The Great Indoors

Dublin, Ohio

Dublin, Ohio

Since 1985, when developers built the world’s first indoor waterpark at West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, the indoor waterpark market has enjoyed steady growth. According to Hotel & Leisure Advisors, indoor waterpark resorts, while not seeing the same boom in expansion as outdoor facilities, have had continued to increase in both the municipal and private segments. Europe built Blackpool in 1986, and Wisconsin Dells’ Polynesian Resort Hotel opened in 1994.

Indoor waterparks allow for all-weather fun for residents in municipalities, increased profits for hotels and resorts during school breaks. Big name water parks like Great Wolf Lodge, Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, Kalahari Resort, Chula Vista, and Wilderness Territory maximize tourism to places like Wisconsin Dells or The Poconos during the winter. Kalahari in the Poconos doubled their space to 220,000 sq. ft, becoming the largest waterpark in the United States in March 2017.

The largest indoor waterpark in the world is Tropical Islands Resort in Germany. Spread out over 16 acres, Tropical Islands is unique in that is housed in the Aerium, a former airplane hangar that is the largest free-standing hall in the world.

The stand out feature of indoor waterparks is, of course, that they’re good year round. They can also be added onto existing facilities and given outdoor elements as needed.

Indoor Waterparks also have much tighter control over theming and comfort of guests, and unlike outdoor parks, they can maximize what their guests see. As one of the main things guests will see are the walkways, pool decks, pool bottoms, stair towers and locker rooms, making the floor part of the attraction is an excellent way keep guests comfortable, safe, and on property for longer periods of time.

Leaders in Aquatic Design Series: Counsilman-Hunsaker

Tom Muehlenbeck Center, Plano, TX

Tom Muehlenbeck Center, Plano, TX

In our architect and design firm series, we aim to get a barometric read over the entirety of the aquatics industry by sitting down and talking with major architectural firms who are helping shape the industry by creating dynamic, innovative and landmark designs for aquatic environments around the world.

In the third installment of the series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Post, a principal at Counsilman-Hunsaker. Kevin Post leads the operations division of the firm, and is also the former Aquatics Director at the University of Texas. “All of the facilities I worked at were designed by Counsilman-Hunsaker. As I went through my career, I knew I wanted to focus on aquatics, and so the transition was natural for me.”

Post isn’t likely to be the first person inspired by one of Counsilman-Hunsaker’s facilities. The firm has been around for over 45 years, and has completed more than 1,000 aquatic projects “of every size and complexity.” [x] The firm was started when Olympic swimming coach, James E. (Doc) Counsilman, Ph.D., and former three-time National Champion and World Record Holder, Joe Hunsaker “joined forces to create what has grown to become the Aquatic Design Industry.” [x]

Post gave us his perspective on how he and his firm approach meeting the challenge of delivering market leading designs every time.  According to Post,  “part of our job is constant improvement and evaluating what’s new in the market…  we are constantly researching new products and getting a pulse for what’s new in design. If we’ve researched a new product, we’ll definitely recommend new products for our clients consideration.”

Emphasizing this point, Joe Hunsaker wrote in the firm’s blog hydro+logic:

“Taking time away from the press of current work, to gain the knowledge of others, is an example of the struggle between “the urgent and the important.”  If we are to consider ourselves professionals, and responsible for providing our clients with the best knowledge and recommendations, it’s logical that we should take every opportunity to know what others in our field are thinking.”

Also important is leveraging the collective knowledge of the firm over time. “[We have] a design criteria manual that basically is a compilation of every piece of design knowledge collected throughout our entire history. … most people say they’ve never seen anything so complex and complete, compiled in one place..”

At the moment, Counsilman-Hunsaker is especially concerned with sustainable design. “Because we focus on long-term sustainability, we look at functionality as part of design. We favor a total costs approach, taking into consideration use, maintenance and sustainability, and discourage  the approach that favors value engineering where it would save in the short but not medium to longer run. ” said Post.

Looking through the firm’s portfolio, there’s a focus on recent projects receiving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver & Gold certification, like the Kroc Center in Chicago, IL.

Given the firm’s sense of curiosity about new creations and appreciation of well-made materials, where does Post see the future of aquatics coming from? “Many new suppliers and manufacturers share their new ideas with us and we might even ask for new products to be developed if our clients ask for new technology. I’ve actually found in the aquatics world that the US is 10 years behind Canada, and Canada is 10 years behind Europe. So, we often send people over to Europe to learn about the newest technologies and design innovations.“

But innovation for the firm isn’t limited to products and technologies. Post explains the idea behind their circle of services as a way to continue supporting clients beyond the construction phase. “We were creating wonderful designs and handing them off to the owner. Now we are offering services to support the entire business of an aquatics facility. For example we offer operational audits, staff training and on-boarding, and brand development and marketing services. Our ultimate goal is to always be a resource to aquatics professionals.”

Thank you to Counsilman-Hunsaker and Kevin Post for spending time speaking with us about your design expertise and perspective!

Leaders in Aquatic Design Series: Aquatic Design Group

Downtown Summerlin, NV

Downtown Summerlin, NV

In our architect and design firm series, we aim to get a barometric read over the entirety of the aquatics industry by sitting down and talking with major architectural firms who are helping shape the industry by creating dynamic, innovative and landmark designs for aquatic environments around the world.

