Onesty Family Aquatic Center was designed with family fun in mind. Focusing on environmental sustainability, the city staff and community members worked with the design team to achieve their dream of an attractive, up-to-date and highly utilized aquatics facility.

Despite numerous site constraints, the project incorporates an extensive wish list of features into a compact 7,400-square-foot leisure pool with a large beach entry, water-play structure, slide, current channel, diving board and hydrotherapy spa. The facility’s design includes three distinct areas: Shallow water (tot), intermediate water (family) and deep water (teen).

The zero-depth entry beach area is lined with spray features and lounge chairs. Tots can enjoy a small boat-themed slide while older children might eagerly await the tipping bucket or zip down the tube slide in the aquatic play structure that anchors the beach area. As the shallow water transitions to intermediate water, underwater bench seats are positioned to provide an opportunity for onlookers to take in the activity. Because this is the most popular part of the pool, there’s plenty of shade and seating, and restrooms and concessions are located in close proximity.

The intermediate depth area, with active and passive water, also includes an 8-foot-wide serpentine current channel. It offers a leisurely float around the pool, leading to a lagoon with hydrotherapy jets where swimmers can sit beneath a shade canopy and relax. There’s also floatable-walkway crossing activity.

Separated from the tot (shallow water) areas are three 25-yard lap lanes that transition from 3 feet, 6 inches to 12 feet deep. This deep-water area includes a diving board and ample space for swim lessons and classes.

The Onesty Family Aquatic Center is located in Meade Park, a 5.6-acre neighborhood park in the historic Woolen Mills neighborhood of Charlottesville. During the Civil War, a water-operated mill was used to manufacture woolen uniforms for the Confederate Army. Homes and lots around the mill area are mostly small in scale, and the area has become a popular neighborhood for a mix of longtime residents, university students and young professionals. Large trees, dark red brick, wooden siding and mottled native stonewalls characterize the neighborhood.

Before construction of the Onesty Aquatic Center, an existing pool was located in the back portion of the park directly behind some homes and across a creek from a small parking lot and abandoned ball field. Because the old pool was so close to the creek, it had been elevated out of the flood plain, exposing an unsightly mechanical area surrounded by a chain-link fence.

To improve access to parking, increase visibility for security, create more open space across the creek in the park and separate the pool more from adjacent homes, the design team proposed relocating the new aquatics facility to the abandoned ball field site and expanding the parking. Once the neighborhood embraced relocation, design issues such as preserving the large trees, matching the local building materials and screening the pool from the surrounding streets became key.

To address these concerns, the pool was nestled into the site between the trees, and native stonewalls were used along with complementary stone and brick colors on the bathhouse and filtration building. Additionally, designers chose subdued colors for the slides and an architectural wood trellis with hanging baskets for shade and additional screening.

In developing Onesty Family Aquatic Center, designers embraced innovative design measures to reduce this project’s impact on the environment. The design collects all of the runoff from the parking lot, pool deck and bathhouse roof into two bioswales. These bioswales allow rainwater to infiltrate the ground slowly, reducing runoff and cleaning the storm water before it leaves the site. The pool was designed in a way that would not disturb any wetland areas along the stream, and most of the existing trees were preserved.

To lower energy consumption, the bathhouse was designed without a central air-conditioning system, and utilizes low-flow, dual flush toilet fixtures and no-touch automatic shut-off sinks to reduce the water use of the restrooms. Several skylights effectively light the bathhouse during operating hours. And to allow the city’s facility management team to control, monitor and analyze the energy consumption of each piece of equipment, the mechanical systems on this project, including ventilation, heating, lighting and pool equipment, are connected to the city’s central energy management system.

The project opened in June 2009 to capacity crowds. Overall attendance for the first season exceeded 30,000 visits.


Opened: 2009

Total Construction Cost: $3.4 million

Aquatic space: 7,400 square feet

Dream amenities: Leisure pool featuring beach entry, water slide tower, tot slide, crossing activity, teacup, water sprays, three 25-yard lap lanes, 8-foot wide current channel, hydrotherapy spa


  • Dream Designer: Kimley-Horn and Associates
  • Bathhouse Design: Bowie Gridley Architects
  • Aquatic Designer: Counsilman-Hunsaker


  • Aurora Pentair: Pumps
  • Bradley Corp.: Lockers
  • Diamond Brite Pool Finish: Flooring
  • Lincoln Equipment: Cleaners/vacuums, lane markers
  • Neptune-Benson: Filter
  • Pentair Water Commercial Pool and Aquatics: Lighting
  • Seimens Water Technologies: Chemical controllers
  • Spectrum Products: Ladders/grab bars
  • Splashtacular: Water slides
  • Sun Ports: Sun shades
  • Whitewater West Industries: Water-play equipment