Handy Solutions to Common Problems
By Stacy St. Clair, Jenny E. Beeh and Kelli Anderson
Welcome to our first annual How-To supplement. Packed with scores of ideas, this reference tool was designed to help you tackle your most persistent and universal challenges, covering all the big basic questions.
Consider it an industry guidebook of sorts, chock full of straightforward, problem-solving tips.
We hope it is destined to earn a coveted and permanent place on your desk, ready for use aII year round.
Vandalism is more than just an eyesore. It's a crime that slowly erodes a community's finances and aesthetics.
Graffiti makes up 35 percent of all vandalism in the United States, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics. The federal government estimates the country spends roughly $12 billion a year to clean it up.
And it's more than just a drain on tax dollars. The National Association of Realtors estimates properties located in areas with heavy graffiti lost 15 percent of their value.
In the recreation industry, vandalism-riddled restroom structures can impact patronage. Restrooms debased by vandalism give the impression of a neglected park or facility. Even worse, it may suggest that more serious crimes—such as theft and assault—also go unchallenged there.
When you install an outdoor restroom, you're also accepting a civic duty. You assume responsibility for keeping it crime-free, protecting property values and making patrons feel safe.
Fortunately, recreation managers can successfully battle vandalism by taking proactive measures.
When designing your outdoor restroom, preventing vandalism should be a top priority. Building trash cans, soap dispensers and towel dispensers into the wall discourage abuse. Concealing plumbing valves in a common chase area away from the user will keep them from being damaged. Mounting wall vents, window frames, grab bars and toilet-paper holders with tamper-resistant screws also helps reduce destructive behavior. You also might consider 15-minute motion detectors instead of light switches and mounting the light fixtures in the chase area to provide indirect lighting to deter vandals. Stainless-steel fixtures, along with low-profile hand dryers, help maximize vandal-resistance.
SELECTION OF MATERIALS
The best defense against vandalism is the right building and materials. Concrete structures, for example, easily withstand the rigors of vandalism. Brick and wood, meanwhile, are more vulnerable during the graffiti-removal process. Dark, rough surfaces deter vandals because their work will not be as visible, thus denying them the thrill of seeing their crime on display. Regardless of building type, all outdoor structures should be covered with a protective coating that allows graffiti to be expunged without damaging the paint or surfaces beneath. Inside the building you may want to consider installing ceramic tile or coated concrete from floor to ceiling.
Once the properly coated building has been installed, recreation managers must maintain their vigilance. Make sure it's hard to reach the exterior walls. Use clinging plants such as ivy to break up writing space and make the wall hard to reach. Installing lights and landscaping in the area in front of the wall provides strong barriers. Keep parks clean to avoid a neglected appearance that invites vandalism. If graffiti does appear, it should be removed with two days. Statistics show graffiti removed within 24 to 48 hours results in a nearly zero reoccurrence rate. Conversely, graffiti removed after two weeks has a near 100 percent reoccurrence rate.
ENLIST COMMUNITY HELP
It takes a village—not just recreation mangers—to defeat vandalism. Educate the public about the effects of vandalism and provide a way for them to report it. Sponsor youth programs that explain the negative impact of graffiti and other vandalism. You can help your community develop tough anti-graffiti laws and make sure they're enforced. When asked what would stop them from tagging, vandals in a recent study listed "fear of getting caught" as their top deterrent.
Here's a preventive tip near to all recreation managers' hearts: diverting vandalism to positive alternatives. Options can include youth centers, art programs and civic activities such as mural painting and graffiti cleanups.
Racing down a water slide and splashing around at a waterpark—things everyone wants to do outdoors. However, a change in weather (be it a drop in temperature, a rainstorm or a cool breeze) can make even the hardiest swimmers pack their swim fins and go home. To retain patrons, many owners will build an indoor facility in addition to their outdoor pool. Unfortunately, this often takes the form of a brick box with a dark, damp environment.
Is this what your guests demand? Granted, it gives them an outdoor facility during warm weather, but they have to give up the fresh air and natural light—those things they seek—when they are forced inside. Your guests want the best of both worlds, outdoor recreation during the warm summer months but protection from the elements during times of inclement weather. How do you do this without having to build separate facilities?
Pool enclosures with retractable roofs bring the outdoor experience inside. Even more importantly, they can provide a year-round revenue stream.
CHOOSE A STRUCTURE
Today's technology permits this indoor/outdoor phenomenon to exist in one structure. For example, aluminum-framed, all-glazed enclosures are capable of freespaning 150 feet, with retractable roof panels up to 35 feet long. An insulated polycarbonate or glass roof and insulated glass sides and ends allow guests to be bathed in natural light, while fresh breezes can be let in via large, rack-and-pinion, direct-drive retractable-roof panels opening about half of the roof and doors along the sidewalls.
Typical structures may take the shape of a freestanding double slope or lean-to enclosure, or a skylight supported by conventional construction. The roof can be curved, or dormers can be used to accommodate slide towers.
SAVE YOUR ENERGY
With the roof and sides open during the summer, the pool or waterpark becomes an outdoor facility. What this means for the owner is saving the cost of air conditioning, running a dehumidification system and even turning on the lights. During the winter months with the roof and sides closed, a complete thermally broken aluminum framing system and glazed envelope allow the guests to experience the warmth of the solar gain—and the facility the resultant energy savings by having to supply less heat to the enclosure. Some tests have shown a difference between inside and outside temperatures as high as 30 degrees on a sunny day without any supplemental heat.
Patrons, without question, can benefit from the natural light provided by retractable roofs. Researchers believe natural light helps enhance moods and combats depression. It also increases production levels and boosts energy.
Natural light can be a boon for your facility, as well. It bolsters the building's appearance by making spaces look bigger and rendering colors true.
Parks can be more than just kid's play. They can—and should be—partners in promoting a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages.
As such, many progressive recreation managers have turned to creating multigenerational destination parks where the entire family can enjoy the equipment. These parks help combat childhood obesity, provide teens with positive physical activities, and give parents and grandparents an opportunity to exercise while spending quality time with their children.
Active older adults can benefit greatly from multigenerational parks. Multigenerational parks help seniors maintain their health and delay the onset of diseases and disabilities. Studies show seniors who exercise reduce their chances of developing, among other ailments, heart disease, diabetes and low bone density. These parks provide great, low-density ways to stay in shape and remain healthy.
In addition to health benefits, multigenerational parks offer an excellent chance to plan for the future. U.S. Census Bureau statistics suggest roughly 40 percent of the population will be older than 50 by the year 2030. The data also predicts the percentage of the population older than 65 will jump from the current 12 percent to 20 percent in the next 25 years. Recreation managers would be well-advised to address the needs of this growing and influential segment of the population.
