Guest Column - November 2004
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Think Before You Splash

By Cindy Guerra and Katie Schultz

In recent years, many communities with traditional pools have had very few alternatives for enhancement to their facilities. Communities must either look for funds to replace or renovate the facility or permanently close it. City parks and community centers also have been limited on alternatives for new construction of outdoor recreational facilities. Thanks to a continuing trend in aquatic recreation, there is another alternative that costs less to construct, is flexible enough to be used as a stand-alone facility or enhancement of an existing facility, and takes less time and money to maintain: the splash play area.


The planning process for a splash play area is the same as planning a new or renovated pool. A project budget should be set. The site to be used must be determined, taking into consideration whether the splash play area will be a stand-alone facility or renovated into an existing facility. Planning for the size of the facility includes deciding on what and how many water features to include as well as whether or not a small building for dressing and restroom facilities should be provided. Mechanical design will question how the water will be supplied and whether or not the water drains off into a city storm sewer or if it is recirculated with chemical treatment. Electrical design will determine where the facility will get its power, and after decisions are made on what features to incorporate, how much power is needed.

Benefits of stand-alone facilities

There are several notable benefits to a stand-alone splash play area. Since there is no standing water, splash play areas are considered safer than swimming pools. Generally lifeguards are not needed, electricity costs are low, and water can be recirculated, minimizing operational costs. Lower operational costs can mean free admission to the facility, encouraging all patrons to enjoy the facility. Stand-alone facilities can provide optimal recreation with the combination of a wet and dry playground.

Renovation alternative

Splash play areas are also a creative, cost-effective renovation alternative for an existing facility. Older facilities with a small budget are using the splash play area to update the facilities at less cost. Facilities with traditional wading pools not getter much use have found the splash play area can replace the wading pool and provide recreation for toddlers to adults. Demolition of the wading pool and construction of the new splash play area can take place without disturbing the main pool. Additionally, the designer can work to ensure as much of the old mechanical system can be utilized as possible, while updating the pump, piping and filter sizes for the new demand.