• Top Projects – 1st Place Recreation, Daily Journal of Commerce

Each year, thousands of vacationers flock to Central Oregon’s pristine mountain resort, Sunriver, to relax, connect and take in all the resort has to offer. The community’s abundant amenities were bolstered in 2021 with the addition of The Cove Aquatics Center in the resort’s core. The 10,000 s.f. natatorium features a freshwater pool, lazy river, an outdoor/indoor waterslide, 14-person spa pool, spacious indoor and outdoor deck, full-service poolside bar and locker rooms.

The center unites the existing outdoor pool, which R&H performed a major renovation of in 2015, via large overhead doors on three sides of the building. With an open air feel at the north, west and south faces of the structure, guests enjoy a fully immersive aquatics experience in the warmer months and can utilize the center’s state-of-the-art indoor amenities year-round.

Blending Past and Present

The Aquatic Center’s design reflects the Northwest Contemporary style of the resort’s historic core buildings, including the Great Hall. Formerly known as Camp Abbot, the Great Hall was constructed of more than 500 pine logs and built by the US Army Corps of Engineers as a training center in 1942. This historic building set the tone for all future development when the resort community was founded in the mid-1960s. Today, The Cove Aquatics Center is situated in the heart of Sunriver, adjacent to the lodge.

The Cove’s wood-framed structure incorporates vaulted wood beams, lava rock and muted tones consistent with the neighboring structures and serve as a nod to the community’s heritage. The building’s entry features an eye-catching butterfly roofline design that provides a sense of prominence in wayfinding for guests as they traverse the resort by bike, on foot and in vehicles. Project architect, DKA Architecture (now Cole Architects), worked closely with Sunriver to design in accordance with their overall goals of providing a facility that was a positive memory generator and encouraged a sense of discovery for resort guests.

Getting Ahead of Challenges, Maximizing Opportunities

Early in the design and preconstruction phase of the project, Sunriver communicated the critical importance of the existing outdoor pool and onsite restaurant, The Spotted Frog, remaining open and operational throughout construction. With large crowds concentrated in the guestrooms and suites surrounding the pool and lodge, this facility is the go-to pool and casual restaurant for those that choose to stay near the lodge and therefore the resort could not afford any closures or major disruptions. Additionally, all vertical construction needed to occur between Labor Day and Memorial Day in order to avoid peak summer season.

To add a greater level of complexity to the challenges above, COVID hit just before the project commenced. This added a level of uncertainty and created one of the most difficult building environments seen to date with material delays, crew member shortages, closures of services at the resort and more. Luckily, Sunriver made the commitment to prioritize this project and proceed with construction as planned.

In the fall of 2019, a year before the start of construction, a new entry was created by excavating the hillside next to the existing pool and the entry adjacent to the restaurant was relocated. Expediting these improvements helped crews get ahead of the impending ground freeze and also allow ample time for the landscaping to adjust to ensure the guest experience in and out of the pool facility was smooth and welcoming throughout construction.

Then in Spring 2020, our team was able to take advantage of the near-vacant resort to perform early work in preparation for the Labor Day official project kick off. Several trees were removed while others were staked for protection around the site. At this time, lumber for the project was pre-ordered and able to be stored near the site to avoid any downstream material delays. This also saved costs as the team was able to get ahead of the spike in lumber pricing.

In addition to the early site work, R&H’s superintendent added valuable insights on sequencing and early procurement during the design and preconstruction phase in order to meet the resort’s tight timeframe once construction began. Building in Sunriver during the cold winter months is no small feat with single digit temperatures, rock-solid frozen ground and typically heavy snowfall. Weather, coupled with the occupied nature of the community and the need to keep the adjacent Spotted Frog open during construction, posed numerous obstacles for our team to overcome.

To get ahead of these challenges, our team knew that any critical excavation work needed to happen before the ground froze for the winter or be contained within the building. This meant that exterior excavation work for the process piping of the pool, typically done later in the project, was expedited during the first months of construction, then covered while the building shell was erected. Similarly, excavation work on the interior of the building was delayed until after the structure was in place, an uncommon approach that was necessary due to the timing of the work in relation to the sub-freezing temps. With the shell in place, excavation and the interior slab pour was performed via access through the large overhead doors allowing for equipment to flow through the building as if it were an outdoor setting.

