Feature Article - September 2013
Find a printable version here

Trickle Down Theory

Boosting Waterpark Fun to Grow Revenues, Build Community

By Rick Dandes

Safety Concerns

Safety continues to be the highest priority at waterparks, because when someone gets hurt the fun stops. The challenge is the inherent risks in aquatics. Recent laws (such as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act) exposed some serious deficiencies in the industry, Colvin noted. Slip and fall injuries still continue to be the highest safety problem at any aquatic facility. Many facilities are designing with this in mind by installing softer and slip-resistant decking materials.

"One interesting trend," he said, "is the removal of diving boards at many of the existing facilities, and new facilities not even installing them to begin with during construction. At the same time, slides and rides are maturing in design and becoming more intrinsically safe through materials, finishes and refined geometric design. Large format flumes for three, four, five or even six riders are also safer with riders inside (instead of on top) of their vehicle."

Safety continues to be the highest priority at waterparks, because when someone gets hurt the fun stops.

Loose, of Water World, talks about safety in succinct terms: Guests need to review, understand and abide by all posted safety rules, he said. And parents need to actively supervise children at all times.

Another safety concern during the summer is the sun and heat, added Zach McIntyre, director, Magic Waters Waterpark and Aquatics, Rockford Park District, Rockford, Ill. "We try and remind guests to eat and drink plenty of fluids. Guests come to the park to experience a good time and want to get as much enjoyment out of their day as they can. It is important for them to remember to take short breaks to eat and drink. This will help prevent dehydration."

One of the largest safety concerns for any aquatic facility is pathogens and the potential for waterborne illness. Every year, new cases highlight this major issue. The industry is working to create updates to codes and guidelines that more adequately address aquatic sanitation through the Model Aquatic Health Code and promoting thoughtful implementation of secondary sanitizers in code revisions. Here again ozone can be an effective means of achieving the highest of standards, Colvin said. "Operators and owners should be wary of oversold products and do their research before making an expensive decision on what sanitation methods they use to keep their water free of the potentially dangerous pathogens."

People also need a safe area for families to change clothes, particularly dads who bring daughters or mothers who bring sons and are not comfortable in the male or female locker rooms. Smaller parks might have only one area for family changing, leading to long waits. That is something that, from a design standpoint, is being incorporated into the newer municipal pool locker room designs. You'll see three, four, five different family changing areas or even pods. Some changing areas have a hallway with pods on either side that anyone can use.