A Pioneering Waterpark
Bad Königshofen Family Aquatic Center
With its unique agrarian-focused design and sister-city relationship, the Bad Königshofen Family Aquatic Center in Arlington, Texas, is not your typical waterpark. And that's just how the city of Arlington wanted it.
"They wanted to get away from the McDonald's Playland type of waterpark," said Stephen Springs, a principal with Brinkley Sargent Architects, the Dallas-based design firm that helped bring the project to fruition. "We've seen the industry going away from that, and this is the first one on the ground that we've done that went that direction."
Bad Königshofen is Arlington's sister city in Bavaria, Germany, known for its natural mineral baths and health resorts.
"We had that relationship with them since 1951, and over time we've kept the relationship going," said De'Onna Garner, parks project manager for the city of Arlington. "They built a park in their city, Arlington Park, so we named one of our largest pavilions after them. When we decided to build the new aquatic center in Stovall Park, decided to name it after them as well."
The city's desire to incorporate this relationship into the theme of the new aquatic center presented a unique challenge for the design team.
"To me, the hardest part was coming up with the initial concept, dealing with this sister-city thing, but not wanting to have it be themed with gingerbread, lederhosen, beer steins—the Bavarian imagery," Springs explained. "They weren't into that, but they wanted to respect the sister-city relationship, and embracing the German agrarian heritage in Texas was a good solution."
In a nod to the significant German immigrant heritage in early Texas, a design theme emerged that used regional materials and avoided the typically bright colors generally found in municipal aquatic facilities.
"We decided that the feel for the park should reflect the German agrarian feel, so that's really what drove the design principles associated with it," said Garner. "The other portion was we didn't want all bright colors. We wanted something totally different."
"They had another waterpark in town that they didn't want to compete with, and that had a more typical selection of amenities," Springs added. "They wanted this one to have its own identity."
Farm-related themes abound in the new aquatic center, where visitors pass split-rail fencing and walk up to a staff and ticketing building that is literally a finished-out grain bin, partially clad in stone to give the impression that it's been standing there forever. The bathhouse and concession building were designed to resemble a farmhouse, complete with a back porch and a "dog run" design between components to channel the breeze. Custom shade structures help to complete the look.
Another way the team differentiated the project from a typical municipal pool was to use a large amount of landscaping, focusing particularly on xeriscaping with native species.
"We tried to stick with native species," Garner explained, adding that the buildings also "lend themselves to not making you feel like you're in a waterpark."
Within the park itself, there are amenities for all ages, with a bit of extra emphasis on Arlington's teenage population. A 40-foot-diameter spraypad overlooks a play pool and doubles as a fountain during the off-season. A diving board and drop slide share the deep-water area near the four lap lanes and sunning "wet deck."
Water-play features continue the design theme, representing a "pipe farm" of plain stainless steel. A wood-and-rope fence and waterfall serve to separate the bodies of water, as well as dividing the teen area from the children's area. A custom waterslide platform is designed like a derrick, rather than the typical waterslide structure, and includes two flumes.
Participation at the aquatic facility skyrocketed, and it has gone far beyond expectations.
"Financially it's been a real success," Springs said. "The city subsidizes their recreation and parks system, so they don't look to these facilities to be money-makers. That said, this was the only pool that operated in the black in town."
"We exceeded participation numbers by far," Garner added. "We hit maximum capacity several times last year and actually had to turn some people away. It's a good problem to have."