KNOWING WHAT YOU NEED
You cannot build a multigenerational park until you understand what one isn't: It's not just a landscaped patch open to everyone. Rather, these parks provide unique and unusual outdoor physical activities to toddlers, children, teens, adults and seniors. They also create some passive leisure time activities, such as walking and environmental education.
A WALK IN THE PARK
Any park aimed at providing senior recreation should include walking paths or trails. Walking is an ideal fitness option for the elderly because it comes with low physical risks. The paths can be enhanced by adding equipment designed to provide fun and challenging activities to all users. The elements of the park should bolster social skills, as well as physical strength, balance and aerobic activity. The equipment—sometimes referred to as wellness stations—should offer patrons different challenge levels.
When you have a multigenerational park, local seniors need to know it's safe to exercise there. Studies show the majority of inactive seniors don't exercise because they fear injury. Make sure promotional materials stress the stations have non-slip treads and grab bars. Older patrons also should be assured that there are different challenge levels, so they can stay within their comfort level while working out.
Once the park has been built, use programs that will draw in the community. Previous generations of fitness trails have failed because they were designed for ultra-fit patrons and because people used the trails informally without any promotion or programming. Take the time to explain the park and trails to patrons and stress the all-ages approach to fitness. Introduce the path to users via contests and games that encourage usage.
In addition to offering low-density activities such as a walking path, consider installing features such as skateparks and climbing walls. Not only do these diversions appeal to younger patrons, they provide fun recreation opportunities for young-at-heart adults who prefer a more high-energy workout. When selecting a climbing boulder or designing a skatepark, be sure both can be enjoyed by people with various skill and fitness levels.
MAKE 'EM HAPPY AND HEALTHY
Most importantly, educate the public on the health benefits. With the help of signs and printed materials, encourage users to keep a record of their progress. Consider purchasing pedometers and loaning them to patrons. Promote walking by helping them set daily and weekly goals that gradually increases step counts until they reach their optimum activity level.
When the weather gets hot, good recreation managers know how to keep it cool. They understand that both public health and positive customer relations mean providing sources of refreshment to overheated patrons.
Here are four ways to help park visitors chill out:
Drinking fountains have been around for nearly a century, serving as an indispensable site furnishing in public parks. When choosing this absolute necessity, consider the ease of installation, ease of cleaning, durability and safety to the user. In areas with heavy traffic, it's also a good idea to purchase a fountain made from vandalism-resistant materials. The stream should be at least four inches above the basin and provide both knee and toe clearance for people in wheelchairs in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In cold-weather states, consider purchasing a drinking fountain equipped with freeze protection. A freeze-protected fountain typically has a special box that houses the main plumbing components inside a heated room. In extremely cold areas, the fountain should be turned off during the winter months and purged of water that could freeze and expand.
Looking for a way to keep patrons in the park a little longer? Install a mister, which lightly refreshes patrons and entices them to stay and play for a while. Several professional ballparks and concert venues have enlisted misters as a public health tool to help keep the masses cool on scorching days. Purchasing a mister with a metered valve and a timer much like push-button sinks in public restrooms can help eliminate wasted water.
Humans aren't the only park patrons who need hydration. Our four-legged friends like to keep cool, too. Recreation managers can score big points with pet owners by providing a pet fountain in their facility. Many manufactures offer a pet fountain in combination with a normal drinking fountain. There are also models that serve as pet comfort stations, featuring both water bowls and metered showers with leash hooks.
SPLASH PLAY AREAS
Facilities looking to refresh their offerings, should consider splash play areas. Theses features provide a fun way to cool off as well as boost patronage. Splash play areas are also ideal for communities that cannot afford mega-budget waterparks but still want to offer residents wet-and-wild fun. You also may want to consider a themed splash play area—ocean, pirate, western and zoo motifs are among the most popular—to make it even more attractive to patrons. If you chose a splash play area, be open to new marketing opportunities. Many parks have found success renting the areas out for birthday parties, while others have made a profit from charging a nominal fee for entering the designated splash play facility.
Giving your swim club the winning edge means more than just building an expensive natatorium, installing a high-tech timing system and hiring a top coach.
It also means outfitting your pool with the best competition accessories available.
The wrong equipment can hamper start times, hinder performances and threaten swimmers' safety. Fortunately, with a little thought and attention to detail, it's easy to maintain your competitive edge.
Before diving into competitions, consider these tips for properly outfitting your facility.
FROM THE START
No aquatic equipment can impact a swimmer's performance more than starting platforms. Before purchasing your starting blocks, become familiar with the variety of models, options and anchorage systems available. If you plan to store the blocks when the pool is not being used for competitions, consider platforms that can be removed easily without tools.
Highly competitive clubs should select platforms that enhance training as well as meet performance. Choose platforms that gauge a swimmer's departure for relay exchanges and race starts. Swimmers can use these state-of-the-art systems during practice to fine-tune their start reaction times and relay exchanges with quantifiable results.
Clubs also should consult the regulations established by their governing bodies before selecting platforms. There are some general guidelines, however, that all competitive programs should follow. Starting blocks, without exception, must be firm and give no springing effect. All surfaces should be covered with a non-slip material and have a maximum slope no greater than 10 degrees. In accordance with FINA regulations, each starting block must be clearly numbered on all four sides. Lane No. 1 should be on the right-hand side when facing the course from the starting end. (An exception is given to 50-meter races that start from the opposite end of the pool.) Touch panels can be numbered on the top part.
MAKE YOUR MARK
Lane markers, like platforms, can play an important role in your club's success. When selecting the markers, look for ropes that control water turbulence by allowing wave energy to be dispersed along the length of the lane. Some newer models deflect the waves downward, leaving no wake on either side. This system has been used successfully at the Sydney Aquatic Center, where a jaw-dropping 11 world records have been set.
After selecting your markers, be sure to purchase the proper storage reel. The reel should be easily operated and corrosion-resistant.
FLY THE FLAGS
It's important to have flagged ropes that indicate an upcoming backstroke turn. Flagged ropes should be hung a minimum 1.8 meters and maximum 2.5 meters above the water's surface. They should hang from fixed standards and be placed 5 meters from each end wall. Distinctive marks must be placed on both sides of the pool—and from each lane rope if possible—about 15 meters from the end walls.
ROPE 'EM IN
A false start rope tells swimmers someone has left the platforms early. The rope should be placed 15 meters from the starting end and hang no less than 1.2 meters from the water surface. It should be attached to standards by a quick-release mechanism and effectively cover all lanes when activated.
Though not your typical pool accessory, make sure your club has a safety marshal at all meets. The marshal ensures that people are behaving and acting appropriately during the meet. USA Swimming also encourages clubs to make safety-related announcements throughout the competition, reminding swimmers and bystanders to follow safety procedures in and out of the pool.
Each year, food-borne diseases cause about 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States. Don't let your facility be the cause of a single case.
In addition to creating the obvious bad will among customers, food-borne illnesses can lead to lawsuits and force businesses to go under. Fortunately, these hazards can be avoided easily by following a few simple rules when storing, preparing and serving food.
