Some of the sweetest dreams are small ones. And this neighborhood-sized leisure pool integrates the best of a small leisure pool design with economical water spraygrounds and big-time quality — all at a surprisingly affordable price.

Too many facilities are lackluster due to boxy-looking pools, very little vertical water, no sense of spatial enclosure, poor use of landscaping and no shade. To turn a potentially uninspired small leisure pool into a dream facility, I have incorporated playful forms, theming and landscaping into an eye-pleasing package.

To start with, my dream facility incorporates complex curvilinear and playful pool and site forms that are visually stimulating and functional. Adding to the visual stimulation are subtle-colored concrete patterns in the deck, integrated with colored nonslip textured and/or cushioned surfacing for the spray decks and zero entry. The saw joints and expansion joints in the pool deck are carefully thought out to minimize uncontrolled cracking and to reinforce the forms of the deck layout.

The next element, the zero-entry beach, is one of the most utilized and appreciated parts of an aquatics facility. This facility has a tulip-shaped beach maximizing toe-dabbling opportunities on a soft-padded entry with lots of 20-foot diameter shade umbrellas nearby.

Simple but interactive water geysers are provided in the 0- to 6-inch depth to get the water vertical. At 12- to 18-inches depth is a small Bavarian-themed “Cuckoo Clock”interactive play structure with a water roof, slide and additional water play features — a focal point to entertain and challenge the kids. The pool then transitions in depth to a small current channel, a bubbler bench area, and some good, old-fashioned open recreational depth water.

A little bit of theming can go a long way, and my mini-dream facility has just enough to capture the imagination without breaking the pocketbook. Integrated signage which features names with a slight German twist and colorful mini-logos are the first bit of theming. Then, I incorporate several major-themed water elements:

  • Geyser Garten. I have used the traditionally under-utilized real estate under and near the water slide to create a veritable garden of water geysers. These geysers are interactive and occur in a variety of heights and patterns — providing a refreshing low-impact spray/play area for children.
  • Karl’s Cuckoo Klock. This is a custom-themed, small-scale interactive play unit with a water slide, platform with interactive features, and a water roof with water-spouting Bavarian cuckoo clock.
  • Pipe Dream. An open-flume water slide with a custom-themed carved pipe bowl end cap emitting wisps of smoke-like fog from the top of the bowl.
  • Dragon Slayer. Kids will have a hot time with this water spray ground feature reminiscent of a medieval dragon. Multiple water cannons are set up to crossfire at each other and the kids negotiating the dragon’s watery gauntlet. At night, a fiber-optic light source makes the water spurting from the dragon yellow and red to up the excitement.

For the pools I use a glazed tile in a deep blue color at the water line. Dull slip-resistant tile is not a good choice at the water line and is more difficult to clean. I utilize two to three coats of high-quality, light-colored epoxy pool paint with sand embedded on entry step or zero-entry surfaces that have no other slip-resistant surfacing. The pool coping is done in child safety grip-configured pre-cast stone in contrasting color to the tile and pool deck. Depth markers are glazed tiles embedded in the pool deck or pool walls. The bathhouse is a simple building with a combination ticket window/ operations office and minimal code-compliant restroom/shower facilities. After all, who spends a lot of time in the bathhouse at a modern leisure pool? To go with the German theme, the architecture is a contemporary version of the fachwerk construction style found in small German towns and villages.

In keeping with this theme and to create a sense of arrival, the entrance is gabled with heavy timber beams. Air conditioning or over-sized forced air ventilation is provided to keep the restrooms well ventilated and cool and to minimize steam and odor. The operations office has windows central to the facility for clear observation of the pools and decks.

Since the building is for a small-scale leisure pool, the snack bar is replaced by traditional and refrigerated vending machines (ice cream, cold candy bars and drinks). Lockers are provided on the outside of the building for ease of access and security. And, a family-friendly, ADA-accessible restroom with diaper change station is provided.

My dream facility site is a gently sloped small meadow surrounded by existing trees, so I can nestle the facility into the trees visually while keeping them away from the pools. Some limited grass areas are provided inside the fence for overflow seating on crowded days and for additional sunbathing.

Planters are located away from the water and limited to minimize maintenance while helping provide interest and environment. All landscaping and grass areas are irrigated for ease of care and maintenance.

Taken together, all of these elements make this leisure pool a true dream facility. But the biggest plus of all may be its price tag. While most municipal leisure pools run $3.5 million and up, this comes in at under $2 million. And for many small communities on limited budgets, that’s a real dream come true.