In the second installment of the series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dennis Berkshire, President of Aquatic Design Group. For a bit of background, Aquatic Design Group has been designing in the aquatics industry since 1980, specializes in ”competition, recreation, leisure, therapy, ornamental and natural water features,” and has worked on projects across 35 states and 25 countries.  [x] Berkshire became involved in aquatics during college and has worked in aquatic design since 1980. He joined Aquatic Design Group in 1999.

We started our conversation discussing Dennis and ADG’s approach to the design process. Berkshire took care to emphasize the importance that is placed on understanding business needs of the firm that will operate the aquatics facility, before any design work begins. They encourage feasibility studies on business models prior to design work, as an important first input.  “The more we can learn about a public or private client’s business goals at a detailed level, the better the design process can meet those goals,” Berkshire shared.

He went on to say that, “there are no two pools that are exactly alike. Each and every facility needs to be tailor fitted to meet the needs and expectations of our client and their users.” In highlighting this, Berkshire described a past project where a high school district needed to maximize their single pool to accommodate water polo, diving, and recreational swimming. Merging their deep water needs with their shallow water needs within the footprint they were given, the school and ADG were leaning towards a predominantly deep pool.

At least until they talked with the PE teachers: “Two classes were scheduled to use the pool at a time in a district where passing swimming was mandatory to graduate. Knowing this, it did not make sense to design a predominantly deep water pool where 60+ beginner-level swimmers with only two supervising teachers would be taking classes.” ADG quickly changed the design of the pool to include a larger shallow end to accommodate the class sizes.

ADG discusses the entire program of the facility, and bases design decisions on functionality. Berkshire explained, “It is vitally important that we do a detailed and complete vetting process for the whole program of the facility… we need to understand how the client expects to use the pool because they may approach us with a preconceived idea that won’t entirely meet their end-goals.”  

In addition, the firm brings its broader industry perspective to bear in its work. “Part of the process might also include testing and pushing – for example, we have the opportunity to see a broad spectrum of clients all across the country, and we poll our clients regularly to get summaries of where they are operating from. This gives us the perspective to see things our clients may not,” Berkshire commented. 

Thank you to Aquatic Design Group and Dennis Berkshire for spending time speaking with us about your design expertise and perspective!

Leaders in Aquatic Design Series: Aquatic Development Group 

Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark at Camelback Mountain Resort

Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark at Camelback Mountain Resort

Last month we took a brief look at the history of water parks, in celebration of the water park season being right around the corner. Now that summer is (almost) in full swing, we wanted to look towards what the broader aquatics industry is doing today, and what we might see in the future. One of the best ways to get a barometric read over the entirety of the aquatics industry, we thought, was sitting down and talking with the major architectural firms who are helping shape the industry by creating dynamic, innovative and landmark designs for aquatic environments around the world.

In the first installment of this series, we had the pleasure of speaking with David Keim, the Vice President of Business Development at Aquatic Development Group, who took the time to share his vision and his perspective on the future of aquatic design.

For a bit of backstory, David Keim started working in the aquatics field after he graduated from college with an engineering technology degree. He “... enjoy(s) [aquatics] very much. It’s a great opportunity to be involved in something where you can be creative and involved in part of the process of ultimately delivering... (and providing) people with a place to go to have fun. What better job than to deliver fun?”  

Aquatic Development Group has worked in many areas of the aquatic field. They’ve worked on projects like the Wave Generation Technology used in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Water World Waterpark (oft called “America’s Largest Family Waterpark), and six separate, unique Six Flags waterparks. In the 1960’s, the firm started building commercial pools, and has since positioned themselves as an expert in leisure and entertainment design and construction.

One of the design topics we wanted to dig a little deeper into with Keim was the firm’s unique approach to designing water parks. ADG is especially unique in its design approach in that the firm is a designer, builder, and equipment manufacturer. “Unlike most traditional design firms, we design only that which we build.” stated Keim. Keim pointed out that this type of approach to water park design is especially useful in “...delivering projects on a very compressed time-frame.” 

Another important facet of their design approach is in understanding and realizing their client’s business goals from the very beginning stages. “We look at design from a business perspective so that we can help our client build a successful water park business. That means looking at all components of design including guest experience and revenue generating opportunities… once business goals are structured and set, we can start integrating attractions that will help realize these goals.”

But not all projects are for new builds. In fact, many of ADG’s projects are for renovations, updates, and retrofits. “A lot of our work is expansion of existing parks,” said Keim when we asked him about the firm’s approach to redevelopment projects. “These types of projects are the most challenging because we have to work within the boundaries of the established space.” Kieim acknowledged that for many of the parks with expansion projects, the design goal is to keep the park relevant with the newest attractions and technologies that guests wish to experience.  

So if much of the work now is revamping and revitalizing established properties, where does Keim see the future of waterparks coming from? “From our perspective, the leading edge products and ideas in the waterpark industry are coming from the manufacturers and designers in North America and then going global. This is where water parks started so it really does make sense that so many of the best innovations in entertainment and aquatic design are born here in North America.”

And how does ADG see safety impacting these newest innovations? “We are ultimately in the aquatics business and in aquatics, safety is first and foremost. Safety of the patrons and guests. And while we design primarily for fun and entertainment, we make sure everything is with an eye towards guest safety.”

 Thank you to Aquatic Development Group and David Keim for spending time speaking with us about your design expertise and perspective!