CLEAN IS IN
The first step toward preventing food-borne illness is demanding cleanliness. To this end, post signs around the concession stand reminding employees to wash their hands before serving food. If you have employees who are not fluent in English, write signs that explain and encourage hand washing in their native languages. After preparing food, all cutting boards, utensils and counters should be washed in hot, soapy water. Store wiping cloths in a sanitizing solution made up of bleach and water. It's also important to have an ample supply of paper towels and soap available.
You also can take several steps to ensure that your food does not get contaminated. Instruct employees to use a clean plate for cooked food. Cooked food should never be placed on a plate that previously held raw food. All food items should be covered whenever possible. All food items also should be stored at least six inches off the floor to minimize contamination and allow for proper floor cleaning.
Proper cooking also plays a critical role in preventing food-borne illnesses. When cooking in a microwave oven, cover food, rotate and stir for even cooking. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods should be maintained at a minimum 140ºF, while cooler foods should be kept at 41ºF or below.
Be proactive and select cooking equipment that promotes food safety. Consider a roller grill, for example, that maintains cooking time and temperature. Such equipment takes the guesswork out of concession cooking, a critical service for snack bars operated by inexperienced employees.
KEEP YOUR COOL
It's important to refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep bacteria from growing and multiplying. For quick cooling, divide large amounts into small, shallow containers. Refrigerators must be set at 40ºF or lower, while freezers must be at least 0ºF. To keep the cool air inside, be sure freezer and refrigerator doors are closed when not in use. All frozen food should be thawed in the refrigerator.
WHAT'S TO EAT?
To avoid food-borne illness, consider a low-risk menu. Keep high-risk foods such as meats, eggs, dairy products, cut vegetables and protein salads to a minimum. Avoid using precooked foods or leftovers. Use foods only from approved sources.
TO YOUR HEALTH
Only healthy workers should prepare and serve food. Employees who show symptoms of disease—cramps, nausea, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, etc.—should not be allowed in the concession area. Workers with open sores or infected cuts on their hands also should be barred. Employees should wear clean outer garments and not smoke in the food-preparation area. Hair restraints also should be mandatory.
It's important to remember that many concession stand workers are part-time or seasonal employees. They typically are not trained food-service workers who understand the need maintain a clean, healthy business. It's your job to educate them. Go over health department regulations and, above all else, stress the importance of frequent hand washings.
What's not to love about splash play areas? They attract patrons, offer a colorful way to enhance parks and are just plain fun.
Splash play areas have been a lifesaver for communities struggling to provide aquatic recreation to their residents. And, now, the affordable option has become even more affordable with play areas that allow you to change and add features as your budget permits.
Here are some tips to consider when designing your play area on a shoestring budget:
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Find out what works in other communities. Contact other facilities and ask about their experiences. Talk about specific features and learn how patrons have reacted to them. If possible, travel to that community and spend an afternoon observing the play area. Which features are the most popular? Which ones attract the fewest patrons? You also could bring children of various ages from your community and conduct an informal focus group at the neighboring site.
A WORD ABOUT INFRASTRUCTURE
Keep in mind that splash play areas are not just wet playgrounds. If you fail to recognize this fact, it will create serious problems during the design, construction and operation phases. The use of water involves completely different considerations than erecting a playground structure. The area's infrastructure will be more costly—but it also plays a critical role in providing your patrons with a safe, enjoyable recreation area.
To create a splash play area that will attract children year after year, make sure your area engages and energizes them. Kids prefer active entertainment such as water cannons and buckets. A splash play area only made up of arches, spray posts and ground sprays will appeal to adults, but it may fail to hold children's interests.
Remember one size does not fit all. When designing your splash play area, be mindful of the various age groups that will be using it. Experts recommend creating at least three sectors, with each one featuring play elements tailored to a specific age group. Toddlers, for example, respond to color, shapes and textures. The zone should be filled with non-intimidating features such as soft mists and gentle streams. The second sector should encourage social interaction and family play. Chose features such as water tunnels and dumping buckets that promote imaginative play. Your final zone should provide high-energy activities with products that advance teamwork and competitive play.
KEEPIN' IT FRESH
Is a strict budget standing in the way of your dream splash play area? Don't despair. The industry has responded by creating removable anchor systems that allow you to add, replace and interchange play products without destroying the existing framework. You gradually can add products over time to maximize play value. Communities with several splash play areas can swap features, a move that would allow you to constantly rejuvenating the play areas.
Even if your budget allows you to purchase an entire play area at one time, removable anchor systems remain a smart choice. They can protect your investment by preventing the play areas from becoming stale, tired environments. The systems allow the play areas to be modified and renewed easily as demand dictates.
Don't be afraid to use the play areas to generate revenue. Many communities have made their play areas profitable by charging a minimal entrance fee. Others rent out the splash play areas for birthday parties and other special occasions.
Almost nothing will turn off patrons quicker than dirty restrooms and dingy locker rooms.
The public demands restrooms and changing areas that are clean, comfortable and orderly in terms of its use. Restrooms that fail to meet these standards reflect poorly on your facility, leaving the impression that you don't care about quality customer service or a healthy environment.
With a little attention and the right furnishings, however, cleanliness really can be next to godliness.
PICKING YOUR PART
The road to a well-kempt restroom begins with the right partition. For example, toilet partitions made of solid materials are not conducive to any kind of absorption. If your partition allows odors or moisture to permeate into the core, it may result in delamination along the wall and a restroom that carries a strong, unpleasant smell. Partitions also must be made of materials that do not corrode. When it comes to public restrooms, few things are worse than partitions that are rusting and rotting away at the edges. The corrosion eventually will cause a blighted area that not only displeases users but also poses a threat to their safety.
LOCK IT UP
Along the same lines, the right lockers help keep a locker room looking sanitary and neat. Patrons do not want to place their clothes and valuables in lockers that are rusting or have paint chipping. Nor do they want foul odors to permeate their belongings. To meet their expectations, choose a durable material for your lockers. The industry has developed plastic lockers, for example, that clean up easily and are resistant to mildew, odor and graffiti.
Patrons want restrooms to be as germ-free as possible. In a perfect world, your custodial staff could work round-the-clock to eliminate every last germ and microbe. Of course, that's not—and never will be—an option. Instead, consider purchasing one of the many hands-free components on the market. The industry offers a myriad of electronic and infrared devices such as soap dispensers, toilets, water faucets, paper-towel dispensers and hand dryers. Depending on where they are applied, spray-on anti-microbial products generally are not effective. The treatments tend to wear off in areas where there are a lot of contacts such as door handles. It also remains to be seen if products marketing themselves as anti-microbial are as effective as their claims. In the end, nothing can take the place of regular and thorough cleaning.
