Supplement Feature - May 2019
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Making a Splash!

The Latest Trends in Splash Play Design

By Dave Ramont

Jets, waterfalls and waterslides appeal to older kids. Waterslides can have runouts, or drop slides can be used if there's a pool. There are enclosed or open flume slides, racers with multiple lanes, extra wide family slides and body, inner tube or raft models. Water battles are always a hit, and water shooters can be aimed up and down or side to side. Elevated structures can be multi-level and feature dumping buckets, spray cannons, slides, canopies and an array of activators that can be manipulated. Some are modular and can be upgraded, and many structures can be branded.

Bill Hachmeister is channel development manager for a Minnesota-based manufacturer of playground and spray park equipment, and he explained that sensory play has become very popular, offering many benefits for kids. "Sensory play that involves movement, visual, audible, capsular with feel for senses. Water flow has many benefits for sensory issues and sensory needs. There are many new features in the market today to fulfill sensory needs."

Beyond simply splashing around and cooling off, play elements that encourage motor skill development, social development, cognitive development and collaboration are popular. "A current trend we are noticing is more interactive structures for inclusive play, team building and enhancing communication skills," explained Hachmeister. There are many products available that allow kids to create and change water events by turning a crank, pushing a button, pedaling, rocking a toy or pumping a handle.

Terry Dubuc is business development manager for a Canadian company that designs and manufactures spray parks and spray park products, and he agrees that interactive and sensory experiences are critical to a child's learning. "It's important to

provide kids with the opportunity to discover, experiment, play and engage with water. We're always looking to develop with this criteria in mind."

Dubuc's company recently unveiled seven new play events for children in the 2-to-5 age group. Inspired by rivers, tides and cascading mountaintops, these highly tactile experiences encourage children to manipulate their surroundings as they would "in the great outdoors." These designs utilize kids' cognitive, social and motor skills through a series of open-ended play events, featuring currents, splashing, misting, spraying and cascading. "Inspired by the power of nature and water's malleability, we created these unique designs to allow kids to manipulate the different water currents. And while they play they are also learning about redirection and cause-and-effect by means of interaction and social interaction," said Dubuc.

At the Del Mar Aquatic Center in Aurora, Colo., the outdoor pool that had been built in 1956 was suffering from operational issues, and attendance and revenues were in sharp decline. "The residents of the surrounding neighborhoods of Del Mar were voicing their need for a new and improved pool," said Erin O'Neill, superintendent of marketing & special events in Aurora. "Those that had been kids when the pool initially opened were bringing their children and grandchildren to this landmark facility for years. The pool was a classic that needed major infrastructure improvements."

The public's input initiated efforts for the city to put together a master plan, according to O'Neill, and a major pool renovation was under way. The renovated pool opened in 2015, along with an attached 12-foot dive well, waterslides, bathhouse, concession area, updated reserve-able shelters and new filtration/pumping systems. But the icing was the new 6,350-square-foot water playground, towering 20-feet above the aquatic center. "Since opening, we do typically reach maximum admission capacity almost daily," said O'Neill.

Del Mar's water playground boasts a large multi-deck elevation structure with a massive 1,200-liter red tipping bucket that can be seen throughout the park. There are six waterslides in all, which includes a 180-foot slide and two kiddie slides, and slide tubes are available. O'Neill said there are 90 water features including spinning water wheels, spray jets and water cannons. "The dump bucket at the top of the water playground is self-powered. When the bucket fills with water, it dumps the gallons below onto the anxiously awaiting patrons for some splashing fun." There are separate areas for tots and teens.

O'Neill said they have eight reserve-able shelters that are good revenue generators and often have a waiting list. Smaller shelters hold eight to 10 people and a large one holds 100. "For large parties or events, Del Mar Aquatic Center is available for rent." Additionally, two other parks in Aurora have splash pads as well as other park amenities, so families will spend entire days enjoying the spray features and parks. "Both are very well-attended throughout the season."

Johnson said they have private parties every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from May through September at the Lubbock YWCA. "People start calling in January trying to book them and they fill up quickly. It really is one of the best party spots in town! We also have special events like Dive-In Movies, Parents Night Out and Family Float Night."

Tracy feels that water quality management is one of the most important aspects of splash pad design. "It is paramount that the system be designed to maintain the correct level of sanitation and contain the proper checks and balances to halt the system if the quality is not met. On consumption, chemical usage must be optimized through accurate dosing systems that are properly calibrated. With water usage, consumption is minimal if recirculating systems are used and water is not simply thrown away. On flow-through systems without recirculation water can be stored in tanks for use in irrigation if this is applicable."