Feature Article - October 2007
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Making Waves

Big Waterpark Trends Hit Smaller Facilities

By Emily Tipping

"Corporate sponsorships are always great," Kempfer said. "Get a big company in your city to help purchase a slide, and really recognize them for it. You can sell anything—a section of fence, a garbage can. Corporate sponsorships and individual donations are going to help some of these municipalities over those money challenges."

At the Irwin A. Goodman & Robert D. Goodman Community Swimming Pool in Madison, Wis., individual donations helped finance the city's first municipal pool, which features a 16,500-square-foot leisure pool with diving boards, body slides, raining buckets, various sprays, a water curtain, geysers and shade structures, as well as an eight-lane, 25-meter lap area.

"They started with a huge donation, but everybody's money-challenged, and they formed two committees right off. One worked on the site, and the other was devoted to raising money," Kempfer said. "It was staffed with people who knew people and could talk to them about donating. They did a good job and showed that if the community really wants it, they'll help out."

Ultimately, the city contributed $1.26 million to the $5.3 million project, and the rest of the money came from large and small public and private donations.

If you're looking to provide more amenities for your community, but the budget just can't handle a new aquatic center, try something on a smaller scale.

"We're seeing a lot more water playgrounds and spraygrounds," Kempfer said. "A lot of urban areas are making a list of all the pools they have. For example, here is ABC City, and they have 12 to 15 outdated pools. They want to renovate one to build a regional draw, but take away those other, outdated pools. Well, even though they're old, you're still going to be taking something away from the community, so a lot of these cities are putting water playgrounds in."

This was the approach taken in Wautoma, Wis., with the installation of a 3,541-square-foot flow-through splashpad in Bird Creek Park. Funded with $200,000 from the Wautoma Rotary Club, which also managed construction, the project was donated to the city upon completion.

"The club received an endowment from Anna Songe over 15 years ago, with instruction to develop a waterpark project that met the needs of Wautoma's children, but nothing had been built yet," said Tim Freudenthal, Wautoma Rotary Club member and project chairman. "After reviewing a variety of project ideas, we decided a splashpad would fulfill Anna's wish and best meet the community's needs."

The new water playground has a capacity of more than 100 and includes three Splash Bays that appeal to various age groups. Discovery Bay is for smaller children, Adventure Bay for older children, and Action Bay provides competitive play and an interactive soak station.

One word of warning: While splash play areas and spraygrounds require much less maintenance than a pool with slides and other features, they are not maintenance-free.

"You still need filtration and sanitized water," Kempfer said. "You still have a lot of controllers on there because the water's squirting and spraying at different levels. You still need a presence, because bad things can happen. That said, in some of these poorer, urban areas it helps give people a place to cool off. These people can't always afford the admission of the pool."

Finally, you can work within your budget through careful master-planning of a phased facility. Start smaller, but have a master plan in place for future expansion. That way, you can begin building excitement now, and keep it building for years to come as future additions are made.