Boardwalk Bound

A quiet, northwest Chicago suburb, Niles, Ill., is about 800 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean and light years from Eastern Seaboard resorts such as Atlantic City, N.J. Yet visitors to the Niles Park District’s recently renovated OasisFunCenter and WaterPark will be pleasantly surprised to discover that it has the festive, rough-hewn look and feel of the city boardwalks common along the ocean’s shores.

“We wanted something different and fun--not just another ho-hum box of cinder blocks,” said Joseph LoVerde, executive director of the Niles Park District. “The new water park has plenty of slides, squirt guns and other toys for kids, and its distinctive appearance and special amenities appeal to adults. It seems to fit naturally into the surrounding residential neighborhood.”

Opened for public use in May 2008, the new OasisFunCenter and WaterPark has been well-received by the community, the park district staff and others who have used its pools or meeting facilities. This $4.7-million project--designed and built by Wight & Company--included the renovation of an existing zero-depth swimming pool, the addition of a 3,000-square-foot sprayground, and the construction of a new 12,000-square-foot recreation center and parking lot. The recreation center houses the pool manager and life-guard operation, administrative services, locker-room facilities, concession area and multi-purpose rooms available for rent.

Natural, Sustainable Design Elements

Several notable design elements make the OasisFunCenter and WaterPark strikingly reminiscent of shoreline buildings on the East coast. Its structure features natural-grain wood beams and siding, a tongue-and-groove wood roof deck and large, commercial-grade wood windows. The building’s attractive façade and portico create an inviting entrance. On the poolside, an old-fashioned colonnade and a long, sloping roof offer a welcome respite from the heat of the sun. While the abundant windows let in natural lighting, the deep overhangs usually prevent direct sunlight from entering the interior space, making the indoor rooms more comfortable for visitors and workers. This type of design also reduces lighting and air-conditioning costs.

Although the facility was not built with the intent of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, sustainability was an important consideration throughout the design and construction process. For example, all of the wood used in the project was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which sets the standards worldwide for guiding forest management toward sustainable outcomes. The decision to use wood may also preserve resources, since wood generally lasts longer than steel for structures at swimming pools because of the metal corrosion caused by chlorine and condensation.

The building’s crescent-shaped design embraces the pool deck--adding visual interest--while at the same time helping to minimize its environmental footprint. The energy-efficient mechanical systems were left exposed, thus eliminating the need for materials required to keep them hidden from view.

Recycling Saves Time And Energy

The project management team was just as conscientious about the environment during construction of the OasisFunCenter and WaterPark, beginning in the fall of 2007 with the demolition of two buildings, the pool deck and sidewalks. The two buildings had approximately 11,000 square feet of floor space, and the pool deck and sidewalk comprised 5,000 square feet. To preserve resources and lower costs, the decision was made to crush the cinder block, brick and concrete from these structures on-site, and use them as aggregate base for the parking lot. The market value of this recycled material was more than $40,000. As an added benefit, the demolition contractor agreed to crush the materials at no charge, since they did not have to incur hauling and disposal expenses for moving the debris materials off-site.

The demolition generated 2,760 tons of material, but only 80 tons went unused and had to be hauled away, which meant less fuel used by trucks, reduced carbon emissions into the air and fewer materials in landfills. Wight & Company crushed 2,600 tons of concrete, cinder block and brick, recycled 60 tons of steel and aluminum, and donated 20 tons of lumber to the Illinois Fire Service Institute for use during fire-safety training.

Community residents and other guests appreciate the large parking area as well as the water park’s amenities and special features. The pool area, for example, has several shade structures, including a sun-blocking canopy to protect the children in the wading pool and a covered eating area outside the new concession stand. The facility also has new locker rooms and separate family changing areas for pool pa­trons. Another enhancement was putting safety surfacing on the pool deck.

As is the case with all building projects, cost management and related economic issues were a top priority for the park district leaders. The budget was carefully controlled from project design through construction, and OasisFunCenter and WaterPark was completed on schedule and in budget.

In addition, the aesthetic appeal of the new building and its improved, user-friendly design will enable the park district to generate increased revenues year-round. For example, the recreation center features easily divisible multi-purpose rooms to accommodate swimming and birthday parties, large banquets or small groups. In fact, it now has about twice as much rentable space as the old facility, and the park district is optimistic that it may be able to double--or even triple--total revenues from the water park and meeting rooms, many of which were reserved prior to the opening of the facility.

“When we can build a facility that’s good for our budget, the community and the environment, that’s a win-win-win for everyone,” said LoVerde.

Ken Osmun , PE, DBIA, LEED AP, is president of construction for Wight & Company, which provides design, construction and civil engineering services for public and private sector projects. Osmun may be reached via e-mail at kosmun