Aquatic-center amenities equal to those of water parks
By Liam O’Mahony
After several years of planning, the city of Chandler, Ariz., unveiled its new state-of-the-art Mesquite Groves Aquatic Center in July 2008. Operated jointly with the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD), the facility made a big impact in its first full year of operation by providing year-round classes, programs and events to more than 190,000 visitors.
Located adjacent to Basha High School, the city’s sixth aquatic center is the first phase of a 100-acre community park that will be developed in coming years. When the site was selected and the facility was designed, the main objective was to extend the hours of public swimming while maximizing taxpayer dollars.
“Mesquite Groves Aquatic Center is a unique joint-use facility that operates under an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Chandler Unified School District,” says Sheri Passey, Chandler Aquatics Superintendent. “The IGA determines priority use, reimbursable expenses, liability and other details. The facility’s layout provides the district access to the competition pool for conducting physical-education classes during school hours, while also allowing the city to operate it year-round and remain open to the public during school hours to offer residents a range of classes and programs, regardless of the season.”
The facility is open daily March through November for public-swim hours, aqua-fit group exercise classes and special events. It offers evening lap-swim and learn-to-swim classes while serving as the home of the BashaHigh School boys’ and girls’ swim teams.
A Practical Design
Residents approved funding to build the aquatic center in 2003. The total design and construction cost was $8.8 million, and the CUSD contributed $694,000. The city is responsible for operation and maintenance, and is reimbursed for utilities up to $171,000 per year from the district.
“To enable … public use and accommodate the high-school programs, the facility was designed with a practical, innovative configuration that separates the leisure component from the 25-yard competitive section,” says Traci Tenkely, aquatic coordinator and manager of Mesquite Groves. “The leisure pool sits at a higher elevation with clear sight lines to the competition pool, affording parents the ability to watch children swimming in both areas.”
Water Park Allure
The aquatic center provides customers with a recreational experience that rivals many popular water theme parks, with its dazzling array of interactive amenities and the capacity to accommodate up to 720 swimmers. The features include an eight-lane competition and diving pool with two 1-meter diving boards. The play pool consists of a zero-depth entry and two water slides (one open-flume and one closed-flume), a 250-foot lazy river (with a capacity of 60 inner tubes), with bridge showers and a tumble bucket brigade lingering above floating swimmers.
Other popular areas include a water vortex, an instructional area, an SCS Interactive play structure with two toddler slides, water sprays and a giant 752-gallon “Big Blue” bucket that dumps water on swimmers every two minutes. The bucket is even equipped with a bell that alerts swimmers to prepare for the inevitable dousing from above. The facility includes a water-spray pad for toddlers and parents, ample amounts of shade, pool furniture, locker rooms, a training classroom and a concession area. The buildings around the pool area are situated to provide additional shade in the morning and afternoon; a large shade-canopy also can be extended between the two buildings for maximum shade.
“Mesquite Groves is a very open, colorful and welcoming pool with a water amusement park ambiance for parents and children,” Tenkely says. “The layout of all the interactive water features is appealing and blends together so swimmers of all abilities know where they are within the boundaries of each area.”
The lap-swim section has stadium-style concrete bench-seating, which serves as a spectator area during high-school swimming competitions. On the leisure side, a large teaching area doubles as a splash-down area for the water slides.
The facility’s design and programming received the 2009 ArizonaParks and Recreation Association’s Outstanding Facility Award. It was Chandler’s third aquatic center to achieve the distinction, as DesertOasisAquaticCenter won in 1993, followed by HamiltonAquaticCenter in 2001.
Hidden throughout the site are additional measures that aim to reduce the impact of the facility on the area’s natural resources. For instance, the pool site originally was densely populated with Mesquite, Blue Palo Verde and other native trees. Of 787 trees, 325 were salvaged and reused in the project and at other city park sites. Preserving the trees saved a significant amount of money due to their maturity and their fit for plush natural landscaping. In the pool areas, artificial turf was used to reduce water consumption and alleviate maintenance expenses. The facility’s irrigation system reclaimed water, and a native hydro-seed grass was used in retention and landscaping, creating a Sonoran Desert native plan.
For more information about the MesquiteGrovesAquaticCenter and the city’s aquatic programs, visit www.chandleraz.gov/aquatics.