Feature Article - November 2012
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Maintenance & Operations: Spraygrounds

Playing With Water
Sprayground Operations

By Tammy York

Materials and Design

Structures made from stainless steel are durable but costly. Fiberglass structures are less expensive but can be damaged by vandalism. "About 70 percent of our clients would rather go with a fiberglass structure than stainless steel because they aren't worried about it being vandalized," said Stoks.

"We do use fiberglass for manufacturing vaults and buckets, but typically we don't manufacture things out of fiberglass that can come into contact with kids or be easily vandalized," said Thomas.

Artisans with sculpting backgrounds hand-carve the foam into the sculptural pieces which are then specialty coated in bright attractive colors that hold up to chemicals and ultraviolet light, and makes them fun and safe for aquatic play.

"With fiberglass there is no metal that can rust. In the heat of summer, the plastic doesn't heat up as much as steel and it doesn't attract electricity," said Tracey. Chlorinated water is caustic to metals and will turn them brown. Fiberglass is a space age material that is very durable and won't get brittle for 20 years. However, the fiberglass must be thick enough to handle the daily beating of the crowd.

Be aware of who will be using the water playground and design it to meet their needs. You can incorporate several venues within one water playground by developing appropriate play zones.

"Most everyone has a demographic of toddlers to tweens," said Stoks. Create a toddler island area with low, calm soothing-type effects 12 to 18 inches in height, well out of the pathway of older kids. The older kids need robust, dynamic zones that are interactive and that they can influence without interfering with the younger audience. Robust features include tumble buckets, spray guns, water cannons and multi-play climb structures.

"Intensively interactive play structures empower the kids to make different things happen. By turning a wheel they can vary the outcome. It is an education tool, and they learn about pressure and about water flow. The kids are in charge," said Tracey. Throughout your water playground add interactive activities on each element.

With smaller cities and parks looking to add amenities without breaking their budgets, adding a sprayground next to a standard playground is becoming popular. These smaller water playgrounds have a handful of features typically on a concrete pad or a specialty designed pad. Small water playgrounds are becoming so popular and in demand they are showing up at aquariums and zoos as well as condos and malls.

"Use a local engineer and a local pool contractor to make decisions," said Tracey. Splash play manufacturers typically create only the features and controllers, and it is up to you to assemble a team, starting with your aquatic consultant, that can help you figure out your local regulations for water usage, filtration and sanitization, as well as assemble the team to handle the excavation, substructure and installation.

Before you begin your project, consider the size and usage. "If you put in a water playground that is too small and it is overcrowded, then that's a problem," said Tracey. "Proper water quality is crucial, and there must be fail-safes, so if the water quality isn't what it should be, the system is shut down."

Plus, a water playground isn't maintenance-free. Regular scheduled maintenance and ongoing monitoring are important to keeping the system up and operational. Many of your headaches can be prevented later by selecting a high-quality product that is going to withstand high usage and exposure to UV and chlorine.