The Southeast Missouri State University Student Aquatic Center boasts unique aquatic amenities that no other campus recreation aquatic centers offer.

The most noteworthy feature of the leisure pool is a realistic bouldering wall with a variety of climbing holds for all levels of expertise. The first such wall concept in the world, Southeast Missouri State’s 40 ft. wide by 14 ft. high wall showcases four waterfalls and allows users to climb and fall into the seven-foot-deep leisure pool. Taking four weeks to complete, it was formed upon dozens of concrete fabricated panels mounted on a steel cage. All rock features were cast-in-place, using forms based on real rocks and the result is a wall that looks and feels like real rock, providing as close to a real-life climbing experience as possible.

Complementing the wall, the leisure pool also includes water basketball and volleyball, a rope swing a “bubble-bench” overlooking windows framing the pool’s vanishing edge, and a zip line. This one-of-a-kind feature spans the leisure pool allowing users to zip over the water for between 20 and 25 yards and end with a fall into the water.

For lap swimming the facility includes a six-lane, 25-yard lap pool. There’s also a 12-person whirlpool spa, new men’s and women’s locker facilities, on-deck steam and sauna rooms, administrative and lifeguard offices, an aquatic multi-purpose room, a first-aid office and storage space.

Prior to completion of Southeast Missouri State University’s Student Aquatic Center in 2007, the campus had been without swimming facilities since the closure of Parker pool as part of 2003 budget cutbacks. University officials felt that the opening of an indoor aquatic facility would increase marketability to potential students since other universities in the region have aquatic facilities for extracurricular activities. Students have flocked to the new facility, and water volleyball and basketball became so popular that the Aquatic Center now hosts formal tournaments.

In developing the aquatic center, designers carefully sited the building to offer the most cost-effective solution, working within site constraints while maximizing daylight and views. A tropical theme was chosen for the facility to provide a relaxing environment that mimics an outdoor setting. A mix of artificial palm trees and live and faux tropical vegetation provide the backdrop. Rock planters and details echo characteristics of the rock-climbing wall and all rock surfaces are painted to match the color of the local southeast Missouri and southern Illinois bluffs and cliffs.

Additionally, a number of sustainable design principles were followed in the development of the project, including designing the site for minimal impact, specifying materials with low levels of VOC content where possible, and utilizing efficient building mechanical systems. The incorporation of these sustainable design practices has helped maximize available resources by decreasing operating and maintenance costs as well as protecting natural resources.

Additional cost-saving measures included utilizing the most efficient structural system possible, specifying a patterned concrete floor instead of ceramic tile and controlling add-ons, such as a second level for the slide.

Today, Southeast Missouri State University’s Aquatic center successfully embodies the school and community’s needs and objectives by combining leisure areas and fitness/competitive swimming program spaces.


Opened: 2007

Cost: $6.7 million

Aquatic space: 30,068 square feet

Dream amenities: A leisure pool featuring a bouldering wall, 40 feet wide by 14 feet high with four waterfalls and a zip line; a 25-yard lap pool with six lanes; a 12-person whirlpool spa; and an aquatic multi-purpose room


  • Dream Designer: Hastings+Chivetta Architects
  • Architect: Hastings+Chivetta Architects
  • Aquatic Designer: Counsilman-Hunsaker
  • Construction Manager: Paric
  • MEP Engineers: McClure Engineering Associates Inc.
  • Civil Engineers: Bowen Engineering & Surveying
  • Structural Engineers: Alper Audi Inc.
  • Soils Engineers: SCI Engineering Inc.
  • Cost Estimator: Cooper Construction Estimating
  • Code Consultant: Schulte & Associates


  • Arch Chemicals/Pulsar: Sanitization Equipment
  • Chemtrol: Chemical control systems
  • Competitor Swim Products: Lane markers
  • ITT Marlow: Pumps
  • Neptune-Benson: Gutters
  • Paragon Aquatics/Stark: Filters
  • Pentair Water Commercial Pool and Aquatics: Cleaners / vacuums
  • Porter Athletic: Sport nets
  • Recreonics: Accessible lifts
  • Republic Storage Systems: Lockers
  • Spectrum Products: Starting blocks / ladders / grab bars
  • S.R. Smith: Pool lift