Plan Ahead

One interesting and oft-overlooked lesson is the opportunity to offer “aqua socks” or aquatics shoes to users. The park district chose a concrete broom finish for the surfacing, and found that, unlike the no-shoes policies typically found on traditional pool decks, some type of aqua shoe or sock would help the user spare their soles and provide some additional concession revenue. The absence of aqua socks was not a problem of any significant proportion, but is certainly a good idea.

“If you’ve never gone to a Splashpad before, you’re not real sure what to expect, and the opening brought out such ideas as the aqua socks and water-proof disposable cameras,” says Lori Magee, public relations and marketing manager for the park district. “I actually wanted the water socks for the grand opening, but I couldn’t get them in time. I found that you can purchase them with your logo printed for about a dollar apiece.”

The splashpad has 29 different components, divided between bucket sprays, jets, water cannons, flush-mounted fountains and other designs.

Currently, the park district is experimenting with running three different sessions — 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 2-5:30 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. — with admission running at $3 per person.

Once the park has some history behind it, the park district will evaluate how effective it is to bring users into the park in three shifts. Though users can come into the park any time during a shift, it will allow the park to easily cap a session when attendance reaches capacity, which is 180.

The park is typically staffed with two people — a cashier and an attendant. Schimmel says that morning sessions are the most heavily attended, so they plan to pare down to one staff person for the afternoon and evening sessions.

Mike Rylko, executive director of the Buffalo Park District, says it’s important to create as much pad space as possible, and to include a buffer zone. This buffer zone is needed for additional seating, shade, picnic tables and other amenities, as well as room for excess spray on windy days.

“When you throttle up the units to about 90 percent, and you get a wind across an open field of 15-20 mph, the mist drifts. In some areas we had to throttle it down because it was misting into our picnic areas and flower beds, so it’s a good idea to increase your size of your pad area more than is required,” explains Rylko.

Dale Ducommun, superintendent of parks, further notes that bathrooms are a key consideration. Given that the primary user group is in the toddler age range, it’s important to have facilities that include correctly-sized fixtures, as well as family changing areas.

Since it is a family destination, the park district was sure to include plenty of shade and canopy structures, as well as enough picnic table areas for birthday parties and other family events. The entire park can be rented out by a group for $250, $175 if they share it with another group. Individual picnic areas can also be rented out during regular sessions.

“One of the things I would recommend is to have plenty of seating for the parents who come to watch. We might even kick out our fence and have a turf area for sunbathers,” says Ducommun.

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