inPRACTICE / AQUATIC PLAY
Updating a Piece of History
>> Rainbow Beach Aquatic Center // Vincennes, Ind.
By Gary Novitski
The city of Vincennes, Ind., is blessed with an incredible aquatic facility known to locals as "Rainbow Beach." The aquatic center was born in 1937 as a federal Works Progress Administration project. Not only did the project provide jobs for unemployed workers during the Great Depression, it also aimed to address an alarming increase in the number of children drowning while swimming in the nearby Wabash River.
The original aquatic facility was one of the first of its kind, with a sandy beach surrounding its vast pool and a tower in the middle from which water cascaded in front of a variety of colored lights, giving the water a "rainbow" effect and providing the name for this remarkable aquatic facility. The pool was truly one of the first public pools to incorporate both a water and light feature, not to mention a "beach entry" for patrons. Postcards from the 1940s called it "Indiana's most beautiful bathing beach."
However, the facility's popularity and difficult maintenance forced the decision to redesign the pool in the 1970s, removing the sand beaches and adding regulation swim lanes. After this redesign, the pool was used for another 40-plus years, but wear and tear once again forced the community to reexamine the pool and its surrounding amenities. For a second time, Rainbow Beach needed to be completely reconstructed. However, as with many parks and recreation facilities, funding became a major hurdle in preserving the legacy of Rainbow Beach.
The fond memories of this unique aquatic facility were strong among the residents of Vincennes. And it was this memory that led to a grassroots, city-wide effort by residents and businesses alike to raise the funds needed to keep Rainbow Beach.
The municipally owned aquatic center is situated adjacent to Gregg Park, a part of Vincennes Parks and Recreation. Department Superintendent Steve Beaman was one of the main supporters of the renovation. Beaman remembered riding bikes with his buddies to the pool back when he was in middle school, saying it was "the place to go" during the summer. Beaman said the more he spoke to people about Rainbow Beach, the more he heard similar stories. It proved to Beaman that the pool was a part of local history and residents wanted to keep this center for future generations.
The renovation and new construction was budgeted at $3.4 million. Through an overall bond, $3.8 million was raised for the complete renovation, which included four different bodies of water—three pools and a splash pad, a climbing wall and a lily pad walk (paid for by additional donations provided by citizens and local businesses after the job went to bid), a bathhouse and a new concession area that opens to both Gregg Park and to the pool area. Once the money was raised and the project put out to bid, the contract was awarded to RenoSys Corp. in Indianapolis.
Not only was Rainbow Beach renovated for aesthetic and user appeal, but it was also updated with environmentally friendly operation systems. The competition/plunge pool and activity pool all are designed with RenoSys vacuum filtration systems. These are unique, flooded systems that use gravity flow, so they are installed in tanks that are below the pool's water level (all other pump room equipment is located at ground level). The filter media used for these pools is a cellulose fiber. This cellulose fiber is considered more environmentally friendly than the more commonly used DE (diatomaceous earth) media. Another feature of these types of filters is the long backwash runs, which saves on chemicals, heat, maintenance time and with virtually no lost water.
Not only is Rainbow Beach a claim to fame for the city of Vincennes, but it is also a source of pride for Indiana-based RenoSys. "We too were thrilled to be chosen as the designer and contractor for this historic and prominent aquatic center," said Jason Mart, CEO of RenoSys.
RenoSys added several unique features to the facility, including a custom-designed and manufactured kiddie slide for the shallow play pool. "We created an adorable kiddie slide in the shape of a blue whale, complete with a built-in-PVC liner to spout water and a kid-safe padded ladder," Mart said. Named the "Billy Blue" slide, the unit provides additional fun for toddlers in the play pool area. RenoSys designed the slide and provided a padded area at the exit for the safety and comfort of toddlers.
Because Rainbow Beach is such a showcase facility in the region, every last detail was taken into consideration when renovating these pools, including the gutter system. Often, the sizing for perimeter gutters is an afterthought in the process and can lead to future troubles. In this case, the gutters installed were made of U.S. stainless steel and were custom-fit according to the pool and the flow characteristics of each body of water. These stainless-steel gutters combine gutter and plumbing into a built-in trough with pressurized filtered water inlet supply returns. In fact, the maintenance and repair costs of stainless-steel gutters are lower because they eliminate buried pipes that can break due to freeze/thaw damage or ground movement. These gutters were finished off with PVC grating manufactured from colorfast, UV-resistant, outdoor-grade PVC and is also certified slip-resistant.
Although opening day was delayed due mostly to an extremely cold winter and very wet spring, once Rainbow Beach re-opened, the citizens of Vincennes enjoyed the remainder of the summer packing the facility to the last day of the swim season. The new Rainbow Beach would never have been a reality without the determination of the Vincennes community. In fact, this pool was recognized by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns with a "Community Achievement Award" because of the collaborative efforts of city officials, the business community and determined residents who literally walked the streets promoting the project. Rainbow Beach is now back to its previous glory and is once again a showpiece aquatic facility for the state of Indiana. RM
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