Category Archives: Development

Pool Design Part 2 – Often Forgotten Elements of the Best Pools

You can read about the science behind a good pool but what else goes into a facility to really make it great? It is easy when designing a pool to stop at the pumps controlling a pool and the hole you put in the ground but a truly good facility looks not only at the athlete but also at the ease of hosting an event and making a facility that considers all aspects of a true Natatorium

Lighting– Lighting is often an afterthought in many aquatic center designs and often times, no consideration is given to how it can effect a race. Lighting is important for both judging the distance and gauging the swimmer position, in competition. A good facility design has considered a careful balance of natural light with careful attention to limiting the glare it could cause and un-natural lights with proper angles and illumination for optimal racing, all while keeping in mind the spectator experience and officiating requirements.

Acoustics– A natatorium has to deal with all sorts of sounds. There are starter buzzers, official whistles, final lap bells, announcements, coaches coaching, on-deck athletes talking and spectators cheering. It can be difficult to design a facility that considers and properly accommodates for all the action but when you are in the design phase, choosing the right elements can make for sound dampening like wall angles and materials, speaker placement, spectator viewing area placement and athlete accommodation areas. Good teams work with engineers that specialize, exclusively, on aquatic acoustics.

HVAC Systems– With fresh, clean air, an athlete can perform better. Lung expansion and contraction can reach optimal levels and non-athletes are in a more comfortable, more enjoyable space. Fresh air is critical not just for the performance of the athlete but also for the comfort of the spectators and those fully clothed.  Spectators require cooler air with higher velocities as compared to the athletes on the pool deck.  When it comes to HVAC solutions in natatoriums, there is not a one-size fits all approach.

Deck Dimensions– Optimal deck space is really dependent on the types of swimming going on in your facility. For a strictly practice facility, the most important element is the pool itself and deck space needs to accommodate for the coach, swimmers that are not in the pool and their parents. When considering a facility that can host collegiate and elite competition, it is important to consider television tracks, appropriate space for the number of swimmers attending the competitions. Let’s not forget the officials who have to traverse the length of the pool, and don’t want to fall in due to congested walkways. Once your space is designed and built, it is very costly to expand you space and with the right feasibility study and market research, an appropriate size can be determined

Spectator Seating– The joke in swimming is that you always want to separate the coaches and swimmers from the parents by putting them on the second level to view at a distance. But in truth, having seating on the second level provides the best feel for the fans and the most room for everyone taking part in the event. The swimmers want to feel energies by crowds as well as feeling like they have space to focus on there on events. In elite competition, this also enables security and safety of athletes to be controlled and can provide easier credential check points.

It can be a challenge to consider all users that are affected by an aquatics facility but with proper planning and a good team, you can truly make a great space. Being considerate of your market opportunity and users can ultimately position your facility to stay on budget with a build and optimize the return by capturing an appropriate audience of users.

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Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) Review

Many people have been asking:

What is the current status of the MAHC and what is the best web site address to hit to see the current status of the modules for comments?

Here’s a link to the CDC’s webpage so you can check the status on each module.

Here’s a list of what we know has happened so far

Disinfection Water Quality:        Second Post after public comment 1/24/14

Regulatory Module:                      Second Post after public comment 1/24/14

Facility and Design:                      Second Post after public comment 12/16/13

Risk Management                         Second Post after public comment 7/23/13

Facility Maintenance                    Second Post after public comment 7/2/13

Monitor and Testing                     Second Post after public comment 6/05/13

Contamination Burden                Second Post after public comment 6/05/13

Fecal Contamination                    Second Post after public comment 5/30/13

Operator Training                         Second Post after public comment 04/08/11

Preface                                             Second Post after public comment 11/10/11

Recirculation/Filter System        First Post 7/02/13  They have not posted public comment or reposted after update.

Ventilation                                      First Post 4/13/11  They have not posted public comment or reposted after update.


Don’t forget to get your comments in!

Public Sector Waterpark Design

Soaring Eagle1        Although public sector waterpark provenance dates back over 30 years, many counties and municipalities considering developing waterparks today struggle with defining exactly what waterpark is.  So, it is not unusual when dealing with the public sector that everything from a splash pad to a family aquatic center to a full blown waterpark be referred in the media as a “waterpark.”  In times of tightening public sector budgets, water restrictions and controversy over subsidized recreation versus “pay for play,” the term “waterpark” can be demonized by a misunderstanding public with roots in traditional swimming facilities.

