Award Winner - July/August 2003
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Swimmers Come Home

Shawnee West Aquatic Facility
Shawnee, Kan.


Far from remarkable, the outdated Shawnee West Aquatic Facility in Shawnee, Kan., was like so many typical aging municipal pools across the country: barely treading water.

"We just had a boring traditional pool," says Neil Holman, director of Parks and Recreation for Shawnee, Kan. "We were losing attendance to other pools in nearby cities."

To reverse the swimmers' exodus, Shawnee (a Kansas City, Mo., suburb with a population of about 51,000) decided to embark on a nearly $4 million renovation.

The new design pumped some fresh fun into the tired old pool and bathhouse. The traditional architecture of the bathhouse was enhanced with new wave awnings, new building spaces (family changing areas, birthday party rooms and so on), and an awning-covered dining patio.

Well, the fresh start worked—swimmingly. Pool attendance increased 400 percent, from 22,000 to 98,000 the first partial year of operation.

"People came back home," Holman says. "This has rejuvenated the area."

The project architects wanted residents who passed by on the adjoining main street to immediately see that this pool was a totally new concept. With the wavy awnings, bright colors, new leisure pool, water slides and kids' pool, large crowds of people started coming back to a place that in previous years constantly lost money and users. In fact, the pool is now so popular with the residents that they come early to stake out their lounging area.

"We wanted to show everyone how creative we could be," Holman says of the new facility. "We wanted the best thing possible, something fantastic. Everywhere you turn, everything has a new look. We got the whole picture."

Open daily in the summer from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Shawnee West hosts swim-team practices, fitness programs like water walking and aerobics, swim lessons, and open swim in the afternoon and evening.

"We just tried to hit everybody," Holman says of the recreation opportunities the new facility offers. Even the concession sales have nearly tripled from $12,000 to $33,000 worth of product for the season. And the two new birthday party rooms are booked solid.

All in all, it's turned out to be a pleasant place to spend the day.

"You know it's a good sign when mom says it's time to go home, and the kids start crying," Holman says.

"A great transformation. Nice mix of activities. Innovative use of wavy awnings and bright colors. Very good example of redeveloping an old complex to a completely new image."

—Philip Neeley

"High score represents the extent to which a tired old facility was given new life through what seems to be a cost-efficient approach."

—Paul Brailsford

Submitted by: Yarger Design Group, Inc. in Chesterfield, Mo.

Size: 4,500-square-foot new pool area plus deck and 2,500-square-foot bathhouse and dining patio renovation

Project cost: $3.95 million

Quick tour:

  • New zero-entry kids' play pool
  • Three warm-up and teaching lap lanes attached to a new lazy river with water spray features and water slides
  • Existing competition pool (50-meter/25-yard with diving well) updated mechanically
  • Bathhouse renovations include a new entry, family changing rooms, enlarged concessions and eating patio, party rooms, first aid, offices, staff lockers, and renovated main changing/toilets/lockers/storage areas

Associated Firms

Architects/engineers: Berger Devine Yaeger, Inc.

Aquatic consultant: Water Technology, Inc

Aquatic components: SCS Interactive Inc., a division of Koala Corp. (play structure/spray bollards); Vortex Aquatic Structures International Inc. (rainbow spray arches, geyser column, dumping buckets); FAST Corporation (kiddie shark slide); ProSlide Technology, Inc. (body and tube slides)

Pool deck lockers: Santana Plastic Products

Restroom components: American Specialties, Inc.; Santana Plastic Products (toilet partitions); Koala Corporation (baby changing station)

Bathhouse floor finish: Coating Solutions, LLC (Tnemec Company, Inc

Bathhouse lighting: Trend Lighting, McFadden Lighting Co., Inc

Park pavilions: Poligon Park Architecture; W. H. Porter, Inc.

Umbrellas: Sun Ports International, Inc.

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