Facility Profile - March 2010
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Splashing Good Times

Various Locations in Tacoma, Wash.

By Sutton Stokes

Easy set-up and take-down allows Tacoma to dismantle the play features and store them indoors during winter, protecting against both weather damage and vandalism. The city can also shuffle play features among the parks, providing novelty for users at no extra cost. And by installing extra footings at each site, Tacoma has the option of adding new play features later without additional construction work.

To minimize water usage, Tacoma installed recirculating water systems, which recapture water in 3,000-gallon tanks before sterilizing it with an ultraviolet disinfection system and sending it out through the play features again. Recirculating systems are an alternative to flow-through systems, which tap into city potable-water lines and drain into sewers, recapturing none of the water. "Flow-through systems are cheaper to build than recirculating systems, but recirculating systems are cheaper to operate," said Hancock, who expects that the lower operating costs of Tacoma's recirculating systems will pay for their higher installation costs within five years.

Demolition on the three pools commenced in December 2006, and the new splashpads opened in June 2007. The splashpads operate for about 12 hours every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and they are popular. "Public acceptance is very high, and the proof in the pudding is that attendance has gone up," said Hancock. "The splashpads have become a huge draw, not only within the neighborhoods but from across the city. So far, we are seeing about a four-fold attendance increase in each location, compared to the pools." And even though the splashpads don't take up any more room than the pools did—they range from 2,500 to 3,800 square feet—they are supporting these larger crowds with no trouble, according to Hancock.

Of course, Hancock was expecting to see crowds of children enjoying the streams of water and brightly colored play equipment. What surprises him, he said, is the effect the splashpads have had on the larger community.

"The walls around the splashpads have become a popular meeting place at all three parks, where people come to sit and talk," said Hancock. "One resident told me that the Jefferson Park splashpad brought his neighborhood back together. He said he was talking to neighbors he hadn't talked to in years."


Metro Parks Tacoma: www.tacomaparks.com

ORB Architects: www.orbarchitects.com

Vortex Aquatic Structures International: www.vortex-intl.com