In order to clarify what a “waterpark” is in the public sector, the following definitions can be have been used successfully in many communities:

Splash Pad – A small water playground with ground sprays and/or vertical water features typically with no standing water, no lifeguards and no admission cost that often uses potable water that is wasted to an adjacent sanitary sewer or recycled into a water quality pond. Amenities typically include a mechanical enclosure with limited shade and seating.

  • Typical Design and Construction Costs: $250,000 to $500,000 (2013)
  • Admission Cost: $0.00 (No Operating Expense Recovery or Revenue)
  • Attendance: Varies Based on Demand and Size / Up to 10,000 per 100 day season
  • Space Requirements: (One Half Acre) plus limited or no parking


Sprayground – A larger water playground with many ground sprays and/or vertical water features typically with no standing water, no lifeguards and no admission costs that often uses potable water that recycled via a pool filtration and chemical treatment system with a secondary sanitation system such as UV light or Ozone. Amenities typically include shade, seating, mechanical enclosure and adjacent restrooms.

  • Typical Design and Construction Costs: $500,000 – $1,500,000 (2013)
  • Admission Cost: $0.00 (No Operating Expense Recovery or Revenue)
  • Attendance: Varies Based on Demand and Size / Up to 20,000 per 100 day season
  • Space Requirements: (1/2 Acre to 1 ½ Acres) plus limited parking up to 50 spaces


Family Aquatic Center – A modern public sector pool complex incorporating elements to appeal to the entire family (tots, families, teens) with traditional pool features (lap lanes, diving boards, learn to swim areas), splash pads (ground sprays and vertical water features), and waterparks (waterslides, interactive water play structures, current channels of 5’ to 10’ wide and leisure rivers 10’+ wide to 20’+ wide) including admission costs of $5.00 to $15.00.  Amenities typically include shade, seating, lounge chairs, restrooms, operations offices, shade, and group shade pavilions.

  • Typical Design and Construction Costs: $1,500,000 – $10,000,000 (2013)
  • Admission Costs: $5.00 to $15.00 (Typically to recover operating expenses or generate limited revenue)
  • Attendance: Varies Based on Demand and Size / 15,000 to 150,000 per 100 day season
  • Space Requirements: (2 Acres to 5 Acres) plus parking of 50 to 500 spaces


Waterpark –  A full scale commercial type waterpark operated by the public sector to generate revenue  incorporating elements from the above but on a larger scale with multiple water slides, longer leisure rivers, a wave pool and extreme or  unique water ride attractions. Amenities typically include shade, seating, lounge chairs, restrooms, operations offices, shade, and group shade pavilions.

  • Typical Design and Construction Costs: $10,000,000 to $25,000,000+ (2013)
  • Admission costs: $15.00 to $40.00 (Typically to recover operating expenses, debt service and generate maximum revenue)
  • Attendance: Varies Based on Demand and Size / 150,000 to 1,000,000 per 100 day season
  • Space Requirements: (5 Acres to 15 Acres) plus parking of 500 to 10,000 spaces.


Certainly, you can call just about any water recreation area a “waterpark,” but the most appropriate usage of the term should be to refer to the large commercial type revenue generating facilities with the capacity to attract and hold a large number of people from a destination of over 50 to 100 miles plus.  Therefore, to really be a big “waterpark” you must a have many different slides, interactive water play features, lagoons, a long leisure river and even a wave pool so that you can and accommodate at lots of park users.


A New Public Sector “Gold Standard”

Many public sector pools were built from the 1950s to the 1980s using the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) standard of one pool for every 25,000  population.  This criteria was developed when many homes did not have air conditioning, many pools were filled and emptied daily with no chemical sanitation and when aquatic recreation opportunities were limited.  Admission costs for these pools were often $0.00 up to $1.00 and even to this day some public sector pool providers still offer these old fashioned pools for free or a heavily subsidized admission costs. (Cities sometimes end up spending $5.00 for every $1.00 received in admission.)

Public pool health scares beginning in the 1950s, coupled with more stringent safety standards, led to increased operating expenses, removal of diving boards and poolside waterslides, which in turn led to decreased attendance at public pools. Just as many of these public pools were closing in the 1970s, the first waterparks were being developed in the United States.  In the 1980s and 1990s, innovative public sector pool operators started adding waterpark features (floatable toys, zero depth entries, small waterslides and water play features, shade furnishings and concessions) to revive attendance and help pay for operating expenses at public sector facilities.  The most entrepreneurial public sector operators built large waterparks and were able to generate surplus revenue to help fund other recreation programming (I.e. Hyland Hills Water World in Colo. & NRH2O Family Water Park in Texas.)

