As the economy bounces back, it appears that new aquatic projects are likely to show up in some relatively unexpected places.
Experts say senior communities, American Indian reservations, and family entertainment centers are three areas with aquatic potential, each for different reasons.
The oldest of the baby boomers now are 65, and swimming pool builders across the country are finding revenue in assisted living facilities and retirement communities
As noted in Pool & Spa News, sister publication to Aquatics International, these projects run the gamut from simple to elaborate, including pools and hot tubs. They are providing needed income for a number of residential pool builders caught in the economic downturn.
“I do see those types of projects coming up more often,” Tim Van Kirk told Pool & Spa News. He is co-owner of Van Kirk & Sons, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
“What you’re getting is a lot of these retirees who want to replicate the lifestyle and the quality of life they’re leaving behind when they move into these facilities. So I do expect those to increase in the next few years,” Van Kirk added.
Many nursing facilities also are being updated to include aquatics. Billy Faught, project manager at Robertson Commercial Pools in Coppell, Texas, told Pool & Spa News that his firm has built several fitness/therapy-type pools for assisted-living facilities in the past three years.
These vessels are typically around 1,000 to 1,500 square feet in length, with multiple lanes for laps and space for water aerobics, he noted. They also often include ramps and additional stainless steel handrails, as well as ADA-compliant lifts for accessibility.
“… It’s definitely a key market out there right now,” he said.
Native American communities also are looking to aquatics. The Soaring Eagle Hotel and Waterpark Resort is set to open this spring and, if it proves successful, it is expected to become a model for similar projects nationwide, said Nick Schoenfeldt, project manager and vice president at Thalden•Boyd•Emery Architects.
Plans for the Soaring Eagle Hotel and Waterpark Resort first came about in 2009. Executives at Migizi, the nongaming business development arm of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, determined that they needed to develop projects that would foster longer and more frequent trips to their existing Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, a four-star property in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
The Soaring Eagle Hotel and Waterpark Resort is a more affordable, family-friendly option that also will include shuttle service to the main resort. The new property, including the waterpark, is being designed to represent the art, tradition and history of the tribe. The waterpark will include two major water slides, a children’s area, a lazy river and a stationary surfing wave machine.
“Most Native American land is remote,” Schoenfeldt said. “So anything that we can do to get people to come and stay longer and enjoy the amenities is of interest. It gets back to broadening the base of appeal.”
Family Entertainment Centers have been adding aquatic amenities for some time, and that is likely to continue on a large and small scale, say experts. Amusement Entertainment Management, East Brunswick, N.J., has been adding water attractions to indoor and outdoor FEC projects, and that includes play structures, spraypads and slides, as well as water tables, said Frank Seninsky, AEM president.
Mulligan Family Fun Center in Murrieta, Calif., opened a large aquatic play structure that includes slides, interactive features and a dumping bucket last year. Mulligan Waterworks has been very successful so far, said Mike Manassee, director of training and development.
“It has expanded our season and allowed us to attract some new people,” he said.
Dan Schechner contributed to this story.