KEEP A CLOSE EYE
Monitor your restroom at regular intervals to check on its condition. On a normal day, an employee should check public restrooms every two hours to ensure it's meeting facility standards. The frequency should increase to hourly checks during big events when restroom traffic is heavier and more eyes will be judging your facility. Post a checklist that includes tasks such as picking up debris, noting broken items, attending to trash overflow and refilling dispensers. To instill accountability, require employees to initial, time and date the tasks they have completed.
TEACH 'EM RIGHT
Educate your custodial staff on which cleaning products to use and where to use them. The most common cleaning mistakes are using products on the wrong surface, combining chemicals to create unsafe situations and cross-contaminating areas by using the same cleaning tool in different areas. Making sure easily ignored spaces—such as back sections or the outside of the toilet bowl—are attended to is key to going beyond a superficial clean.
It's no exaggeration to say shade protection can help save lives. It has become an invaluable partner in the fight against skin cancers.
The depletion of the earth's ozone is increasing our exposure to the sun's dangerous ultraviolet rays. With more than 1 million cases diagnosed each year, skin cancer currently ranks among the fastest growing cancers in the United States. A baby born today is twice as likely to develop skin cancer than 10 years ago. Research also shows as few as two severe sunburns during childhood double the chance of developing potentially deadly melanoma later in life.
As more and more people become aware of the harmful effects of ultraviolet exposure, an increasing number of recreation managers are providing sun protection at their facilities. Playgrounds, splash play areas, pools, skateparks, bleachers, dugouts and concession areas—which were once left uncovered—now are being protected with shade canopies. As an added benefit, shade covers also can help protect spectators and children from inclement weather as well as errant foul balls from adjacent ball fields. In short, this once optional park amenity has become a required element where the public's health and welfare is concerned.
MAKE IT LONG-LASTING
Fortunately, the shade industry is ready to help in the fight against ultraviolet rays with long-lasting, durable and attractive components. The best elements offer extensive warranties and come in a range of colors and shapes. When purchasing a new shade system, you first must ask yourself several questions. What is the warranty on rust through corrosion on metal components? What is the deterioration warranty on fabric canopies, including stitching thread? And, most importantly, does the canopy screen up to 99 percent of ultraviolet rays?
Recreation managers also should consider whether the shade element's design allows you to remove and then re-attach the canopies during the winter or in the event of severe weather such as a hurricane. While most canopies can withstand at least 80 mile-per-hour winds, they do not provide a substantial snow-load rating. They also cannot survive a hurricane's angry thrashing. Therefore, it's important to look for a system that enables you to remove canopies as needed and easily reattach them later without hiring outside installers.
When deciding how large or how tall your shade cover should be, you must consider playground requirements established by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Overhead obstacles should be at least 7 feet away from the nearest designated play surface. As the amount of shade provided is inversely related to the shade cover's height, try not to exceed the minimum by too much. Check with your manufacturer for exact spacing, as many shade roofs are hip designs that rise higher as they approach the canopy's center. When covering bleachers, stay 8 feet above the top row to discourage patrons from reaching up and grabbing the roof rafters. On all other shade applications, common sense prevails when deciding where to place the posts. For example, avoid high-traffic areas and beware of underground piping and building foundations.
Canopies also offer a secondary benefit to recreation managers with tight budgets. Facilities throughout the country use colorful permanent shade structures to give their parks a facelift, as well as protection from the elements. While they're keeping patrons safe, shade structures need not be sterile, boring elements. Embrace the various shades and colors offered as a way to add some flair to your park. Vibrant hues and fun styles can bolster a playful and energetic atmosphere at your facility.
When it comes to selecting playground surfacing, nothing beats the old adage to "play it safe." Choosing the safest playground surfacing materials depends on a variety of issues: climate, maintenance demands, ADA compliance and manufacturer's recommendations. And let's not forget the issue of cost that usually runs a very close second to safety when making that final surfacing selection.
The usual list of surfacing contenders include the loose-fill varieties like pea gravel, sand, wood chips and engineered wood fiber as well as poured-in-place synthetic and rubber surfaces. Although loose-fill materials are the cheapest for upfront cost, they can be the most challenging to maintain.
Kick-out areas, such as around slides and swings, require constant monitoring and regularly scheduled raking, cleaning and refilling to keep materials at their optimum safety depths. The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) suggests a depth of 12 inches for loose-fill surfaces around equipment with an 8-foot fall rating. When well maintained, they can be an attractive and safe surfacing choice.
In keeping with the "less is more" philosophy, rubber tiles, rubber recycled nuggets and synthetic poured surfaces usually only require a 3-inch depth to achieve the same 8-foot fall rating. Less material per square foot, however, does not mean necessarily a smaller price tag. These materials may cost more initially but ultimately can cost less over time since they require much less maintenance (read: labor and material costs) and last longer. They also come in a wide variety of colors and, depending on the treatment, a limitless variety of designs that add pizzazz to any playground.
And, perhaps even more importantly, rubber and synthetic poured surfaces have the blessing of the ADA. Accessibility—which is required by law for a percentage of ground-level play equipment and at least 50 percent of elevated play components—allows easy access for wheelchairs and walkers. Not surprisingly, caregivers with strollers appreciate these surfaces too.
Another consideration is a relative newcomer to the synthetic play surface lineup: synthetic turf with infill. With its ability to drain away heavy rains through a subsurface drainage system and its rubber infill design for maximum shock absorption, its attention to safety gets extra kudos. In addition, it offers the maintenance-free appearance of lush lawn, which, like real turf, offers greater play options for games like kickball and soccer thanks to its better footing and ball roll quality. All these factors combined, it is no wonder that synthetic turf is growing in popularity.
Another component of the selection and elimination process, however, may be your climate. Mother Nature may simply make some surface selections a no-go right from the start. Wood chips, for example, are not recommended for desert states where insect infestations become a problem. Likewise, in those same states as well as others with high temperatures, some rubber-tire products cannot tolerate the heat.
MIX IT UP
If choosing one surface over another seems difficult, perhaps the best of both worlds is for you. Some playgrounds find they are better served with a mix of surfaces—wood fiber or loose fill at the proper depths for fallout areas and solid-surfacing paths for ADA-accessible play features and transfer points. Which ever you choose, loose fill or solid, natural or synthetic, organic or colorful, there is a playground surface that's best for the kids in your community to play it safe.How To Run a Profitable Concession Stand
Wait a minute before you fire up that grill. Do you really think those same-old hamburgers are enough? Are you still running your food service with the mere hope of breaking even? Do you think that the snack bar adds little value to your facility?
Then you, my friend, have a problem. That's the old-fashioned—not to mention financially naive—way to run a concession stand. It's time to think outside the bun.
Good concession stands keep patrons happy and encourage them to stay longer. They also, if run correctly, can make money.
THE NUMBERS GAME
To transform your snack bar into a profitable concession stand, you first must assess how well it's doing. In a typical neighborhood location, the food cost should be no more than 27 percent of your sales. In locations such as theaters and stadiums, patrons will expect to pay more, which may translate into a 17 percent food cost percentage.
