Feature Article - September 2006
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Refreshing Strategies

Cool Tips for Waterparks and Splash Play Areas

By Stacy St. Clair



Splashy

Not all facilities, however, need new gigantic rides or major renovations to freshen up. Sometimes, it can be as simple as adding a splash play area, which can attract more patrons, offer a colorful way to enhance a park and can be just plain fun.

Splash play areas have been a boon for some budget-conscious pools and communities struggling to provide aquatic recreation to their residents. And now, this more affordable option has become even more affordable with components that allow you to change and add features as your budget permits.

Before you design your splash play area, however, find out what works in other communities. As always, industry experts recommend contacting other facilities and asking about their experiences. If possible, travel to that town and spend the afternoon observing the splash play area.

Make note of several key observations, including which features are most popular and which attract the fewest patrons. It also may be beneficial to bring children of various ages from your community to conduct an informal focus group at the neighboring site.

To create a splash play area that attracts children year after year, it must energize and engage them. Kids often prefer active entertainment such as water cannons and buckets. An area only made up of arches, spray posts and ground sprays may catch an adult's eye but fail to entertain children at length.


It's also important to remember that one size does not fit all. When designing your splash play area, be mindful of the various age groups who will be using it. Industry experts recommend creating at least three sections, with each one featuring elements tailored to a specific age group.

Toddlers, for example, respond best to color, shapes and textures. In their zone, use non-intimidating features such as soft-mist sprays and gentle streams.

The second sector should promote social interaction and family play. Here, parks can include features such as water tunnels and dumping buckets that promote imaginative play. The final zone should provide high-energy activities with elements that advance teamwork and competitive play.

If you're working on a tight budget, don't give up hope. The industry has responded by creating removable anchor systems that allow you to add, replace and interchange play products without destroying the existing framework. Facilities gradually can add components over time to maximize play value.

Even if you have money to blow on an entire play area at one time, removable anchor systems remain a logical way to go. They protect your investments by preventing the play elements from becoming permanent and eventually stale environments.

Splash play areas also can provide a great source of revenue for an aquatic center or local park. Many communities have made money by charging admission or renting them out for parties.