At the same time, a new generation has grown up that demands the public sector to provide aquatic facilities for the entire family (tot, family and teen.)  Therefore, public sector pools are becoming more like waterparks all across the country in order to attract users, recover operating expenses and contribute to the local quality of life.

According the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) over 80 percent of aquatic users are recreation and lesson users, 10% are competition users, and the remaining 10% are senior/wellness users. In many public sector communities, the most vocal and the most dedicated voters are the not the largest user group (family recreation and lesson users) but instead the organized swim team groups (competition users) and senior groups (wellness users.)

The facilities required by each of the three public sector groups require different pool configurations, different water depths and different temperatures. To compensate for this, many public sector providers have started building fewer traditional 1950s pools and more splash pads, water spray grounds, family aquatic centers and mega indoor recreation centers with indoor competition, wellness and recreation pools coupled with a large seasonal outdoor recreational pool that can generate most of the revenue to offset operating costs.

Therefore, in lieu of the old NRPA planning criteria of one pool for every 25,000, the new “Gold Standard” minimums for the Public Sector should include at least one of each of the following for every 50,000 to of one pool for every 500,000 in population:


Indoor Competition Pool – One 50M or 25YDx 25M Lap Pool constructed and funded by the source of the users. (City/county for city/county leagues, recreation districts for their leagues, school districts for school leagues and private swim teams for independent swim leagues or a combination thereof).


Indoor Wellness Pool – One 4-6-lane 25 YD Pool (with ramp and step entries with two or three minimum depth lap lanes, water aerobics area and a small deep-water cardio area to be constructed and funded by the source of the users. (Hospitals, senior centers, city/counties, recreation districts or a combination thereof).


Outdoor Family Aquatic Center or Waterpark – One new-style family aquatic center or waterpark sized to meet the needs of the community and available market constructed and funded by the source of the users. (City/counties, recreation districts or a combination thereof).


The Public Sector Design Process

The public sector most often has to build public consensus and City leadership support to do all their projects.  If this is needed, the most effective way of gaining consensus is to develop a city-wide aquatics plan where a park planner and feasibility consultant educate the public on modern aquatic programming, costs, and options.  The big advantage of this process is that the public and decision-makers are led through the process simultaneously, outdated facilities can be documented, myths can be de-bunked about revenue and expenses and the decisions are most often then based on current need and public support.

Additionally, the public sector is held to more stringent designer team and equipment processes than the private sector regulated by state and/or federal procurement rules. Most will select an A/E (Architect or Engineer) led design team that will include engineers (civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and pool), landscape architects and architects.  In the public sector, it is most common that an architect leads an indoor pool project (not the pool designer). And for outdoor aquatic projects, it is typical for a park planner experienced in pool design to lead the project (landscape architect, architect or civil engineer with in-depth pool project experience).

Public/Private Partnerships

With funding difficult to obtain for private waterpark development, there are many private sector waterpark developers partnering with public sector clients to develop waterparks.  In most cases this partnership requires that the land, 80 percent or more of the development and infrastructure costs and undetermined future support for park improvements be provided and paid for the public sector partner.

Ultimately, this means the public sector has most of the “skin” in the game and is receiving only 10 percent or 15 percent of the net revenue.  Such an arrangement can tie up public sector bonding capacity, create increased costs for the very public sector residents who paid to build it with their tax dollars and leave the public sector with poorly constructed facility that is expensive to tear down or fix up if the private sector partner bows out.   That said, there are public sector client who prefer this arrangement since they do not have to plan, design, operate and continue to invest in the facility.

MAHC Recirculation Systems and Filtration

CDC posts the Model Aquatic Health Code’s module for Recirculation Systems and Filtration for public comment with a closing date of October 9, 2013.

To view the latest updates regarding the Model Aquatic Health Code go to

The Recirculation Systems and Filtration module was initially released earlier this summer for public comment but has been re-released to encourage further review and feedback.

Health issues related to waterborne diseases as well as exposure to chemicals associated with pool water are increasingly being documented. The Recirculation Systems and Filtration Module is a first step towards improving water quality at aquatic facilities and reducing associated health effects. The Recirculation Systems and Filtration Module contains design and construction requirements that are, unless otherwise specified, applicable only for new or modified construction. New and improved elements include:

  1. More aggressive turnover times and more uniform standards for recirculation system design and operation.
  2. Filter design and operation standards that will promote more effective and efficient filtration.
  3. Requiring water replenishment to dilute out the dissolved contaminants that cannot be removed by pool filters.
  4. Development of a long-term plan to use pool filters for pathogen removal in addition to water clarity in a multiple barrier system that would complement all disinfection processes.
  5. Use of improved flow meters

MAHC Background:

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) effort began in February 2005 and the latest round of modules is being published for public comment. The MAHC will have a significant impact on the aquatic industry and we strongly encourage all industry members to take an active role in providing meaningful feedback to develop the best possible result.

