Supplement Feature - September 2020
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Water Fun For Everyone

Aquatic Play Gets 'Smart'

By Rick Dandes

Bigger & Better

Another trend in spray play is the very size of splash pads. Bigger is better, from the features to the water splash, Hutchinson explained. "However, bigger doesn't always equal inclusive. While big splashes inspire decision-makers looking to plan exciting attractions in their community, it cannot be the only focus of the play space."

Historically, splash pads have been smaller domestic pass-through systems, Skogen said, but more communities are designing expansive aquatic play spaces, with larger splash pads that utilize recirculation systems.

For example, he said, "The splash pad at Burrus Old Mill Park in Blue Spring, Mo., installed a more than 4,600 square-foot splash pad in 2019. Not only does it feature custom water play components, but it also uses a recirculation system. The benefit of this system type is that the splash pad uses less water while still producing a 'big water' experience for visitors to the splash pad."

A return to nature is a trend noticed by Barb Lapierre, regional sales manager at a Pointe-Claire, Quebec-based manufacturer of splash pads and aquatic play products. "More and more designs are beginning to mimic natural streams and currents and include a natural look that blends with the surrounding landscapes."

Lapierre also mentioned the idea of 'staycations': "Families are looking for more opportunities for staycation amenities," she observed. "We are seeing outdoor parks and aquatic centers taking notes from commercial waterparks and including rentable cabanas and concession stands within their facilities; this helps to provide a new source for revenue generation. We are also noticing a trend to transform municipal pools into activity hubs by utilizing the open space around existing pool area, and adding to their programming needs and providing play experiences for the entire family."

Many communities are looking to refresh their outdated wading pools or aquatic facilities, she said, and are replacing these with splash pads and aquatic play, increasing engagement, and addressing compliance issues, not to mention significantly reducing their overall operational costs.