In a neighborhood location, labor costs should run 22 percent to 25 percent of sales. If it jumps to 30 percent or higher, you may be overstaffed or paying too much per hour. Your menu also may be hampering your ability to get high sales productivity per label dollar. A complicated menu, for example, can slow down service. Experts, however, caution that simply cutting food and labor costs do not equate profit. If you cut quality, you may create an unfavorable image with the public. To create bottom-line profits, you must increase revenue while holding your labor and food costs steady.
Remember to keep the menu simple. Variety may be the spice of life, but it doesn't always equate to profits. The more extensive the menu, the more time, skill and inventory required to execute it. Instead, try offering items in a variety of sizes. It will boost sales while keeping a profit.
HERE'S TO YOUR HEALTH
In addition to concession stand staples such as candy bars and fried foods, you also may want to consider healthier options. There has been a nationwide increase in the demand for healthier foods, particularly in locations that attract children. This can be done without an inventory overhaul by adding items such as apple chips or fruit smoothies. Like all food items, healthier choices should go through the litmus test listed below before being put on the menu.
Before adding new items to your menu, there are many things to consider:
In most cold-weather states, tradition dictates that the aquatic season lasts three short months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But it really doesn't have to be that way.
In many warm-weather states, chilly evening temperatures discourage usage from dusk until several hours after dawn. But it really doesn't have to be that way, either.
Pool enclosures can turn a part-time facility into a full-time recreation option with multiple benefits. Enclosures help reduce maintenance because there's no debris to clean up, and decks need less washing. They also keep chlorine and other chemicals from dissipating. But, most importantly, they offer a way to boost both patronage and profits—once vital issues such as air quality, water quality and costs are addressed.
PICK A STYLE
First you must decide what type of structure you want. If you're looking for something to get you over the winter hump, an inflatable dome will suffice. If you're looking for something more permanent—not to mention aesthetically pleasing—greenhouse-type enclosures are an attractive option. Unlike most brick-and-mortar buildings, these permanent structures offer retractable roofs and sliding glass doors to provide an indoor/outdoor feel. Though the glass enclosures cost more than domes and some stick-built structures, they often are hailed for providing an inviting aquatic experience. Even when closed, the bronze-tinted or translucent roofs offer natural sunlight without exposure to dangerous ultraviolet rays.
Traditional stick-built enclosures remain a viable option, but they come with their own set of issues, specifically corrosion and humidity. To combat the problem, be sure to select a heating, ventilation and cooling system that balances chemistry and comfort. Effective duct systems will circulate the air to reduce the heavy chlorine smell that plagues many indoor aquatic centers. The ventilation and duct system must be planned hand-in-hand with the enclosure.
When considering an enclosure, you should insist on several features. First, aquatic managers should lean toward powder-coated aluminum or similar building materials that do not break down when exposed to moisture and chlorine. You also should look for a thermally broken design, which means rubber gaskets separate the inside and outside parts. This reduces conductivity and limits condensation caused by the sharp difference in indoor and outdoor temperatures.
RAISING THE ROOF
Retractable, bronze-tinted or translucent roofs also must be considered for the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits they provide. The roofs have the ability to fill 40 percent of the facility with natural light, providing an important psychological boost during dreary winter months. Because they can be opened and closed, retractable roofs also provide an easy way to help regulate air quality. Selecting roof panels made of polycarbonate—a tough, translucent, resin-based plastic—protects against ultraviolet rays while allowing in natural light.
LONG TERM VS. SHORT TERM
When choosing the best method for enclosing your pool, consider the long-term benefits. Domes, for example, provide an inexpensive short-term option, but they might not be the best choice for facilities looking to make a commitment to a long-standing indoor aquatic programming. Bubbles are labor-intensive and have a life span of about 10 years. They cost about $15,000 to inflate each year and are not as airtight as permanent structures, meaning higher heating costs. Glass enclosures, in contrast, are usually specifically designed to help maintain the indoor climate.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE?
In the end, the type of enclosure you chose may depend on how quickly you want it built. Domes, obviously, require the least amount of time but must be set up and taken down each year. Glass enclosures generally are constructed quicker than brick-and-mortar buildings because they feature framing systems manufactured in a factory to an aquatic center's precise measurements. They are then shipped to the site and assembled like a giant erector set. Once built, they tend to require very little maintenance.
If your pool has a cracked basin, worn-out deck or leaky infrastructure—and attendance is slipping away—it's high time for improvements, especially before safety becomes an issue.
An aging pool might not only be physically deteriorating (like a decrepit infrastructure and failing mechanical systems), but it also might be struggling to meet the latest health codes and safety regulations.
Of course, renovating your facility also can up its aesthetic and programming appeal to meet the increasingly high expectations of the public.
Consider it a reinvestment in your recreational offerings.
GET THE BEACH BALL ROLLING
If your pool is starting to show signs of functional or physical obsolescence, the time to begin the process is now. Are you planning a relatively easy facelift of the existing structure or a major site overhaul? Depending on the depth of your project, it may take some time to go through investigation, review, funding, design and construction stages of development, so the sooner you begin the process, the quicker you'll open the doors to your new or renovated aquatic center.
Especially for large-scale plans, start by documenting the state of your existing facility, including attendance and revenue histories as well as mechanical and structural maintenance issues. An aquatic consultant can help conduct a facility audit to analyze the condition of your current facility and programming. The consultant also can prepare design options and individualized business plans for each option, describing the expected project costs, projected attendance and revenues, and ongoing maintenance, labor and other costs associated with the renovation proposals.
This report also should include an analysis of the existing competitive environment; existing and potential user groups with their expressed facility wishes and needs; and a demographic study of the community reflecting population trends, income and other statistical evaluation of the community's potential to support the proposed facility.
This information will be invaluable, not only in helping you make an educated decision on what proposals to make, but it also will help you educate and provide background to community members and other decision-makers to help them come to a position of support for the proposals.
Ultimately, whether you decide to merely spruce up and repair your pool or take on a massive renovation or brand-new facility, it's important that you have a solid understanding of your facility's capabilities and budget, the wishes of patrons both present and potential, and a clear concept of the aquatic environment and programming your community deserves.
Once you've chosen a plan of action that's right for your facility based on needs and budget, take the time to research the structural and mechanical options that will improve your pool and keep it up to code. For operational, aesthetic and safety's sake, the mechanical elements that often need attention include the pool basin, decking, gutters, filters, piping, drain covers, safety equipment, fixtures and the sanitation system.
For example, considering the pool basin itself, repair alternatives range from repainting and replastering to regrouting tile to probably the longest-lasting alternative, installing a new commercial membrane. For each option, investigate all the variables like slip-resistance, durability, installation, upkeep and life-cycle costs—not only upfront dollars but operating and maintenance expenses, both short- and long-term. Likewise, don't forget to find out about product warranties and any necessary pre-project preparation.
