Feature Article - April 2013
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Splash Down!

Splashpads Arriving in Style

By Kelli Anderson

Whether jumping through the oscillating fan of a sprinkler, cooling off our friends with a garden hose or experiencing the thrill of an urban geyser gushing from a hydrant, who doesn't remember the summertime fun of splashing in water?

When spray parks and splashpads made their debut over a decade ago, they were clearly tapping into the kid in all of us. But they are also tapping into today's pressing issues of water conservation, parents' heightened concerns for safety, the never-ending search for more revenue and more multipurpose usage for the buck. There is a reason the splash park industry continues to see a steady climb in interest and sales.

Bring in the Crowds

Probably the greatest increase in splashpad and spray park growth is in existing aquatic recreational facilities that see the value of its ability to draw in the crowds while virtually negating the need for additional staffing. For aging community pools needing an infusion of new excitement, splashpads have been a great solution.

"Our splashpad feature is in our zero-entry pool, installed there in the summer of 2011," said Todd Spalding, director of parks and recreation in Belton, Mo., about the latest addition to the Belton Aquatic Center. "We were able to combine a lot of things in a small space. I think where we succeeded is we were pretty in tune with what our community wanted and we listened well."

Apparently, others are listening too. According to Joseph Brusseau, president and owner of Brusseau Design Group LLC in Hoffman Estates, Ill., a lot of clients are trying to make their pools and existing aquatic facilities more exciting, and find that splashpads help in generating more pool pass sales. Not only that, they also help extend the swimming pool season.

"There are times after Labor Day when it's still 90 degrees out, so it gives an opportunity to use an aquatic facility after the pool season without having to staff it," Brusseau explained of the trend he is seeing. "Some communities are building them in open parks and we're doing that too, but the majority are related to an existing aquatic facility."

In many cases, older pools are simply being replaced by spray parks like the Highland Park Splash Pad in Cottage Grove, Minn., that replaced the city's 1963 municipal pool. The former pool's lack of use and declining revenue finally made way for the city's current three-bay splashpad system that provides multiple play features for a wide range of ages and abilities.

And the wide range of people these splashpads and spray parks attract is notable. As the community of Oxford, Mich., discovered at the opening of their park in 2009, the popularity of their spray park has been almost overwhelming.