Located on remnant pastureland at the edge of the Squaw Creek floodplain and surrounded by a century-old pine grove, one of the first challenges in building the Donald & Ruth Furman Aquatic Center was its location. Near the geographic center of the city of Ames, residents have easy access by foot, bike or bus, but the site’s proximity to Squaw Creek meant that operations would need to respectful of the surroundings. The building’s physical footprint would need to be limited; storm water run-off would need to be controlled; and the design would have to blend into the pastoral setting.
Until the development of the Furman Aquatic Center, the community relied on an approximately 10,000-square-foot community pool built in the 1920s. In planning the new aquatic facility, the city challenged the design team to “do it right” and be sustainable.
After developing an “environmental team” including Iowa State University foresters, hydrologists, landscape architects and Iowa Natural Resource Conservation Service Urban Land Stewards, the group conducted an analysis of the existing landforms, vegetation and site features. Using this analysis, the design team sited the facility at the edge of the floodplain by carving into the eastern pasture hillside. The project’s topographic elevation would minimize the risk of flooding from the adjacent river, allow for patrons to view west into the natural areas of the site and allow future trail users a vista unencumbered by a large aquatic facility.
The site’s proximity to Squaw Creek meant that the facility would need to be flood proof or accommodate flooding. While the pool deck, basins and pumps are all above the 500-year flood elevation, the parking lot is designed to flood. Keeping the parking low minimizes the impact to the site and prevents cars from blocking views of the surrounding meadow areas.
The decision to use the hillside has created a large west-southwest facing turf grass slope for sunbathers. This area gets heavy usage from teens and adults alike and provides an excellent view to the deck below and the natural areas to the west.
Beyond the careful site design, several other elements of the project further add to the sustainability of the aquatic center. Ultimately, only one mature tree was removed in construction and much of the plant material on the aquatic center deck — and all of the plant material outside of the deck areas — is native to Story County, Iowa. Much of the project site has been seeded with a native mix of grasses and wildflowers to maintain the biodiversity of the area, aid in storm-water infiltration and create a wildlife habitat, while minimizing the amount of fossil fuels required to maintain the area when compared to the typical turf grass condition found within municipal pools.
Additionally, the project utilizes bioswales to cleanse, cool and infiltrate storm water that falls upon the site and parking lot. These bioswales contain more than 100 tons of recycled crushed glass from Ames’ Resource Recovery Center as a filter media (in place of sand) to aid in the cleansing of storm water before infiltrating into the sandy alluvial subsoil.
Completed in 2010, the facility features more than 26,000 square feet of water surface, three large water slides, a long lazy river, a 50-meter pool and a generous zero-depth recreation pool with play structure and family slide.
To enable the facility to blend with its natural surroundings, colors, materials and forms were chosen for the project that would work toward this goal. Large elements such as slides and structures were placed at the edges of the facility to allow for unobstructed views west to the Squaw Creek valley. Both culture and natural native stone were used throughout the landscape and architecture to give a cohesive and natural feel to the constructed elements. With the exception of the younger children’s recreation pool, only earth tones were used for water slides.
The aquatic center’s deck is lushly planted with colorful native Iowa materials and a few non-native ornamentals. Site architecture takes a Works Progress Administration form with simple shed roofs and warm stone masonry at its base. The overall effect is that of a recreation facility that has grown out of the pastoral landscape and one that is in harmony with its surroundings instead of one that imposes itself upon an area.
Within the facility, it was important to allow as much visual access between elements as possible for safe, effective lifeguarding. To that end, the entire aquatic center is visible from most vantage points on the deck and from the lifeguard office on the north end.
Helping reduce wait during peak demand hours, designers created a unique entry by utilizing multiple mobile point-of-sale kiosks typically placed within the entry court. At these kiosks a daily admission user will buy a ticket and walk to the main gate to have it scanned. Season pass holders can bypass the kiosks and go directly to the main gate. The goal is to prevent anyone from waiting more than 10 minutes to enter. If there is a short wait, the main gate is covered with a shade canopy that has photovoltaic film sewn into it. This film converts sunlight into power that pool patrons can use to charge netbooks and cell phones within the concessions area.
Additionally, with parking located at a lower elevation than the main pool deck, the calculated entry sequence also builds anticipation. As guests move closer to the gates, more and more of the interior of the facility is revealed.
The parking lot holds a maximum of 248 cars. Regional trail connectivity, abundant bicycle parking and direct municipal bus service every 30 minutes all encourage alternative transportation to and from the facility.
Just as it has become part of the landscape, the Furman Aquatic Center has become a part of the Ames community. It fills a large recreation void for the community and, in its first season in operation, accommodated massive attendance with numbers of daily users approaching 3,000 at times. A typical day will see the facility open in the early morning for youth lessons, lap swimming and water aerobics. The afternoon brings children and families from around Central Iowa. It is proving to be a massive asset to the community.
Cost: $9 million
Aquatic space:25,645 square feet
Dream amenities: Aquatic features include a lazy river that covers 6,500 square feet; an 11,400-square-foot, 8-lane-by-50-meter lap pool; 7,700-square-foot recreation pool; water slides (with space for additional slides); 1- and 3-meter diving boards; play structure; toddler slides; shade and turf areas; and concessions.
- Dream Designer:RDG Planning & Design
- Architect:RDG Planning & Design
- Aquatic Designer: Water’s Edge Aquatic Design
- Civil Engineer: Fox Engineering
- Structural Engineer: Shuck-Britson
- MEP Engineering: RDG Planning & Design
- Operations Consultant:Ballard*King & Associates
- Landscape Architect: RDG Planning & Design
- Lighting Designer: RDG Planning & Design
- Adolph Kiefer and Associates: Lane markers
- Barco Products: Tables
- Chemtrol: Chemical control systems
- Duraflex Intl.: Stands, diving boards
- Eldorado Stone: Stone masonry
- Energia Power Post: Kiosk A/V and power pedestals
- GAF Materials: Shingles
- Hunter Douglas: Sun louvers
- Keystone Retaining Wall Systems: Retaining walls
- Kim Lighting: Deck lighting
- Landscape Forms: benches, trash receptacles
- LMI Milton Roy / Siemens Water Technologies Corp.: Sanitzation
- Miami Filter: Filters
- Paco Pumps/Grundfos CBS: Pumps
- Paragon Aquatics: Ladders, grab bars
- Splashtacular: Water slides
- Scranton Products: Lockers
- SCS Interactive: Water play structure
- SunPorts / Sunbrella / PowerFilm Inc.: Sun shades
- Weber Stone Co.: Anamosa limestone