Waves Of The Future

• Micro segmentation/value targeting of the marketplace. Gone are the days when children entertained themselves all summer long in the rectangular community swimming pool. Today’s families typically recreate together, and expect to enjoy individual areas catering to each age bracket. Thus, facilities will continue to respond in one of two ways:

1. Streamline operations to focus on a single demographic (such as The Wavehouse in San Diego, which caters to the teenage/young adult demographic, with a standing, surfable wave, surrounded by layers of seating, live music and food).

2. Build large-scale facilities that offer amenities for the entire family, including wet play elements for younger children; wave pools, slides and play structures for older children and teenagers; and continuous rivers and lap pools for adults (like the indoor water parks typically found in Wisconsin Dells).

• Increased demand for interconnectivity. Since people want to be constantly connected (cell phones, Internet access, etc.), water-safe touch-screens are making that possible while they work out, just as if they were sitting in front of a computer.

• Culture of amusement. Our culture demands fresh choices and alternatives, and the marketplace provides plenty of options. The mission for facilities of the future will be to find ways to change existing amenities to offer variety to patrons in an inexpensive manner. Examples of this can already be seen at several municipalities across the country, where wet play features, such as tumble buckets, water cannons and other elements, are switched annually between facilities, and projects are being phased to add new attractions, increasing and maintaining the customer base.

• Green movement. A relief to environmentalists, it appears the “green movement” is here to stay. Some examples of current changes in the industry include mandatory use of: thermal blankets to hold in heat and reduce evaporative loss; thermal solar-heating panels to take advantage of the sun’s energy in lieu of natural gas to heat pool water; LED lights, which are more energy-efficient than traditional pool lights; flooded suction pumps that consume less energy to circulate pool water; and regenerative DE Filters that require much less water to keep the pool clean.

• Increasing technology. Technological changes will continue to evolve over the coming years. Higher-efficiency heaters, pumps, filtration systems and new energy sources–in addition to alternative or new means of chemical treatment–will keep pool designers and builders busy and pool operators clamoring for upgrades to their facilities.

• Health-conscious consumers. In addition to therapy and rehabilitation needs, swimming and water-based exercises are low-impact and great for a full-body workout for all ages.

Aquatic exercise is one of the most in-demand recreational activities in communities striving to service their constituents. As the population continues to grow and age, well-designed swimming facilities will continue to be in demand.

• The ongoing financial crisis has made us all aware how quickly things can change, and recent information points to more fiscally responsible decisions made by American families. Once the economy recovers, we can look for a continuation of large-scale, “resort-style” theming and environments that many public-sector pools have focused on in an effort to attract more mature audiences, and create the type of ambiance one might expect at a four- or five-star resort.

• The influence of Title 9 (the landmark civil-rights law barring gender discrimination in education) has only begun to be felt. Aquatic sports, such as swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming, have all benefitted from Title 9 as more schools have added women’s teams. As American women who competed in collegiate athletics have children, and more American men become fans of women’s athletics, and more women continue to stay active in their sport of choice, the demand for facilities capable of hosting practices and competitions for all these activities will increase in the coming years.

Based on information available, and given past-performance indicators, the future for aquatics looks quite bright. While the landscape for pools and the rules with which they will operate are sure to change, the demand for facilities where families can splash together and individuals can recreate, recover, and/or pursue their dreams of Olympic stardom, is here to stay.

Justin Caron, a former NCAA Division 1 competitive swimmer, is an Associate with Aquatic Design Group, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based architecture and engineering firm, specializing in the design of competitive, recreational and leisure-based aquatic facilities. He can be reached via e-mail at jcaron@aquaticdesigngroup.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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