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Way to Spray

Posted
Sun, 07/01/2001 - 8:00am
Last updated
2 months ago
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Katrina shows what big sisters are for as she deflects the water spray from her brother Ross.

Water Playgrounds Riding a Wave Of Popularity

Over the past few years, a new trend has emerged in the playground world. Spraygrounds are becoming more and more popular. The idea of combining playground equipment and water is a great idea, but I don't think it's a new concept. I remember when I was about 8-years old; I dragged a sprinkler hose over to my swing set one hot August afternoon. I thought I was really onto something when I brought my two loves together- my swing set and the joy of getting wet. I still thought it was a good idea, even after my friend Darin slipped off the wet swing and went home crying. Looking back now I'm still not sure if his mother ever forgave me.

I'm not claiming to be the pioneer behind water park playgrounds, but I do believe that the idea has been around for several years. Today's spraygrounds are far more elaborate than I could have ever imagined at my young age. The equipment today is safe and fun so I don't need to worry about Mrs. Jarrett getting after me again.

Spraygrounds

Plantation Central Park Pool has a lot to offer children including this sprayground that keeps children busy for hours.

I've been fortunate enough to visit some of the latest designs for spraygrounds over the past few years. I've come to realize that no two playgrounds are the same and no matter what, kids always have a good time. I really enjoy seeing how excited they get as they approach the sprayground for the first time.

I recently stopped by Vineyards Community Park in Naples, Fla. I had heard some exciting things about the park and was interested in seeing it first hand. At Vineyards park the kids were jumping for joy as they ran around like it was the first day of summer. For one small boy, the day was even more special as he had come to the community sprayground to celebrate his fourth birthday with his friends. The young partygoers couldn't hold still for even a second as they followed each other around dodging fountains and large puddles of water. At times it appeared as if they were running faster than their little legs would allow, but they always managed to stay in control. The parents seemed to get just as much enjoyment watching their children having a safe and fun time as they followed them around on the padded surface. Even the site of a birthday cake and presents weren't enough to lure little James Hoover away from the action, but after some persuasion by his father, they were able to continue their party.

Spraygrounds

The older kids seemed to be having as much fun, if not more, as they attempted cartwheels in the fountains and played other games. They took turns at each of the individual sections of the playground that were patterned after different sports. The section dedicated to soccer was arguably the most popular as the children couldn't get enough of the soccer ball-shaped water cannons. The sprayground occupied a large space so there were plenty of open areas for everyone. The fountains are on a timing system, which helps keep the children on their toes. I couldn't help but laugh as a child mistimed the water and was surprised by a burst of gushing water coming from the football section. The sudden shock of the water only encouraged him to try harder, as he was determined to make it to the other end of the football without getting hit again.

The baseball diamond was also quite popular, the kids ran around the bases in laughter as they tried to make it home by dodging the fountains. It didn't seem to matter where they were playing; they were having a great time.

Spraygrounds

Being a community park, it is open to everyone at no charge seven days a week. The sprayground did appear to be very popular, so I doubt that only locals come for a regular visit.

Other spraygrounds are located in wading pools, like the one at the Holiday Inn hotel in Orlando, Fla. This family resort hotel has a lot to offer including a spray ground that is fully loaded with amenities. The pedal bikes face each other and the harder you pedal, the wetter your friend gets. I watched in amazement, as the kids never grew tired of this unique style of water cannon. This playground was very interactive as the older kids took turns pulling different levers that would cause animal heads to spray their competition. The faster they could pull the lever the more the water would come out and so that kept several kids entertained for quite awhile.

Lifeguards were on hand so safety was never a concern for parents as they either participated with their child or watched from a lounge chair. A safety rope also helps secure the area so children knew it was safe to enter from the shallow end.

The umbrella-shaped fountain was also fun for kids and parents. One small boy found enjoyment in trying to push his father into the waterfall. Unfortunately for the father, the 3-year old son lost his balance and grabbed on to the back of his shorts causing dad some embarrassment as he quickly attempted to keep from losing his swim trunks. Seeing dad in a panic only made the young child laugh harder.

Spraygrounds work a lot better than my sprinkler and swing set idea that I had many years ago. Not only are they safer, but I believe they are more educational. These playgrounds give kids hands-on experience while having fun with water. I'm sorry that kids like my best friend Darin had to get hurt as the concept of a sprayground developed but with my apology to his mother, we're all better off today.

Spraygrounds

Kids are getting Wet and Lovin’ it

The popularity of play areas that utilize water in the design and function of the experience is growing. and continues to grow each year. The attraction to these play alternatives can be attributed to a number of issues.

First of all,  the water areas provide children a cool alternative to swimming. Many of the more popular water play areas today are free from standing water that can be hazardous. Standing water requires the supervision of lifeguards-thus increasing the amount of money needed for "maintenance." In fact, well-designed water playgrounds are also free from falling risks that require the use of impact surfacing. Because the children are not off the ground, painted cement with a broom finish will provide children with a non-slip surface and also aids in the drainage of the water.

"Most of the time a broom-finished cement surface works fine," Andre Khury, director of sales and marketing for Vortex Aquatic Structures International. said. "There should be no slipping with the broom finish." Another advantage of water play areas is that the area can be utilized all year. In warmer climates, the water play area may remain open. In a part of the country where cold weather is prevalent during the winter months. a well-designed play area can be transformed into a skate park. a roller rink or even an ice rink.

A well-designed. well-maintained water play area will be well worth the initial costs involved. A water play area can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $250.000 depending on the size and function of the area. Khurry said that an average- sized water play area from his company will cost between $60.000 and $70,000.T hat price includes equipment. automation and installation, but it doesn't include the costs for a re-circulating system.

Many states require a re-circulating system that will reduce the amount of water used by the area in the dry, summer months. There are systems that will re-circulate the entire amount of water usage In a matter of minutes, keeping the water clean and reusable.

When constructing a water play area. Be cautious of trip hazard s. head entrapments and other suspicious elements that might turn the area into less than a supervisor-less area. Equipment is safer when it is free from climbable objects and if climbable objects are included, proper impact surfacing should be used. Most manufacturers work through local customer service representative companies.

Through these companies, plans can be made as to the proper type of equipment needed for the job. and the best ideas for installation. Often, a professional contractor is used to ensure proper installation.

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