If you do your homework for all the key elements, the results hopefully will be a safe, clean, watertight and properly balanced pool that's a dream destination for your patrons—and a dream for your staff to operate and maintain for years to come.
It seems nothing hits your park's reputation—or budget—harder than poor upkeep of site furnishings.
Run-down elements discourage patronage and, in many cases, invite vandalism. Conventional wisdom may suggest better maintenance cures the problem, but that's not always the ideal solution. Increased maintenance means more money must be spent on labor and materials, a move that ultimately can hurt the park's overall fiscal health.
Fortunately, the industry has responded to this predicament with several viable solutions:
PRICE ISN'T EVERYTHING
When choosing site furnishings, the price tag shouldn't always be the bottom line. You also must factor in maintenance and durability. How often does the item have to be replaced? How much maintenance time and money will have to be spent to keep it safe, usable and looking good? Be willing to pay a little more upfront if it means less maintenance in the long run.
GRAFFITI BE GONE
A major step in reducing maintenance cost is deterring graffiti. Concrete and plastic structures, for example, easily withstand the rigors of vandalism. Brick and wood, meanwhile, are more vulnerable during the removal process. Dark, rough surfaces deter vandals because their work will not be as visible, thus denying them the thrill of seeing their crime on display. Regardless of material type, all outdoor furnishings should be covered with a protective coating that allows graffiti to be expunged without damaging the paint or surfaces beneath. If graffiti does appear, it should be removed with 48 hours.
When choosing your trash bins, make sure the receptacles are large enough to allow you to dictate your own emptying schedule. If you go too small, you risk garbage spilling out onto the grounds. If your bins aren't big enough, you'll also increase your maintenance staff's workload by requiring them to work frequent trash-emptying trips into their day.
One of the best ways to reduce maintenance, of course, is to select site furnishings that don't require much upkeep. One such option is recycled-plastic components, which boast molded-in colors that never require painting or staining. The products are not only strong, they are environmentally friendly, too. The sturdy material comes in a variety of styles and is used for myriad furnishings, including park benches, picnic tables and trash receptacles. Their durability makes them ideal for heavy-traffic areas such as school playgrounds, ball fields, golf courses and trails.
When building your own outdoor furnishings, consider using plastic lumber and timbers. High-quality plastic lumber and timbers provide a desirable alternative to traditional materials because they can withstand the elements better. Plastic lumber and timbers will not crack, split or splinter, which makes them a good material to use in places where concrete, wood or metal needs to be replaced. Plastic lumber can be cut, drilled and nailed using standard woodworking tools. Unlike treated lumber, it does not leach out chemicals that pollute surface and groundwater. Plastic materials also can be easily disposed of, unlike treated lumber, and can be recycled after use. However, it is not a 1-for-1 replacement for wood because it is more flexible. Check with the manufacturer before purchasing to ensure it will meet your applicable needs.
KEEP IT UP
If you decide to go with wood or another material, make sure you keep it up. Like the old proverb says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stain and paint regularly to prevent bigger maintenance headaches from arising.
BULK IS BEST
Consider buying bulk. Having a master plan or park standards can help reduce maintenance migraines. From a practical standpoint, bulk buying makes replacing parts easier and means the maintenance staff won't have to grapple with 42 different types of benches and their individual upkeep needs.
Whether it's a sporting event, concert or graduation, spectators need a place to spectate. Sure, permanent grandstands are, well, just grand, but what do you do when your special event requires more seating for the masses?
Unless you want standing room only (and grumpy guests), your best bet is to consider a portable bleacher system. Often available for rent, lease-to-own or even via shared ownership, these systems have become surprisingly convenient to operate.
Following are four factors to contemplate if you're tempted by investing in temporary seating:
Of course, something may be labeled "portable," but just how manageable is it? Is it a snap to set up and take down or a huge headache and hassle? How many employees does it involve? Can you tow it on the highway between venues or is it tricky to truck around? What are its dimensions (folded and unfolded) and its typical seating capacity?
These are just some of the important questions to keep in mind. In addition, you want to make sure the bleachers are equipped with brake, turn and clearance lights during transport.
When it comes to temporary seating, it's not always a question of where you may need it, but when. Because some special events may dictate a very short window when bleachers and other equipment can be installed, moved or removed, it helps to choose a system that offers a fast turnaround—often in minutes.
Some portable structures sport a hydraulic mechanism powered by a single 12-volt battery for folding and unfolding the bleachers, greatly reducing the manpower necessary for setup. Likewise, the jacks for stabilizing the seating should be easy to operate.
Be sure to find out upfront what kind of care and maintenance a system may require.
Just because a bleacher system is temporary, doesn't mean it may be less sturdy or secure. You just never know when the crowd is gonna go wild.
Make sure that all your seating is not only durable and resilient but obviously meets or exceeds all required safety codes. Such regulations can prescribe the spacing between rows (to prevent children from falling through), weight restrictions or the overall height of the bleachers, to name a few common requirements.
Smart safety components include a central aisle and appropriate hand rails. Other design options, like vertical bars for guardrails, can discourage climbing kids (or rabid fans), hopefully preventing accidents and reducing liability.
And, of course, make sure the bleachers, like any part of your venue, are frequently inspected and well-maintained for optimum safety.
Although bleachers are usually more functional that beautiful, it never hurts to select a model that is simply stylish rather than a rickety eyesore. Not to mention comfortable, accessible and easy to clean. Weather-resistance is also key when it comes to proper outdoor seating. Who wants rusty or slippery bleachers?
Don't forget, any part of your facility reflects on the whole experience.
After all, you want your guests to cheer.
In the early 19th century, an English engineer invented the lawn mower because he had grown tired of cutting grass with a scythe.
Since that momentous occasion, man and machine have worked together in a quest for perfectly manicured grounds. It remains a constant, 200-year-old effort, a struggle occasionally bogged down by battles with weather, weeds and tricky terrain. Pristine grounds, however, are not an impossible dream.
There are several steps you can take to help get improve your mowing:
HIT THE DECK
One key to efficient mowing is buying the largest deck possible for your grounds. Obviously, soccer pitches and baseball fields can handle large decks because they're open spaces with no landscaping. Parks, however, are trickier because they often have plantings, rougher terrain and changes in grading. In those cases, you want to select a mower that offers you the largest deck possible while still being able to maneuver the grounds easily.
Mulch is a mower's best friend. Not only does it make your grounds look better, it reduces the work load. If a tree has mulch around it, the mower can go right up to the mulch line with the blade. Without mulch, the mower must skirt around the tree, thus leaving time-consuming edge work to be done later.
