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Shade structure allows fun in the sun

Exteriors, Features | May 1, 2010 | By:

A shade structure at a city water park allows Minnesotans to enjoy long-awaited summers

In Minnesota, summers are a celebration. After months of being confined to snow-covered houses in frigid temperatures, Minnesotans relish every warm, sunny day that comes along. Water activities are a must for many residents, who flock to lakes and outdoor pools to take advantage of agreeable weather.

To offer a more enjoyable place for families spending a day of fun in the sun, the city of Shakopee, Minn. decided to upgrade its water park. The redesign of the Shakopee Aquatics Park, now known as SandVenture Aquatic Park, involved a building expansion with the addition of a shade structure to bring a festive feel to the space while providing much-needed shade. “People do not want to be in the sun all the time,” says Jeff Oertel, AIA, principle of Oertel Architects, St. Paul, Minn. “One could actually watch kids stepping into the shaded areas to avoid the hot concrete on their bare feet when out of the pool.”

Because of the seasonal operation of the facility, the city wanted the structure to be easily removed and stored each winter. Oertel Architects paid careful attention to detail of the design of the structure to ensure it was technically sound while matching the overall look of the park. A crucial aspect of planning the structure was the selection of the appropriate fabric. “Fabric selection is complicated, more complicated than one outside the industry would expect,” Oertel says. “Fade resistance, colorfastness, wind resistance, tear resistance, aesthetic appeal and other factors had to be considered.” A PVC-coated polyester fabric was deemed the ideal choice.

G & J Awning and Canvas, Sauk Rapids, Minn., needed precise measurements of the structure before fabrication could begin, because the cables required for installation had to be ordered in exact sizes. As the date of the grand opening of the revamped facility quickly approached, G & J fabricated and installed the structure on time. “We worked late hours and did what we had to do to finish the job,” says Gary Bauermann, co-owner of G & J. The completion of the project was an accomplishment for the awning company, which had never fabricated a tension structure as large as the one at the park. “It was something different, a learning experience,” recalls Bauermann. “Doing something new is always fun.”

Oertel found satisfaction in the project at the grand opening of the park, where “kids ran around the site and used the facility for its intended purpose.” The structure, too, serves its function, protecting SandVenture visitors as they bask in the long-awaited moments of Minnesota summers.

Abbie Yarger is a freelance writer based in St. Louis Park, Minn.

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