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Transforming Pools & Splash Pads for Post-Pandemic Fun

By Chris Thomas

Planning for Different Thrill Levels

During the design process, it's important to keep in mind that in choosing different upgrades, the features should each be tailored to engage every age group in a family. "The most successful renovations are the designs that provide comfortable play spaces for the really young ones as well as the older kids," said Anderson. Whenever possible, it's important to plan for a toddler area, a different space for the 4-to-7-year-olds and a bigger kid area for the 8-to-12-year-old crowd.

"It's best to plan for multiple thrill levels in the design process so that your aquatic facility will engage every member in a family," said Anderson. By engaging every member of the family, aquatic facilities are more likely to attract new patrons with children of all ages. It's also important to designate a toddler area with calming, interactive water features that are not too close to the slides, water cannons or larger dumping buckets designed for the middle and older children in a family.

Adding Inclusive Features

When choosing play products to renovate an aquatic facility, it's also important to choose products that provide a variety of experiences that make them inclusive for all physical, developmental or cognitive limitations. The arrangement of play features is key to ensure those with developmental or cognitive limitations have areas within a splash pad to participate.

A variety of sensory experiences that build upon one another make the facility more inclusive for those with developmental and cognitive limitations. For example, designers can create a sequence of features, starting with sensory exploration with something as simple as a bubbler, and slowly graduating to those with increased intensity, which draw users into the splash pad. When done properly, this sequencing provides participants the opportunity to try something more powerful, like an archway with spraying water, but also allows them to quickly retreat to a less forceful water feature. Moving from one zone to another allows users to explore the area at their own pace.

"One of our favorite, go-to products that is inclusive for all, is the Mushroom Maze, which provides both a simple and attractive design for users of all ages and abilities," Anderson said. "Kids can either play from outside the mushroom of water or sit under the dome of sprays, which creates a pleasing white noise and allows them to retreat into a world of their own." This type of feature provides a 'wow' factor while also appealing to a variety of patron cognitive and developmental needs.

More Than a Play Space

As with any community gathering space, having a visually striking feature on a pool or splash pad can provide excitement and interest for all users. Using a large climbing wall on a deep end pool, a themed slide in a kiddie pool or an iconic water feature piece within the splash pad are all important to aquatic facilities that want to give their facility a waterpark feel that will attract patrons. Large buckets of water that anchor the splash pad add an element of attraction even when the facility is not in use. Just watching the water flow—even from a distance—adds to the excitement. One of the more eye-catching options for splash pads are large rings that spray a mist. These are both attractive and easily integrate into a sequencing design for inclusive play. Having water splash, cascade and bubble creates a series of soothing sounds, which invariably enhances the ambience.

It is also important to remember that splash pads serve a smore than mere water play areas. By employing strategies to enhance the overall visual aesthetics, a splash pad can lend year-round appeal to a facility, even in the winter. Some clients, especially homeowners' associations and residential developments are interested in adding lighting to their splash pads and changing their colors several times a year. For example, red and green can be used around the winter holidays. "Water features with LED lighting serve to help promote the facility at night, even when the facility isn't open," explained Anderson. "There are many water and lighting elements that together create an exciting visual impact and even allow some facilities to extend their operating hours."

While aquatic facilities are focused on welcoming patrons back as states allow reopening, now is the time to explore renovation products that provide a big visual impact and thrills for all ages and members of a family. Remember that there are many simple solutions like smaller themed slides, poolside climbing walls and water features that can be easily integrated into the existing footprint and infrastructure of your pool. Don't wait. Get the solutions that fit your budget, footprint and timeline to make your aquatic facility the talk of the town in 2021.