Abundant natural light, views to surrounding park areas and state-of-the-art, eco-friendly, energy-saving technology combine with a “fast” pool to make the RecPlex Aqua Arena a new benchmark for community aquatics facilities. 

This 10-lane-by-50-meter competition pool has become Wisconsin’s premier destination for fitness, training, and competitive swimming events. Its holds nearly 600 spectators and hundreds of participants and the double bulkhead configuration offers maximum flexibility. The venue can accommodate events large and small as well as classes and open swimming simultaneously. Except during long course events, one side of the pool can be set up for competitions while facility members can still swim at the other end.

In lieu of the typical shallow end, this pool features a shallow middle, providing for competitive start depths of 2 meters or greater, and deep underwater kicking at both ends of the pool.  A 12-foot depth at the pool’s east end provides the option to add diving boards in the future.

In addition to design flexibility, another community priority for the project was a commitment to environmental sustainability. The facility is on track to receive LEED Silver Certification, and has been awarded an incentive grant in excess of $50,000 by Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy Program in recognition of its energy saving accomplishments.

Economical building materials such as precast concrete wall panels and floor planks, and standard steel roof joists, provided savings allowing for more efficient pool and mechanical systems. The most innovative energy-saving feature, a lake loop geothermal system, features nearly 12 miles of coiled tubing, submerged to the bottom of the adjacent lake, which heat and cool the building, pool and domestic hot water. This, along with increased wall and roof insulation, triple pane glazing, energy efficient lighting, and an energy recovery system, allow the building to achieve a nearly 50 percent yearly energy savings versus the same building constructed to a building code minimum baseline.

Other sustainable building practices including significant use of local and recycled materials, daylighting strategies and low VOC content finishes.

Swimmers, coaches and event managers from across the country have repeatedly raved about the indoor air quality of this facility. Effective air distribution, generous air changes, and high performance air filtration, combined with the performance of the pool’s ultraviolet water treatment system, produce an environment with virtually no chloramine odors, even after a large event.

Also contributing to the comfortable indoor environment is its abundant natural light.  Translucent wall panels along the mezzanine’s south wall are protected from glare by a large overhang, which diminishes solar heat gain in summer and provides a soft filtered light to its interior spaces. With spectator views directed northward, architects were able to locate floor to roof glazing at the pool’s northeast and northwest corners, allowing indirect northern light and providing views to adjacent lake and park areas. This natural light and views provides a welcome alternative to the dark, windowless spaces of many comparable facilities.

Locker rooms, public toilets, offices and storage rooms are all located at deck level under the spectator seating areas. Mechanical spaces are located at each end of the mezzanine, with the pool equipment room at the west end of the first floor. Locating its check-in desk adjacent to the entrance allows this facility to be operated with as little as one staff person plus life guards.

The site’s granular soils and lake front location provided many challenges for the project’s architects, aquatic designers, engineers and contractors. Constructing the pool’s deep end to 12 feet, proved difficult with a groundwater elevation less than 5 feet below its deck level. Five dewatering wells pumped nearly 1,400 gallons per minute from initial excavation, until the pool vessel was complete. Extra concrete in the pool’s shell provides ample ballast to counteract the buoyancy effects of the groundwater.

A fast, flexible and efficient pool design combined with a bright environment with beautiful views and outstanding air quality, operating at half the energy cost of a conventional structure, means that the RecPlex Aqua Arena is destined to become a popular venue for Midwest swimming events. 

If the success of a venue can be measured in the number of events its has booked, then at six months following its grand opening, the RecPlex Aqua Arena has far surpassed it projected six regional events per year, with bookings for four state championship meets (Wisconsin and Illinois), one zone meet, one sprint meet, twelve regional meets, plus no less than one meet per weekend for the remainder of the year.  It is also under consideration as a site for the Junior Olympic Prequalification Meet.


Opened: 2010

Cost: $10.3 million

Aquatic space: 42,000 square feet

Dream amenities: A 10-lane-by-50-meter competition pool with two floating bulkheads and spectator seating for more than 600.


  • Dream Designer: Partners in Design Architects Inc.
  • Architect: Partners in Design Architects Inc.
  • Aquatic Designer: Counsilman-Hunsaker
  • Mechanical, Electrical & Structural Engineer: Arnold & O’Sheridan Inc.
  • Landscape Architecture: Heller & Associates
  • Civil Engineer: Nielsen Madsen & Barber S.C.


  • American Olean: Flooring
  • AnnexAir: Dehumidifiers
  • Aqua Products: Cleaners/vacuums
  • Arch Chemicals/Pulsar: Chlorine
  • Aurora Pumps: Pumps
  • Chemtrol: Chemical control systems
  • Colorado Time Systems: Timing
  • Competitor Swim Products: Lane markers
  • Engineered Treatment Systems: UV Treatment
  • H H Systems: Heaters
  • Neptune-Benson: Filters
  • Precision Fibre Structures: Bulkheads
  • Scranton Products: Lockers
  • Spectrum Products: Pool lift, ladders, grab bars
  • S.R. Smith: Starting blocks
  • Winona Lighting: Lighting