Guest Column - January 2009
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Splash Play Areas: The Evolution of the Sprayground

Key Design Considerations in Interactive Aquatic Play

By Stephen Hamelin


s the popularity of interactive aquatic play areas continues to grow, aquatic designers, architects, city officials, home developers, resorts and campgrounds recognize the undisputable value they offer to the community. Providing exciting aquatic play results in a positive experience at every level, be it socially, architecturally or simply from the very essence of learning through play.

Fifteen years ago, aquatic play attractions were found mainly in commercial waterparks in the form of large, multi-level, thematic structures. Some smaller elements were found in the shallow end of swimming pools but were limited to a few play apparatuses such as a water umbrella. Today, aquatic play is featured in prominent places such as city parks, recreational centers, resorts and campgrounds.

This trend did not happen overnight—for over 10 years manufacturers have been developing a concept referred to as zero-depth aquatic play.

Specifically designed to bring the joy and recreational value of aquatic play to almost any recreational space, one of the objectives of the "splashpad" was to bring an element of the commercial waterpark experience to places like neighborhood parks, home development communities, camps and campgrounds.

The focus was on the city park application where such amenities as playgrounds, basketball courts and sports fields provided recreation for the community. With shrinking recreational budgets and outdated swimming pools, cities in North America were desperate for a solution to provide their citizens with aquatic recreation. The solution needed to be low in capital and operating cost, provide safe fun under minimal supervision and, of course, fit in aesthetically with the environment.