It may sound like twice the amount of work, but double cutting grass can benefit your grounds exponentially. When you double mow, you mulch the clippings and send the nutrients back into the soil. Clippings contain measurable amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium—nutrients that help make grass grow. Studies show when clippings are removed, 20 to 25 percent more fertilizer is necessary to maintain comparable color and quality than in areas where the clippings were returned. Experts recommend mowing over leaves in the fall instead of raking them, as well. Like grass clippings, mulched leaves add nutrients to the soil.
Nothing messes with a good grounds-keeping plan like the weather. Recent warming patterns suggest we'll be dealing with plenty of droughts, water restrictions and heat waves in coming years. While parched grounds are never pleasant, there are things you can do to make things more tolerable. First, let your grass grow a little taller. This allows the lawn to grow deeper roots and provide the necessary soil shading. You also should fertilize less. Fertilizer fuels your grounds' desire to grow and, therefore, increases its demand for water. In rainy weather, let the grass dry before cutting. Mowing wet grounds produces a very uneven cut. The damp clippings also clump and leave a mess on your grounds and under the mower.
Finally, no list of mowing tips would be complete without a word about safety. When using equipment with moving blades, check the area for hazards such as rocks, debris, roots and holes. You also should be careful when fueling the mower because fuel poured into a hot engine can create an explosive situation. Plan ahead and refuel before mowing or after an extended break. If you run out of gas during mowing, let the engine cool and slowly remove the cap to release pressure. Always, always wear the proper protective equipment.
Each year, roughly 50 million Americans lace up their sneakers to shoot some hoops. The country's passion for basketball—more than 10 million list it as their favorite sport—means big business for indoor recreation facilities.
But with huge popularity comes equally big expectations. Patrons will enter your facility with certain expectations in terms of equipment quality and availability.
To ensure you meet the demand, select indoor equipment that balances performance, safety, durability and value.
Here are some tips on meeting those goals:
WHAT'S YOUR TYPE?
First you must decide what type of basketball system you prefer: portable, ceiling-mounted or wall-mounted backboards. Each has good points. To determine which is best for you, think about who is using the facility, how it's being used, how much storage space you have, what your budget is and the overall look of your building.
Wall-mounted units offer a welcomed blend of flexibility and strength. When they aren't in use, they can be folded up against a wall. They take up zero floor space and can give your basketball court a more professional, authentic feel. They typically require a shorter lead time than ceiling-mounted units. Some manufacturers keep the units in stock, which makes for an even quicker turnaround time.
Portable units usually combine the base, extension, backboard and rim into one system. They are particularly useful in facilities where the courts are used for other activities such as volleyball, indoor soccer or social events. They can be wheeled around easily and do not require a labor-intensive setup. However, they do eat up storage space and often are an expensive option.
Ceiling-mounted units offer flexibility to large, arena-type buildings. They give facilities the freedom to install baskets where they would like, regardless of whether there's a wall nearby. The units, however, cost more and usually must be custom-made. Facilities needing a quick turnaround time probably should consider a different option.
BACK IT UP
Professional, college and high-school leagues all use glass backboards for competitive play because they provide the best ball rebound. If your patrons are trying to hone their competitive skills, glass backboards provide the best possible training ground.
KNOW THE SCORE
They may not be a top priority, but consider putting scoreboards into your construction costs. If you don't do it then, you might struggle to find a spot for such big-ticket items later in the annual budget. If it's not possible to have one when your facility opens, at least install the proper infrastructure so you'll be ready to purchase it as soon as finances allow. The two most common types of scoreboards are incandescent and LED (light emitting diode). Incandescent boards typically cost less then the LED variety, but replacing bulbs can add up over time. LED scoreboards do cost more, but they typically last longer, provide better visibility at severe angles and offer brightness adjustability. They also can come with display screens, such as single-line scrolling or sports-specific programming. Wireless scoreboards are hot, but you might want to have traditional system as a backup. Video scoreboards are even hotter, but you'll need generous budget for this fan favorite.
Imagine never dipping into a cool pool on a hot summer day. Or never being able to soothe your aching muscles in a bubbling spa. Or telling your child he can't join his friends at the local waterpark.
For 37 million Americans, these scenarios can be an everyday reality. An estimated 19 percent of the population—nearly one out of every five people—has a disability.
In July 2004, the U.S. Access Board finalized Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for pool and spa accessibility. These guidelines not only provide a legal framework to ensure public and commercial facilities are compliant, but more importantly, they create recreation opportunities for a historically underserved segment of the population.
MAKING AN ENTRANCE
In keeping with these guidelines, all pools must have either a sloped entry or an ADA-compliant pool lift. Sloped entries, however, often create more problems for disabled patrons than they resolve. As wheelchair users roll themselves into the water, they must push both their own body weight and the weight resistance created by the water. They also must abandon their chair in the water if they want to swim. If you do select a sloped entrance, be sure to provide water-proof wheelchairs for patrons because many of today's electric models cannot be used in pools.
Your best bet for improving access is a pool lift. When selecting a lift, be sure it meets all ADA criteria by having features such as a 16-inch-wide seat, a footrest and unassisted operation capabilities. The seat, which should be able to transfer users weighing up to 300 pounds, must be able to stop between 16 and 19 inches above the pool deck and submerge patrons at least 18 inches below the water surface.
LOOKING FOR A LIFT
When purchasing an ADA-compliant lift, there are more than just legal guidelines to consider. If you don't have a significant number of patrons with special needs, a portable lift may be the best option for your facility. It can be stored easily, therefore allowing more deck space. It's also ideal for aquatic centers with multiple water locations such as a pool and a spa.
With the many pool styles in the marketplace, some facilities have wide or unusual gutter configurations. It is imperative to determine that your lift will be able to operate correctly for your application.
You also should consider how easy it is to operate and what power source will be used with lift.
ON DRY LAND
Once your patrons can get into the pool, make sure they can enjoy the area around it as well. Site furnishings and other accessories like wheelchair-accessible tables make a facility more universally functional and enjoyable. All surfaces around the facility—including the parking lot and sidewalks that lead up to it—should be smooth and easy for patrons to move across. Inspect your concession area, souvenir stand and lockers. Could you easily access these features if you were in a wheelchair or had another special need? If the answer is no, you have some work to do.
SHARING THE GOOD NEWS
Sometimes, being accessible just isn't enough. In addition to making your facility usable for all patrons, you have to ensure everyone knows about your services. Increase outreach to persons with disabilities by using alternative forms of communications rather than just printed text. Use radio and television publicity to reach a wider audience. Publicize aquatic programs and services through organizations that work with people with disabilities. Expand the accessibility information section on your facility's Web site.
When planning public restrooms, the prime goal is to create facilities that not only look great but function well. Major design concerns include building size, fixtures and hardware, accessibility, vandal-resistance, and ease of maintenance. Aesthetic appeal and flexibility of function are also key considerations.
How can parks get public restrooms with customized design features but without the high-cost and long lead times often associated with custom architectural design?
