inPRACTICE / SPLASH PLAY
Splash Into Adventure
>> Fort Worth Zoo // Fort Worth, Texas
By Chris Thomas & Micaela Garcia
In May 2019, the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas, was ranked number four by USA Today's 10 Best Zoos across the nation. Boasting approximately 1 million visitors annually, the center continues to introduce new exhibits and attractions yearly. With more than 7,000 animals in natural habitats, 11 current exhibits and other zoo attractions, learning and entertainment abound. With a mission of strengthening the bond between humans and the environment through three cornerstones of conservation, education and entertainment, the zoo is a popular destination for friends and families all year round. Included in the popularity of the zoo is a custom-designed splash-play waterpark that mirrors the zoo's unique exhibits.
Static trends in summer ticket sales demonstrated evidence that traffic declined due to the sweltering Fort Worth heat. A new attraction was needed to solve this problem. Searching for an original and innovative way to drive summer traffic to the zoo while satisfying guest curiosity was the goal. Keeping in mind the mission of conservation, education and entertainment, the new attraction had to encompass these key elements.
After evaluating the resources available to the institution, a piece of land within the zoo property was considered as a viable option. This property hadn't been utilized before. An animal exhibit was never a possibility due to unsuitable exhibit qualifications. An uneven landscape offered complications to any possible structure built, not to mention that the property's location was placed in a moderate floodplain. These factors prevented any construction of an attraction up until this point. At the time, the square footage was purposeless, unused and ignored. Despite these difficulties, this area of land was examined as a possible option for the placement of a new attraction. The flooding presented a unique challenge as to what entertainment feature should be added to the park. The functionality and best usage of this space demanded a creative solution.
Research began with inquiring at other zoos to determine an applicable solution to the problem. The answer presented itself in the form of a splash pad. Not only did a splash pad offer a distinctive advantage to the park, but also a unique remedy to the summer heat that had been driving away visitors. A water feature would provide a fun way for guests to cool off while still being able to enjoy the zoo atmosphere. A splash pad would offer solutions to two of the main problems, the uneven terrain and relief from the summer heat. By building the splash pad above the floodway and floodplain, the harmful effects of the floodwaters would be avoided. At the worst, the splash pad would be equipped to weather the floodwaters due to its inherent water functions. Plus, fun water features provide an entertaining, refreshing escape for visitors.
With more than 10 custom animal-themed water features and over 25 products placed around the 14,000-square-foot splash pad, there are more than enough opportunities to keep visitors entertained and distracted from the Texas heat. Among the highly themed spray features, Water Odyssey developed a custom 30-foot tall mother and baby giraffe that is the centerpiece of the splash pad. Surrounding this giant giraffe pair is a safari-themed multi-level climbing structure complete with four slides, tipping buckets and themed elements that spray. Water features that spray up from the ground and animal-themed features that also spray water are located throughout the water play area. The splash pad includes a large water dump feature entertaining guests with anticipation for a 300-gallon 360-degree splash every five minutes, offering discovery and stimulation. The variety of water play components provide an array of play experiences encouraging diverse interaction across the pad.
Since the installation and opening of the Safari Splash pad, the summer guest attendance has skyrocketed. Admission to the waterpark is an extra $5, along with regular zoo admission tickets that can be purchased at the park entry. Before the splash pad was introduced into the park, the summer attendance rate was on severe decline. Post opening, attendance and revenue in the Safari Splash park greatly increased due to the popularity of the water features. Ticket sales continue to bring in a high volume of guests who also purchase nearby food options, snacks, and merchandise products.
Not only does the splash play area offer families a space too cool off from the heat of the summer, but it also embodies the zoo's mission. RM
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