The leisure aquatic elements of the $24 million Tom Muehlenbeck Center reinforce the sense of this being a community-focused center. The feeling begins with the experience of the park site, which is enhanced by the architecture and the flowing interior. The integration of all these elements — the program, building, landscaping, pools, materials and space — gives the impression that there was no separation in design thought from inside to outside.

The site, located in the center of a community park surrounded by three schools, held a particular challenge because a vegetated wetland creek split it diagonally. But that waterfeature served as the shaping force behind the entire programming and design of the center.

The sustainable notion of preserving the creek and building on the “creek side curve” swept through the community involvement process so that every patron had to experience the park site upon arrival. Parking is located on one side of the wetland creek and guests must cross through a series of strategically placed bridges that direct them to various key building entry elements, one for the center and one for the outdoor leisure aquatics area. The bridges also link to various park bike path and jogging trails. Daily crossing of these bridges keeps people connected with the natural site vegetation, water-flow dynamics and ecology.

The aquatic elements were designed to not only flow seamlessly between the two indoor elements, but also between indoor and outdoor elements. Creative use of a drop slide from a leisure slide platform allows the 25-yard lap pool to be used as a leisure amenity. Movement between the indoor pools is facilitated by vertical sliding doors, which provide sound isolation or direct connection, depending upon the desired pool use. A strong visual connection between the inside and outside bodies of water, as well as views to the adjacent wetland creek, maximizes the flowing, free-form nature of the leisure pool space.

The various recreation and aquatic spaces, social lounges, arts/crafts, pre-school area, and game rooms, were the direct result of community and local school input. All these activities are centered around a main lobby/control desk.

Public artwork orients patrons the moment they enter the building — and then they get a glimpse into all the active spaces that create the dynamic, flowing atmosphere. The creative use of moving doors and windows, and a mixture of amenities for all ages of the community, meet the need for diverse aquatics programs and experiences.

Nuts & Bolts

Indoor competition pool:

  • 8-lane, 25-yard pool
  • 2, 1-meter diving boards
  • Drop slide

Indoor leisure pool:

  • 6,305 square feet
  • Water slide
  • 2-lane lap area
  • Current channel, vortex, playdish, underwater seating, open play

Outdoor leisure pool:

  • 7,778 square feet
  • Large open water-play area
  • 3 water slides
  • Underwater benches
  • Shallow children’s area, spraypad, waterfall
  • Leisure natatorium, with adjacent wet classroom/birthday room
  • 2,829-square-foot bathhouse/concession/pavilion