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!