Feature Article - April 2013
Find a printable version here

Splash Down!

Splashpads Arriving in Style

By Kelli Anderson

"We average 15,000 to 20,000 kids a year (not counting parents) at our park from Memorial Day through Labor Day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m." said Ron Davis, director of parks and recreation since 1995 for the Oxford township parks and recreation department. "In the past, the picnic shelter adjacent to the new park was hardly ever used. Now, since the splashpad, those pavilions are used so often we have to split the time to rent them. It's overwhelming how many want to use it. It's bringing in tremendous amounts of people to our community where people wouldn't normally comeā€”busloads from schools, foster care and day care centers."

But he isn't complaining. Although the attraction is free to residents, it adds revenue ($4/non-resident) and it has also brought new awareness of and increased participation in existing recreation programs. And its many ADA-friendly designs like the wheelchair-activated mechanisms make it enjoyable for almost every age and ability.

According to Mark Reid, general manager at Lakewood Cove Center in Lee's Summit, Mo., when their pool renovation with spray features was installed in 2012, its popularity affected more than just the park district's revenue. "We have been extremely pleased with the high levels of customer satisfaction we have obtained," Reid said of their newest attraction. "And it has enhanced the marketing and value for our new and existing home sales."

Another trend in the past few years for spray parks has been the addition of lights to the parks that can transform their purpose and extend their use into the night. "We're starting to see lots of requests of lighting the spray parks so they are used as a multipurpose facility vs. just during the day," said Chris Thomas, marketing director since 2007 for one company in the industry. "It's park play by day and then sequenced lights for aesthetics without water during the night and the off-season. Facilities are looking to keep a facility open and not dormant during three to five months out of the year."

Counting the Cost

But whether they are bringing in more money for water play (for those that charge fees or attract more people to existing programs) or bringing smiles for their nighttime appeal, these spaces also save money.

Another trend in the past few years for spray parks has been the addition of lights to the parks that can transform their purpose and extend their use into the night.

"From a pool to a spray park, you're saving on staffing and on water," Thomas said. "Everyone is trying to be more innovative with water conservation while also adding play value to make it more entertaining like sequencing the water with on and off jets that pop so that it looks like it's using water all day but it's actually conserving water and adding interactivity."

Other spray effects like misters and small streams in conjunction with entertaining water dances and timed jets add to the ever-evolving, bright eye-candy features and themed designs that can trace their origins to the goal of greater water conservation.

Inherent to the water savings of these recreational spaces are the ways in which they use water. Systems for these parks and pads are either enclosed recycled systems that use a filtration and chemical treatment or they are flow-through (water to waste). There are several advantages to a flow-through system. Not only do they not need to be filtered or treated chemically (eliminating those associated costs, as well as the staff needed to maintain and operate those systems), but they also lend themselves to easy adaptation for reuse, a trend that continues to result in ever-increasing creative applications.

"One trend we are seeing now is reuse of water," said Bill Hachmeister, a national sales manager of 10 years with a splashpad manufacturing company. "Used water is often sent to retention ponds and used for irrigation and even urban gardening." One such visionary idea that is currently being investigated is the use of reclaimed water for aquaponics, a system that creates organic food using fish and water without soil.