The waterpark industry is growing fast with themed resort installations, a popular weekend destination for families within driving distances. Since 2000, the indoor waterpark resort market has grown from $700 million to $4.8 billion in 2007, according to The New York Times. And since 2002, the number of indoor hotel waterparks increased more than 3-1/2 times, according to a report by Jeff Coy and Bill Haralson, hospitality consultants.
That growth is spilling into single-family homes and residential developments. Builders say they?re adding more and more features to backyard pools that once were only found at thrill-packed waterparks. Slides, waterfalls, rockwork, beach entries, tanning benches and splash fountains are all favorite waterpark features being added to residential pools. Experts say manufacturers already have capitalized on such add-ons, as illustrated by slide makers, whose product is the crux of the waterpark establishment.
It?s not hard to see where the inspiration for the backyard slide came from: Its popularity on the playground made it a shoo-in for residential applications, and the same thing is happening with water slides in backyard pools. However, the slides are more sophisticated and varied, according to Judith Leblein Josephs, operations analyst at Water Technology Inc., a waterpark designer in Beaver Dam, Wis.
Having the entertainment at home also makes it easier for parents to watch the kids rather than worry about what they?re doing at a shopping mall.
?People are getting tired of going to their weekend homes only to mow the lawn and spend half of the time unpacking and working, leaving them just one day to enjoy,? said Peter Simon, senior designer in commercial sales at Neuman Pools Inc. in Beaver Dam, Wis. ?They finally say, ?To hell with it. Let?s spend some of this money in our backyard.??
Builders say consumers often ask to incorporate a feature they saw at a recent waterpark or resort visit.
?I get a lot of requests: ?Can you make these waves like in the wave pool, or can you do this or that??? said Sean Shiers, president/owner of Pooltime Services Inc. in Lake Worth, Fla. One of his clients requested a 135-foot lazy river ride for a high-end residential project. The elaborate aquascape includes simulated white-water rapids and a 12-foot-high, all-mosaic-tile slide placed in the middle of a rock waterfall. Plus, the client?s children can slip out of their third-story bedroom window down a tube slide into a pool.
The waterpark trend is weaving its way into the condo and homeowners? association market as well, said Sonia Traugott, co-owner of Sunset Pools Inc. in Katy, Texas. She noted that apartment complexes and real estate subdivisions with shared neighborhood pools are installing waterpark-type pools, inspired by all the bells and whistles found in the commercial sector. Visiting homeowners often take the ideas they see at these complexes and incorporate them into their own backyards.
Even customers who budget for a low-cost pool request waterfeatures. Josephs said with today?s pools, people will buy whatever they can afford. In fact, pool builders often suggest that a small, extra investment will make a difference in the long run for homeowners.
?It?s about what you want to afford, not what can you afford,? said Michael Giannamore, vice president of Aqua Pool & Patio Inc. in East Windsor, Conn. His company has built pools out of quarries, and many with beach entries and sun benches.
Changes in the waterpark industry have made a lasting impact on the pool industry, Josephs said. ?Swimming itself has been redefined by the waterpark industry,? she said, adding that all pool-goers, residential or municipal, want the moving water, sprays, fountains and rocks associated with the nearby aquatics park.
?Kids are going to be bored if they don?t have that,? Josephs said.