Guest Column - January 2009
Find a printable version here

Splash Play Areas: The Evolution of the Sprayground

Key Design Considerations in Interactive Aquatic Play

By Stephen Hamelin

This may seem simple—and in concept it is—but achieving these subtly distinctive effects and controlling water flows in these ways requires deliberate attention on the part of suppliers and designers and vision on the part of clients, which may be why these details are so often absent from interactive installations.

The next area, called the "family bay," encourages cross-generational play. An adult, for example, might pick up a small child and walk through a series of dumping buckets or a spraying arch or loop. This isn't a high-energy play area, but instead encourages socializing in a casual walk-through, park-like experience.

The third area, the "teen bay," is where older kids experience high-energy play—water fights, heavy flows of water and basically a good soaking. One of the keys here is developing systems that encourage and require teamwork and friendly competition. In one feature, for example, a flag rises as kids cooperate and cover ground sprays around its base. In order to make the flag rise to its full height, a bunch of kids have to work together.

These bays can be applied in pads of all sizes, from waterparks to community aquatic centers. Regardless of project scope or scale, the three-level approach requires the supplier and the designer to consider systems from the child's perspective—and that is a ticket to success.


Stephen Hamelin is the president and founder of Vortex Aquatic Structures International Inc., a privately held company with over 13 years of experience in designing and manufacturing interactive aquatic play equipment for children of all ages. Founded on the principles of trust, integrity, value and above all, fun, Vortex's mission is to transform the world of aquatic play by creating safe, yet thrilling environments for children of all abilities. For more information, visit