The bond was passed and the direction for the building of the pool came down from city administrators. “Complement, don’t duplicate the existing aquatic centers, attract the teen market without alienating families, and pay homage to our sister city.”
As a point of reference, Arlington, Texas’ sister city is Bad Konigshofen, Germany.
It was a tall order to fill, but Park Director Pete Jamieson, city staff and talented contractors rose to the challenge.
Design and build contracts were awarded to Brinkley Sargent Architects and Counsilman-Hunsaker, aquatic design and engineering. Construction of the $3 million Bad Konigshofen Family Aquatic Center started in 2005. A distinct vision, clear direction and separate contractors working as an integrated unit resulted in the creation of a unique facility and recreational experience for residents of Arlington.
The pool was formally dedicated May 20, 2006.
With the first summer under the belt, Aquatic Program Manager Kim Lange was proud to say, “The new Bad Konigshofen Family Aquatic Center in Stovall Park has been wonderfully received and became one of our most popular attractions this summer.”
So, how did they do it?
The History of a Half-Century Relationship
During the summer of 1951, German tourists, led by Bad Konigshofen Town Manager Kurt Zuhlke, visited Arlington. Local lore says the stop was unscheduled to accommodate the meeting of pen pals. Zuhlke had the opportunity to meet Arlington Mayor Tom Vandergriff.
Zuhlke told Vandergriff of the difficulties his town was facing due to the influx of hundreds of people from the communist East. (Bad Konigshofen was on the border between East Germany and West Germany.) The people in the town were suffering a shortage of food and clothing.
A community drive to collect food, clothing and gifts for the people of Bad Konigshofen resulted in four boxcar shipments of supplies from Arlington, to Germany. Thus a friendship began that has continued over the years. Today, the German town has a recreational park named for Arlington. A 12-foot stainless steel International Peace and Friendship Monument stands in a downtown Arlington park across from City Hall. The monument was completed by Arlington sculptors and visiting artists from Germany.
“The Bad Konigshofen Family Aquatic Center is our most recent tribute to a relationship that has evolved into a friendship that will last forever,” said current Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck at the facility dedication.
Location, Location, Location
The Bad Konigshofen facility is located in the southern portion of Arlington and is bounded by Interstate 20. The area is one of growth for the city. As with any growth area, residents were clamoring for facilities. Funds were earmarked from the 1997 park bond election for the design and construction of a new pool, but those funds were scheduled toward the end of the bond period, thus the delay into 2005.
The city’s previous aquatic projects set the standard for the period in which they were built. When the 50-meter, L-shaped pool at Randol Mill became dated, the city replaced it with a leisure pool filled with current amenities. Expectations were high for the new facility in Stoval Park.
Scot Hunsaker, President of Counsilman-Hunsaker, talked about some of the special design features for Bad Konigshofen:”The park setting is rural with working farms as neighbors. We wanted to incorporate the rural setting into the design of the facility.”
The innovative approach included building the ticket booth and administrative offices to resemble a grain silo, and the bathhouse and restrooms a barn. Natural stone and tans and steel complement the buildings--a far cry from the primary colors usually used in such facilities. The look is one of sophistication--attractive to an older crowd.
The pools are on three different levels, and as you enter the facility, you look over the pools, not through them. The first level is a zero-depth spray pad constructed of stainless steel pipes. The pipes are in a variety of configurations and shoot water from all directions. A waterfall flows into the second pool, giving the impression of filling it. On the third level is the lap pool with one-meter diving board and sun deck. This is a favorite place for teens to hang out, separated from the area populated by mothers and tots.
Another feature especially popular with teens is the drop slide. A covered slide twists and turns its way to the water and deposits riders five feet above the water level. A run out was constructed for the slide catch, allowing maximum use of the pool for programs.
While the pool does not yet offer water basketball and volleyball, the stanchions are in and waiting for the equipment to be purchased at a later date.
Fences were pushed back to create additional space for abundant landscaping.
“We built a more refined pool, a more developed pool, one that is young adult-oriented. We have more of a resort feel without going over the top,” said Hunsaker. “We paid attention to visual lines of sight, maintainability, traffic flow and affordability. As a result, we have created a unique experience for the residents of Arlington.”
We Never Anticipated the Pool Being This Successful
Attendance and revenue both climbed with the opening of the Bad Konigshofen Family Aquatic Center last year. For the first time ever, attendance surpassed the 100,000 mark.
Several times last summer the new pool hit capacity, and entrance was actually limited.
The success of the new pool is actually a double-edged sword in some respects. While the learn-to-swim program, public safety use and rentals were at or above expectations, the crowds at the pool eliminated the use of organized lap swimming. “Perhaps it was our honeymoon year,” said Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Bill Gilmore, “but there were just too many people. We’ll re-evaluate the situation next year and see if we can open the lanes for lap swimming.”
Gordon Robertson, Park Planning Manager, is very pleased with the new facility, and there are a few things he will tweak to make the facility even better. The first is deck space. Although there is generous deck space, the sunbathing teens could use more. There are also pinch points with traffic patterns, and small drainage problems when the grass doesn’t drain quickly enough and gets muddy. Additional decking this year will remedy the problems.
The second is the addition of a people counter. “We had young kids counting people coming in and out last summer--doing the math continually.” These were the same kids that had to limit admission when capacity was reached.
The price of success!
If Kurt Zuhlke and Tom Vandergriff could return for a visit, they would be pleased with the friendship of their respective towns and the tribute that Arlington, Texas, has paid Bad Konigshofen in designing its new facility to resemble the agrarian style of a small region of Germany.
Linda Stalvey is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Parks & Rec Business who gave up Washington, D.C., public relations to indulge her passion for parks, the environment and outdoor activities in Medina, Ohio. You can reach her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.