Pre-engineered public facilities can offer many choices. With design help from the building's manufacturer, a wide variety of materials and features are available to tailor the building to fit just about any site and situation.
TOUGH AND ATTRACTIVE EXTERIOR WALL FINISHES
A tough-as-nails exterior also can look great. Masonry surfaces can establish a unique style, or they can match the appearance of other buildings nearby. Masonry choices include:
Masonry materials offer unsurpassed weather- and graffiti-resistance, yet many attractive wood siding options also are available and suitable for use in locations less prone to rough conditions or abuse.
There are numerous attractive and utilitarian roofing options that emphasize both form and function, whether in urban centers, rural areas or residential neighborhood parks. Pre-engineered restroom manufacturers offer roofing choices at various price points, while making a clear design statement with each:
A light and bright restroom interior is essential. White FRP is a great wall and ceiling surface because it reflects light so well, resists graffiti, and is easy to clean with soap and water. Concrete restroom floors should have an impervious sealer applied at the time of installation. Other floor finish choices include epoxy coatings and ceramic tile.
CHOICE OF FIXTURES AND HARDWARE
Once upon a time, there was only one decision to be made about restroom fixtures: vitreous china (porcelain) or stainless steel. That's still an important choice—the more durable stainless is often nearly triple the cost of china—but now there are many more possibilities: hands-free electronic flush valves and faucets, electric hand dryers, automatic door-locking systems, occupancy-sensor lighting and ventilation, and the list goes on. Shop around for the fixture features that best suit your site and style. Likewise, make sure you select components that promote accessibility and easy maintenance and can stand up to high use and abuse.
Often, parks need the building housing public restrooms to serve multiple purposes. Pre-engineered restroom manufacturers offer design services to craft a durable multiuse facility with additional space for showers and dressing rooms, concession booths, and outdoor covered shelters, equipment storage and mechanical rooms, and even office space.
COST AND SPEED ADVANTAGES
Besides lower costs, pre-engineered restrooms offer a shorter time from concept to completion. Whole building packages ship right to the project site, saving parks from having to go through the design and review process every time another new park restroom is needed.
Dirty drinking fountains do more than just turn off visitors. They also threaten their health.
Recreation managers have a responsibility to provide their patrons with clean coolers that quench thirst and prevent contamination. Fortunately, with a little extra effort and the latest technology, clean drinking water can be within everyone's reach.
CHECK IT OUT
Studies show the public won't drink from fountains they perceive as even slightly unclean. Make fountain checks a part of your regular maintenance schedule. Have an employee check your fountains every two hours to ensure they are in clean, working condition. During big events, consider performing hourly inspections.
KEEPING IT CLEAN
Water fountains should be cleaned at least once a day. When cleaning, first check the water flow. For sanitary reasons, the stream should be at least three inches away from the bubbler. Next, spray disinfectant cleaning solution on the inside surfaces of the mouthpiece and protective guard. Using a grout brush, scrub the inside and outside of the mouthpiece and protective guard. Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe down drinking fountain surfaces.
Fountain maintenance also should include the removal of lime buildup. The first step is to spray descaler onto the bowl and back of the drinking fountain. Once you've done this, saturate a clean, lint-free cloth with lime remover solution. Run the cloth directly over any surfaces with lime buildup. When removing the solution, use a brush or hand pad to remove the hard buildup if necessary. Wipe the area dry with a clean, lint-free cloth.
If you're installing your water fountain inside a recreation facility, consider placing it in an area without carpeting. Spillage can create moisture problems that encourage mold growth.
With increased population and industrialization, the world's water resources become more stressed every day. The global challenge has given rise to the recycling of treated municipal waste water for non-potable uses such as park and golf course irrigation. Non-potable water reuse often enables a community to supplement its water supply and reduce reliance on other pristine, yet quite limited, sources.
However, water reuse in park and recreational irrigation does not come without associated challenges. Wastewater, by its very nature, is highly contaminated. Only pathogens and some inorganic materials need to be removed for non-potable uses. Though the nutrient-rich water benefits the landscape, it poses a threat to patrons if it comes in contact with nearby water fountains.
It's critical that public drinking fountains located on or directly adjacent to irrigated areas have separate irrigation streams. When drinking fountains are located near irrigation heads, non-potable water can contact the drinking fountain's bubbler head, causing potential contamination problems. To remedy this, consider a device that shields the head.
The industry recently came up with a simple device that encases the bubbler head, protecting it from outside exposure and contamination, whether it be in a school room or on a irrigated ball field. When the fountain button is pressed, the water line pressure forces the shield up, exposing the bubbler head and clearing the water flow. When the button is released, the water pressure's elimination lowers the shield and once again encases the bubbler.
They are no longer unusual or surprises. Skateparks have gone mainstream and are now common features in our recreational landscapes. But these relative newbies still can be tricky for designers if tackled by the uninitiated or inexperienced. To keep skaters constantly challenged as they go from beginner to intermediate to advanced means offering a variety of versatile elements and skill levels (read: diversity) in a layout with good flow.
One way to ensure skatepark success is to start with the best design team consisting of community leaders, riders of all ages and skill levels, landscape architects, engineers, and expert skatepark designers or manufacturers with a proven track record. As in any project, getting the most experienced professionals to guide the community through the process—and within budget—is essential to getting a job done right.
A necessity in any skatepark requires balance and versatility using a myriad of elements—-bowls, street courses and half pipes. A mix of ramps, obstacles and rails at varying heights and angles for a range of skill levels will keep skaters challenged and coming back for more. Everybody—from beginner to pro—is looking for a diverse experience.
GO WITH THE FLOW
Placement of these elements is also important. Park design disasters often involve poor directional flow. Skaters need to transition from one feature to the next with as little foot propulsion (pushing) as possible. Parks in which elements are crammed into too small a space, with elements too far apart or with intersecting, conflicting skill-level areas, create bad flow and reflect bad design. A smart skatepark designer/manufacturer will provide a design with good flow and ensure an exciting experience for riders, with safety in mind.
DESIGN TO BE DIFFERENT
Good design, on the other hand, not only has good flow but challenges skaters of every level.
For example, modular systems, which can be changed out and moved, allow parks to reconfigure their layouts or add components to create an ever-changing experience.
Small elements like grind boxes and highway barriers can be moved easily by maintenance crews every month, while more complicated structures can be changed out every six months to a year to create whole new layouts.
However, depending on the budget, the site, climate and the needs of the local rider community, it is not uncommon to see "hybrid" skateparks that combine both concrete and modular elements to best meet the needs and wants of their users.
Even the best skatepark, however, needs to consider more than just the ramps, the street course or the coping. Amenities and creature comforts like spectator seating, shade elements, water fountains, vending machines, restrooms, pay phones and concession stands will help make a skatepark a more accommodating place for skaters and their families. Amenities that keep skaters comfortable combined with features that keep them challenged will keep them coming back for more.
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