What Does Designing a Pool Mean to You?
BY DARYL MATZKE, PE
As Ramaker’s Aquatics Market Leader, the one question I’m rarely asked happens to be the most important one.
What does designing a pool mean to you?
This question is the aquatic engineer’s version of something all professionals ask themselves from time to time: Why do I do what I do? It’s important because it gets at the fundamentals of the job—and what it means to do the job well.
The answer, for me, starts as a story about the pools at Sauk Prairie High School.
When my daughter was younger, I would take her to the Sauk Prairie High School pool for open swim on the weekends. It’s what we did for fun—our father-daughter play time. That pool, which was part of the high school’s original aquatic facility, is gone now. When it was built in 1968, it was leading edge. But the community’s needs changed in the last half century. Codes evolved. Materials aged. Sauk Prairie Area School District grew.
With an aging pool and aquatic facility amenities in need of updates, the entire swim program faced an uncertain future.
Out with the old, in with the new pool
In 2017, Ramaker evaluated the Sauk Prairie High School pool for improvements, presenting recommendations on how to extend the life of the original pool while preparing for a larger aquatic facility renovation. There’s no way around it: Replacing swimming pools and diving infrastructure is expensive, and cost—however necessary renovations may be—presents a barrier for many school districts.
The Sauk Prairie School District passed a $64.9 million referendum to modernize the high school and update the district’s recreational facilities in 2020. Included in this funding package were plans to construct a new, $12 million aquatic facility with a seating capacity of 700. Plunkett Raysich Architects chose Ramaker to provide aquatic design and engineering services for the new pools.
Ramaker’s aquatic designers and engineers take pride in every project, but the Sauk Prairie High School pools were especially important to the firm. Based in Sauk City, Wisconsin, many of Ramaker’s employee-owners live in the Sauk Prairie School District. While the project’s scope was familiar, our connection to the community affected by it was intimate.
The new aquatic facility at Sauk Prairie High School opened for the 2021-22 girls swim season.
Now, Sauk Prairie High School boasts an eight-lane, 25-yard competition pool with ramp access. Diving, which had been out of the school’s athletics program for many years, has returned. And a second, warm-water pool with four lanes and a zero-depth beach entry is open for swimming lessons, classes, and recreational use. The aquatic facility offers amenities for all ages—serving toddlers dipping their toes in the water for the first times to seniors enjoying water aerobics.
What designing a pool means to me
The story of the Sauk Prairie High School aquatic facility matters not only because swimming and diving mean so much to the Sauk Prairie community. It matters because it’s a story playing out in school districts across the country.
So when clients ask what designing a pool means to me, I tell them about taking my daughter to the original Sauk Prairie High School pool to play on the weekends. I tell them about how our ACS Service Group Leader Eric Kaul enjoyed that same pool while he was in high school. How CIMS Service Group Leader Brandon Finley takes his kids to the Sauk Prairie Outdoor Pool for swim lessons throughout the summer. And how countless other Ramaker employee-owners will take their kids to these pools for swim meets as they grow up in the Sauk Prairie community.
Here’s the thing: At Ramaker, we know that we’re never just designing a pool.
When communities invest in new aquatic facilities, they’re doing far more than supporting their local swimming and diving programs. They’re also creating memories (like mine) for generations of local families while supporting lifetimes of learning, playing, competing, exercising, and socializing in the water.
At the end of the day, that’s what designing and engineering pools means to me. Bringing communities together around a lifelong sport.
ABOUT DARYL MATZKE, PE
Aquatics Market Leader
Daryl Matzke’s specialty lies in managing large-scale, multi-discipline developments. With 30 years of experience, clients trust his guidance and knowledge. Daryl has played a part in aquatics projects throughout the country, ranging from splash pads to competition pools to waterparks for both indoor and outdoor facilities. This experience includes new facility construction as well as the renovation of existing facilities. He has also served as a City Engineer and has worked with many municipal, commercial, and residential developers on civil and aquatic engineering projects.
Daryl’s areas of expertise include all aspects of aquatic engineering: plan development and calculation review, conceptual planning, regulatory review and permitting, project management, construction engineering, construction inspection, contract administration, and quality control. Throughout his years in the Aquatics industry, he has served in a variety of different roles, namely design engineer, project manager, client manager, senior engineer, manager of multiple departments, and business development. As a member of numerous code committees for WI, MN, and MAHC pool codes, Daryl understands design, operation, and safety considerations.