped, seven-lane 50-meter pool/six-lane 25-yard pool accommodated open swims, instructional classes and competitive swimming, but the pool's depth was not sufficient for safe diving. The pool was at the end of its useful life, and mechanical systems were increasingly costly to maintain and operate. The lack of exciting water features also limited the number of visitors that the pool received.

The facility's rundown bathhouse was in need of serious rehabilitation—it didn't meet ADA accessibility requirements, and the floor, walls, configuration and fixtures all were in need of upgrading. With an open roof over the dressing areas, the building was exposed to the elements of the weather, including harsh wintertime snow, which accelerated the degradation.

With the budget being the main constraint, the design team evaluated numerous possibilities for injecting new life into the facility, including evaluating changes that would improve both the operating performance and appeal of the facility.

The most economical, efficient and effective solution for the main pool was presented by Myrtha Pools, a company that specializes in aquatic technology combining stainless steel and PVC technology together. Myrtha's "state-of- the-art" system was developed specifically for the refurbishment of existing concrete pools. The renovation process includes the walls, the floor and an overflow gutter using the same materials as used on new permanent facilities. The city of Pasco selected the aquatic technology company's classic PVC overflow gutter system for Memorial Pool, which brought the existing facility up to today's world standard of gutter design. The project allowed for minimal demolition to the existing concrete shell of the pool. Every component was staged on site and was part of an efficient and speedy installation.

The existing walls of the pool were covered with panels, which were attached with a technique suited toward the existing condition of the concrete. This specific technique allowed for minimal loss of pool length. The Myrtha panels used a hard bond PVC, which was collandered on to high-strength stainless steel. The walls are smooth, but not slippery and are resistant to icing and temperatures up to 104 degrees. They are sanitized to prevent growth of algae and microbes and comply with the most stringent requirements of swimming pools in the state of Washington. The materials that were used enabled perfect waterproofing, efficient installation and low maintenance for years to come.

The floor at the new Memorial Pool is covered with a special reinforced PVC, which is heat-welded on the existing pool floor. The Myrtha Alkor 2000 membrane is not to be confused with a traditional swimming pool liner typical of residential pools as it is specifically manufactured for commercial swimming pools. Like the wall panels, the floor system is smooth but not slippery, weather resistant and has the same characteristics and long-term life benefits as the wall panels.

The overflow, flush-deck-level gutter (also known as a roll-out gutter because of the ease with which swimmers can exit the pool) selected was to replace the scum gutter with an elevated curb. The gutter now plays a key role in not only the mechanical and filtration system of the pool. This change also resulted in an additional 18 inches of depth, which was an improvement to competitive swimming conditions and, combined with a 1-meter diving board was enough to provide safe diving. This provided an entirely new aesthetic.

In addition to rebuilding the main competitive pool, the under-utilized wading pool was replaced with a 3,600-square-foot zero-depth leisure pool. The beach-like entry with a padded safety floor accommodates the smallest of visitors and the wheelchair-bound. The leisure pool now boasts two new slides—the old slide was replaced with a new slide that drops swimmers into the pool, and a second slide with a deck-mounted run-out flume was added. The slides' bold colors add to the excitement of the new aquatic experience and appeal to thrill-seeking teens. This pool also has two lap lanes at the deep end that are accessible when the pool slide is not in use. A half-acre of green lawn adjacent offers a comfortable area for picnicking, play, relaxation and observation.

The team's strategic design and planning allowed for a new splash pad with three interactive water toys and several geyser features to be added between the existing and new pools. Low bench-seat walls, which create a half-circle with multiple entry points, surround the water play area and offer another place for observers or those who need a break from the fun.

The bathhouse building was removed down to the foundation/basement and reconfigured to include new stalls, lavatories, showers, urinals, lockers, staff facilities and the addition of a family changing room. The enhanced layout improved functionality and is fully accessible as ADA standards require.

The project was scheduled so none of the summer swim season—and the pool's revenue—would be negatively affected. The fact that the city could purchase the system direct from Myrtha Pools allowed the product to be delivered in a timely manner. Construction began after the September close of the 2009 season, and it was completed in time for the usual June opening in 2010. Even with the addition of owner-requested scope expansions, the project stayed on track.

The project came in $300,000 under budget, which allowed for the purchase of two new slides. The pool opened for its 2010 summer season on June 19 to an excited grand opening crowd. In the weeks preceding the opening, the city hosted a contest to name the new slides. Children were invited to submit their entries, with the winner announced on opening day.

The "new" Memorial Pool is a big step in the continuing journey to advance the aquatic offerings for the residents of Pasco and the Tri-Cities. The skill and determination of the designers and stakeholders helped ensure the community received an exciting, modern facility. The pool will serve as a good starting point to demonstrate the potential for the Tri-Cities' demand for additional aquatics services.


ORB Architects:

Myrtha Pools:

WMS Aquatics:

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