If you were to have asked someone to describe a pool 20 years ago, they?d probably have drawn something rectangular with six or eight lanes for swimming. Ask someone today, and you?d likely get a very different picture. The move from the boxy pools built during the 1950s and ?60s to the aquatic recreation centers of today has been an industry hallmark over the last two decades.

?For years, people were made to believe that all aquatic activities must be limited to swimming and diving,? says Bill Haralson, founder/president of William L. Haralson & Associates Inc. ?Two developments changed that way of thinking: the water slide and the wave pool.?

Much credit goes to George Millay, who first brought these two attractions together successfully with the opening of Wet ?n Wild waterpark in Orlando, Fla., in 1977. According to Haralson, Millay?s park challenged the notion of aquatics as a strictly athletic pursuit.

Following the successful development of similar private waterparks, municipal communities began incorporating more leisure elements such as slides and lazy rivers in an effort to satisfy patrons? demand for more aquatic play.

As a result, designers and manufacturers have created an entire industry sector of new entertainment components. Pool systems, meanwhile, have had to adjust to accommodate changing bather loads and uses, notes Jeff Nodorft, PE, of St. Louis-based Counsilman-Hunsaker.

Perhaps most importantly, the public leisure pool facilities, which have grown up in the last 20 years, have given a wider range of people an opportunity to enjoy water like never before. ?I would estimate that less than 1 percent of the public participates in traditional activities such as competitive swimming and diving,? Haralson says. ?By comparison, I would say that as many as 50 percent of the public enjoys recreational aquatic activities.?