By Cory Forrest
Spray parks, splash pads, water playgrounds and spray grounds—there are many aliases for aquatic play pads. No matter what they are called, as their popularity continues to grow, the need for sound project management strategies is paramount. A key way to ensure each aquatic play pad is a success lies in the ability to formulate a comprehensive plan to execute a smooth installation.
The excitement around a new aquatic play pad can inspire and unite a community. Whether it is a private or public project, the planning process is essentially the same; the only difference is the department making the decisions.
For public projects, city hall meetings are sometimes held to get input and ideas, while for privately led projects, a group of board members or marketing staff will hold brainstorming sessions.
The first step during the initial planning stage is to determine who will be involved. All too often, the process of designing and building an aquatic play pad is started without the proper experts involved. This usually results in unnecessary project expenses and/or poorly documented drawings for the contractor. Attempts to cut costs during the design stage, by not hiring qualified designers, usually results in expensive mistakes throughout the construction phase.
Regardless of who is involved during the initial stages, the budget and objectives are universally held as the project’s framework. Once the best ideas are put to paper, it is time to bring in the experts.
Depending on the type of facility being built, and the environment where the play pad will be constructed, there will likely be three key players involved during the initial design stage, including the landscape architect and/or aquatic designer, the aquatic spray feature manufacturer and owner. During the installation stage (discussed later), the general contractor primarily leads the project.
Once the landscape architect and/or aquatic designer have been selected, they will determine the existing site conditions and ensure the area selected for the project has the proper infrastructure to accommodate an aquatic play pad. This includes access to electrical supply, potable water and storm sewer connections, in addition to overall site feasibility including public access, parking and proximity to playgrounds, washroom facilities, etc.
Access to existing utilities will play a vital role in planning and will affect the scope of trade-related work required. Once the project starts to take shape, the landscape architect and/or aquatic designer will begin the process of selecting an aquatic spray feature manufacturer.
The manufacturer will often assist the design firm(s) with feature selection and layout by providing the necessary hydraulic requirements of all selected features for the project. In most cases, the manufacturer will provide preliminary schematic drawings showing where the features will be placed, their spray radius requirements and a 3-D graphical rendering showing how they will look when the park is operational.
Ensure the selected manufacturer is capable of providing technical assistance throughout the entire project, not just through the sales cycle. The contractor and installer will be using documents provided by the manufacturer, in which case communication between these parties can also factor in on the project’s success.
“If install manuals are comprehensive and parts packages are complete, experienced installers should have few problems,” says Greg Perkins, CEO of Aquaplay Solutions, an aquatic play pad builder/designer in Peachtree City, Ga. “Problems and/or questions will usually arise at some point; however, having responsive and knowledgeable customer service that is accessible without delay can be a major advantage.”