Across the nation, aquatic facilities have been changing. The addition of leisure and free play to community programs has been on the rise. It was only a natural extension to this trend that leisure pools and splash pads would begin appearing within membership-based recreation facilities. Successful aquatic centers offer amenities and programming for families, learn-to-swim students, competitive swimmers, water-fitness enthusiasts, and seniors and therapy patients, as well as for people who just want to get wet and have fun.
Membership-based facilities have long recognized the value of swimming, swim lessons, competitive swim and wellness classes. With a rising demand for recreational activities, cities across the country are meeting that challenge by renovating or enhancing their current facilities. By creating new, family-friendly environments, many have reported increased attendance, revenue and member satisfaction.
How do you add more recreational areas? In some cases, the pool itself may still be in sound structural condition and operating effectively, but it does not meet the market expectations of increasingly sophisticated users. Younger families, for example, probably won’t find much appeal in a standard deep-water competition pool. The pools of yesteryear can no longer satisfy the multigenerational public today because they were not designed for broad, contemporary user demographics.
Understanding the right balance of form and function is important to the success of these facilities. Multi-generational recreation and fitness provide something for everyone under one roof. It is often said that families that play together, stay together.
The addition of a splash pad to an aquatic facility can help bridge that gap. Indoor facilities that are limited in space can bring the fun outdoors, and at the same time, create an exciting visual for families driving by. The outdoor splash play area will increase daily traffic and extend availability during the shoulder seasons. When a new free play, fun space is created, a crossover into each area of the pool occurs and we find a social interaction between generations. Water brings generations together and allows everyone an opportunity to enjoy.
Philosophies of play show people benefit most when play uncovers new discoveries. Start by planning dedicated areas for transitional moments, peaceful pauses and bursts of action buffered by clear, connecting paths of access. This will encourage a steady flow of activity within the aquatic environment and satisfy the engaging element of fun your aquatic facility may be lacking.
Melinda Pearson is the design and specification manager for Waterplay Solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit waterplay.com.
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