The first industry standard was issued in 1958. In the subsequent 50 years, there have been at least 50 different state codes and many independent county codes. What was required in one jurisdiction may be illegal in another. It is clear that this historic approach is not working. Thus, the National Swimming Pool Foundation took a leadership position and provided funding to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the creation of the MAHC. The MAHC is intended to transform the patch work of industry codes into a data-driven, knowledge-based, risk reduction effort to prevent disease, injuries and promote healthy water experiences.

Making a Splash in a Tough Economy – Ski Area Waterparks Add to Family Fun and Revenues

Soaring Eagle1I stood inside the clear tube, my heart pounding in my chest.  A speaker above my head counted down. “Three. Two. One. Drop.” The floor swung out from beneath me, dropping me into the near-vertical tube of the 60-foot high La Chute waterslide, a harrowing inverted-loop ride that pulls sliders at up to 50 feet per second. It’s the only indoor one like it in the world. La Chute is part of Jay Peak’s Pump House indoor waterpark in Northern Vermont. This winter Jay opened the 50,000-square-foot indoor water park, along with the slopeside and expansive 176-room Hotel Jay.

The Pump House is an impressive complex. Costing more than $20 million to build, the park is a veritable oasis, with a variety of offerings that range from slow to scary. A whitewater river circulates the park’s periphery, with vacationers bobbing in tubes as a convoluted knot of waterslides looms overhead. Winding moderate slides like The Double Barrel run parallel to the thrilling La Chute, a speed slide that looks no more at home in an indoor setting than a roller coaster.

A cluster of hot tubs resides in the park’s center, flanked by cabanas for rent. An arcade and snack station sit poolside, while a mezzanine bar serves up tropical drinks to onlookers watching surfers on the stationary Flowrider surf wave, or the Jumbotron that hangs from the ceiling of the glass structure. The Pump House instills the feeling of being in the warm South, outdoors and in the sun. During the summer, when the roof retracts, that impression of warm rays becomes a reality.

Despite its out-of-the-way location in rural Vermont, Jay has thrived as a ski area due in large part to its impressive terrain and deep snow. An average of more than 350 inches falls here each year. But as Marketing Director Steve Wright explains, Jay struck out in 2009 to strengthen its approach to the family market and also amplify its revenue stream during the summer months. Hence the development of the water park.

Jay is not the only “core skier” mountain to bridge the gap from freeskiing epicenter to family funhouse. In 2008 Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho, opened the Silver Rapids Indoor Waterpark, a 42,000-square-foot indoor oasis of tube slides, a lazy river, their own Flowrider surf wave, and everything in between. According to John Williams, Silver’s director of marketing, the addition of the waterpark was a critical element in differentiating his resort from others.

“We have fairly steep terrain at Silver. [The waterpark] was a good way to become more family oriented,” he says, adding that the addition of the park “established [Silver Mountain Resort] as a destination resort, not just a day ski area.”DSC07981

The waterpark did more than tap Silver Mountain’s skier market, which was limited to around 15 percent of skiers and snowboarders per capita. By offering a non-skiing option, nonskiing family members and even non-skiing families had a wet and wild option for their vacation. Similar to the situation at Jay, the indoor park provides customers security from rain and poor conditions during their holiday, making family vacations more “weatherproof.” And the new option has led to increased revenue on and off the slopes.

“Since the addition of the waterpark, we’ve nearly tripled our lodging bookings,” says Williams.

Silver Mountain’s waterpark attracts 90,000 visitors annually. All guests staying at the resort’s Morning Star Lodge have access to Silver Rapids, and season pass holders get four uses per year at no additional charge. What’s more, Williams says more bookings translate to increased ticket sales, which have also spiked. By bundling a season pass and waterpark pass, the resort has increased season pass sales by 60 percent in the last three years. This is good news for investors, because the park did not come cheap. It cost around $20 million to build. That figure, according to Williams, is dwarfed by the positive impact of the park on Silver Mountain’s revenue stream. Despite the investment, Williams reports that the resort flipped to a positive cashflow on the park within three years.