Feature Article - November 2012
Find a printable version here

Maintenance & Operations: Spraygrounds

Playing With Water
Sprayground Operations

By Tammy York


Upgraded Pool Amenities

Many older aquatic facilities are undergoing redesign to increase their revenues by adding a splash play area.

"The main trend is facilities are including water playgrounds where before there was just a conventional pool," Tracey said. "In waterparks, they kind of forgot about the little ones, and now they are realizing the little ones are the ones who bring the family to the waterpark."

The primary benefit of a water playground is there is no standing water and, therefore, no risk of drowning.

Most vendors of splash play equipment offer the elements in a rainbow-candy-colored array of choices. These bright reds, greens, yellows, purples and oranges are highly visible and are a beacon to anyone under the age of 10. Additional features such as enormous tipping buckets, two-story tall blue herons and themed water playgrounds are also huge draws.

"You can have features that are geared toward toddlers and features geared toward tweens," said Patricia Rotschild, marketing and design specialist with a Pointe-Claire, Quebec-based splashpad manufacturer. Different components attract different audiences, all within the same water playground.

"There was such a glut of wading pools to address small children. The pools are an expensive amenity and upkeep is problematic," said Greg Stoks, principal with a Minneapolis-based manufacturer of splash play equipment. Several locations with wading pools needing repairs are changing over to a water playground because it is usually most feasible economically to retrofit the area with a new sprayground system rather than a new wading pool.

"Wading pools are easily converted to splashpads because the dimensions can remain the same and the maintenance costs with a splashpad are much lower than with any kind of pool," said Rotschild. "There is no standing water so it is much safer for all children than a swimming pool, so you don't need a lifeguard present."

Water playground structures that are colorful and exciting are a lot more attractive than a wading pool with just standing water. And the addition of a water playground provides young children a safe place to play, explore and learn on their own under the supervision of their parents. "The secret is that the parents can relax and have a more enjoyable day because they aren't on the whole time. They can take a break on the sidelines or take part in the play," Tracey said.

Theming

Just like a theme park, themed water playgrounds are designed to capture the child's imagination. "Theming appeals to kids because there is a general theme, whether it is turtles and crabs, fire engines and trains, pirate ships or treehouses," Thomas said.

Each theme has different features kids can interact with.

"Aquatic centers want a theme to reaffirm their brand," said Thomas. A good example is Wolf Lodge water playgrounds. Wolf Mountain rises out of a shallow pool to a towering height of about 30 feet. The rocky mountain terrain has a wolf guarding the top and when the wolf howls a sheet of water cascades onto the kids below.

With customized themes, a water playground is changed from the perception of a fancy sprinkler system to a destination location for families to come and enjoy time together and appreciate the park's amenities.