Another challenge posed was uniting old and new, both above and below ground. The existing restaurant building, The Spotted Frog, needed to be stitched together and join the new natatorium building at a difficult intersection point, the active commercial kitchen. A of wall within the kitchen was removed and the grease inceptor quickly rerouted to keep kitchen services functioning. ground, utilities for the existing facility had to be rerouted and those for the new facility required tying in with existing lines, many of which were decades old. On top of this, utility lines beneath the site also serviced surrounding buildings including the main lodge, the most active of all buildings in the area. This required precise coordination with utility providers, Sunriver and the construction team.

Close coordination with the pool contractor, Anderson Poolworks kept the project tracking as well. Anderson’s team was from out of state and typically would have lodged in Bend, 16 miles away, but because the resort had ample availability due to COVID, they were able to stay onsite. This prevented any transportation challenges on the roads from Bend to Sunriver that can be treacherous for those not familiar with Central Oregon winter driving conditions. Keeping team members at the site prevented any delays in decision making and construction sequencing while helping overall team comradery.

Additionally, efficiencies were added by utilizing R&H crew members to self-perform several scopes of work including all the building framing, interior trim, carpentry, and exterior siding. Having this talented team of craftsmen and women on staff is always of benefit to R&H’s team but particularly during COVID times when subcontractor availability and resources became extremely stretched. These crew members were also working on several other projects within the resort. This meant that they could quickly transition from one project to the next to keep efficiency high across the board for Sunriver.

Building with Guest Experience in Mind

The building’s interior features are warm and inviting, while blending seamlessly with the surrounding area. Over fifty heavy timbers comprise the building’s canopy and walls with the largest being 42” in width and spanning over 40’ in length. These beams were sourced locally, shipped to Canada to be pressure-treated and then delivered to the site for installation.

To avoid the strong chlorine scent that is typical in natatoriums, an innovative HVAC system was employed. An evacuator duct draws the smell from the surface of the water through return air ducts in the floor. The smell is then pulled into the duct system and out on to the roof through an air handler which results in a fresh, chemical-free smell throughout the facility.

Surrounding the pool and lazy river are faux rocks that mimic Central Oregon’s native basalt and volcanic tuft and are meant to match those around the outdoor pool as well. For those craving more adventure than the lazy river, the Cinder Cone waterslide in the air and winds through a tunnel outside of the building before reentering into a splash pool indoors. The slide was manufactured in South Carolina and trucked cross-country to its new home at Sunriver.

Vacationing around construction sites is not typically an ideal situation with disruptions in services, noise and overall aesthetics many times impacted. Taking the project’s intended design goal of creating a positive memory generator, R&H’s team worked hard to ensure this was achieved for resort guests throughout construction as well. Careful preplanning allowed the outdoor pool/spa and restaurant area to remain open and entries were rerouted for guest safety as outlined above. When disruptive utility relocations needed to occur a backup generator system was employed to keep the outdoor pool, hot tub, kitchen and overhead power running throughout the three-week relocation process. Strong communication with Sunriver Resort about current and anticipated resort guest numbers and any upcoming events helped the team to schedule higher impact work around any milestones. In fall of 2019 when early site work was underway, crew members even worked around a visit from Katy Perry for the filming of American Idol at the resort!

To build excitement for the project and appeal to the youngest of resort goers, R&H designed the fence screening surrounding the site to feature playful graphics of construction equipment that may be seen at the site along with descriptions of each machine’s purpose. Small peepholes were strategically cut into the screening to allow for a safe look at the work underway and build anticipation for the new amenity. An information kiosk was constructed at the fence line to provide the community with updates on construction, what to expect next and renderings of the natatorium. “R&H took extra care to make the construction experience positive for our staff and guests throughout, always putting our guests first” commented Sunriver Resort’s Director of Construction & Development Dan Stockel.

Open with a Splash!

Memorial Day weekend officially kicks off the summer busy season for Sunriver Resort and having The Cove added to the amenity offerings by this date was of critical importance. While faced with many of the hurdles described above, our collective team was successful in meeting this date with the Certificate of Occupancy received in the nick of time on the Friday morning of Memorial Day weekend. Stockel stated “the facility was completed on time, on budget and exceeded expectations!” A milestone truly worthy of the splash it received as happy guests poured into the center over the holiday weekend.