The city of Frisco, Texas, ranked as the fourth fastest-growing city in the nation in a U.S. Census Bureau report released in May 2016. The Frisco RoughRiders minor-league baseball team has seized opportunities to draw in new residents and reward loyal fans with major stadium renovations. Since 2014, RoughRiders’ ownership and the city of Frisco have invested more than $7 million in facility upgrades and improvements to Dr Pepper Ballpark, including the unique retrofit of a concourse entertainment area above the outfield wall.“I always wanted a signature visual element for the ballpark that no one would ever get used to seeing, like a giant roller coaster at an amusement park,” says Chuck Greenberg, RoughRiders’ general partner and CEO. “I wanted something everyone would want to come and see, to create buzz, and attract new fans to our ballpark and the ballpark experience.”
The renovated concourse is sponsored by Choctaw Casinos & Resorts, Durant, Okla., which is an easy drive from the stadium. The new event party space includes the Choctaw Lazy River (a 3-foot-deep pool in a figure-eight configuration), a cascading waterfall, two large rain curtains and two open-air cabanas to serve guests. Last fall, the Choctaw Lazy River project earned distinction as Ballpark Digest’s Best Ballpark Improvement over $1 million.
The city of Frisco contracted architect Patrick Magill, principal at Magill Associates in Plano, Texas, and pool design consultant Tyler, Texas-based The Brannon Corp. to design the pool area, two party Cabanas and water features. “We didn’t have a lot of space to work with but the goal was to have something significant, so we removed the existing pool and designed one that stretched out over 180 feet, adding a concrete and wood seating deck,” Magill recalls.
Greenberg says he wanted to add a current so fans could float in rafts in the pool—thus, the lazy river concept was born.
Gold Medal Pools, Frisco, Texas, became the 11,500-square-foot renovation’s general contractor. Josh Sandler, CEO of Gold Medal Pools, says the Choctaw Lazy River brought some unusual challenges. “The entire project is adjacent to a city street and set into a hillside, and we had to rebuild all of the components into a 9-foot embankment,” Sandler describes. “To me, the [lazy river’s] equipment room under the stadium is just as impressive as the con- course structures. We created a series of custom-built, very large commercial filters and their sheer size meant we had to crane them out over the street to drop them into place.”
A fast three-month project timeline and very constricted staging area further complicated matters. From a purchasing standpoint, Sandler had to order equipment the day his firm was awarded the job to receive components on time. To achieve a project that would normally take more than twice the allotted time, crews worked seven days a week. “Baseball season had already started and our deadline was in June, when a series of home games were scheduled. In addition to immediate procurement, this project had a lot of moving parts in a tight space and we had to rigorously coordinate and schedule our resources,” Sandler says. “There were many nights when we had to have the groundskeeper turn on the lights so we could keep working.”
The Choctaw Lazy River’s figure-eight shape and consistent 3-foot depth allowed the team to direct the water’s flow and maintain the consistent current needed to glide guests in inner tubes through the “river”. To form the pool’s structure on schedule, the crew used nine Gunite pressure guns and completed the entire process in a single day.
The pool’s interior is coated with a polymeric resin. After applying epoxy to the Gunite structure, the crew used compressed air to shoot the poly resin through a gun equipped with a propane flame at the base of the nozzle, which heats the resin and bonds it to the epoxy. “This resin was a great choice because the surface is PH neutral so it makes it a lot easier to balance the chemicals in the water; it’s very smooth so it’s easy on the feet; and it’s a very durable coasting so the water doesn’t etch it or change its texture,” Sandler notes.
Holding more than 68,000 gallons of water, the Choctaw Lazy River is the largest body of water in a U.S. sports stadium. As guests drift along the current, they track incoming home-run balls just as if they were sitting in the stands, but the RoughRiders also equipped the concourse area with lifeguards who use fishing nets to catch the balls.
PHOTOS: Frisco RoughRiders unless otherwise noted