Feature Article - September 2006
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Refreshing Strategies

Cool Tips for Waterparks and Splash Play Areas

By Stacy St. Clair

Shade to order

In addition to making patrons happy in the water, aquatic facilities also must keep them content on dry land, too. One of the best ways to do this is by including ample shade.

After all, we live in the 21st century, where baking in the sun all day just isn't as cool as it used to be. People care about protecting their skin from sun exposure and keeping cool.

The depletion of the earth's ozone is increasing our exposure to the sun's dangerous ultraviolet rays. With more than 1 million cases diagnosed each year, skin cancer ranks among the fastest growing cancers in the United States. A baby born today is twice as likely to develop skin cancer than 10 years ago. Research also shows that as few as two severe sunburns during childhood double the chance of developing potentially deadly melanoma later in life.

In short, this once "optional" waterpark amenity has become a required element where children's (and adult's) health and welfare is concerned.

Fortunately, the shade industry is ready to help in the fight against ultraviolet rays with long-lasting, durable and attractive products. The best elements offer extensive warranties and come in an array of colors and shapes to complement site designs. When purchasing the product, look for a deterioration warranty on fabric canopies, including stitching thread. It's also important to ensure the canopy can screen up to 99 percent of UV rays.

And though it's not as important preventing sunburns and skin cancer, shade protection offers a creative revenue source. An increasing number of aquatic centers have begun renting their cabanas and shelters, finding some extra money in a much-needed service.

At Bedford Splash in Bedford, Texas, residents can rent a cabana for two hours for $95. The cabanas can be rented seven days a week and come with 10 all-day admission passes. Each cabana has six tables and can hold about 40 people. The park advertises them as the perfect place for family gatherings or business events.

"It's great for parties—it's enclosed and has a big canopy with a circle gate around it," says Ashley Henson, a Bedford Splash customer-service associate. "This way other people can't walk in or out or through your rental."

For a little less—$65 for two hours—patrons can rent a pavilion. The smaller shade areas hold 20 people and also can be booked seven days a week.

Some people reserve the shade areas with as little as 30-minutes' notice. To guarantee a spot, however, the facility recommends patrons make their reservation at least a week in advance.

"People love to rent them," Henson says. "We are booked every weekend."

The park also has ample lounge chairs under shaded areas to help keep patrons cool. The cabanas and pavilions, however, have proven extremely popular with both patrons and facility operators.

"We opened three years ago, and these have been a great source of revenue," Henson says. "It provides shade and sun protection, which is especially important in Texas, where it's really hot."