Something for Small Fries – Splashparks Hit a Target Demographic for Waterparks

May 22, 2015 No Comments

Splashparks in waterparks are making waves. These interactive play areas are often primarily directed at children, but that doesn’t mean that adults don’t appreciate them as well. In this article, waterpark staff described the appeal of these attractions.

Waterworld California, in Concord, Calif., debuted its Lil’ Kahuna’s Waterworks two seasons ago to fill a void in attractions for the very young at the park.

Waterworld California, in Concord, Calif., debuted its Lil’ Kahuna’s Waterworks two seasons ago to fill a void in attractions for the very young at the park.

At Splashtown San Antonio, Texas, General Manager Lisa Ibarra said splashparks primarily appeal to families with children under the age of 12. “Little children and their parents absolutely gravitate here, but we find elementary age children enjoying the area as well.” Splashtown San Antonio developed a splashpark area due to increased interest from families. “There was a very strong demand for families to have an area that’s safe for their small children, and we wanted to address that. We actually just redid our entire children’s area just this offseason, in time for the summer of 2015,” Ibarra noted. “We added a water slide complex with slides and water spouts, and of course, our splash zone. We basically expanded the entire area. The splash park feeds into two baby pools. It looks like its own little island. In fact, it’s called Splash Island, with its own little splash pad areas and a small slide. Dancing waters spray into the air. The idea is mostly for the children to get splashed safely and enjoyably.” Splashtown also added wheelchair accessibility to the Splash Island attraction.

Brandon Roben, waterpark director for Wings & Waves at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore., said his splash deck area is mostly attractive to toddlers accompanied by parents. “We designed the area in order to offer something that hits all different age groups. Our wave pool was a little too rough for the smallest children, and while most kids have experience with shallow flat pools, the splashpark is something different and unique. It allows them to play, and gives them something water-related to safely enjoy. Our product offering is hitting a broader base by providing the splashpark area,” Roben related.  There are currently no new plans to expand the area, as the original construction was completed in 2011. “It’s your standard splash pad with no standing water. There are several dozen different pop jets and some angled jets that shoot out a solid stream of water. We also have three different slides nearby, two of which are themed as WWII aircraft. The slides are just a couple of feet tall, like a small playground slide, and make a nice accompaniment to the splash deck.”

Brandon Roben, waterpark director of operations, Wings & Waves at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore. Roben said the attraction’s splash deck area is attractive to toddlers accompanied by parents.

Brandon Roben, waterpark director of operations, Wings & Waves at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore. Roben said the attraction’s splash deck area is attractive to toddlers accompanied by parents.

In Deerfield Beach, Fla., Splash Adventure Water Park is a family oriented theme park, according to Aquatics Coordinator Derek Fleischner. “For the splashpark, our demographic is 10 and under. It depends on the time of year and the day of the week exactly what type of crowd we get. Parents with small children are the main users of the area right now, but in the summer we will get camps that come in on field trips that skew a bit older, maybe up to about 13 years of age.” Fleischner explained that Splash Adventure was one of the original splash parks in the area. “Many small parks offer a lazy river or something of that nature. We were one of the first, back in the 1990s, to offer shallow splash pads with interactive aquatic structures. It was a nice little niche for us, and we pretty much stuck with that mold over the years, doing what we have been doing. Of course competition has come up over the years, but after all, imitation is the highest form of flattery,” Fleischner noted. “Our structure underwent a total remodel about four years ago. We didn’t expand so much as we updated, although there is talk about a potential expansion in 2018 or 2019. Our particular splash park area inside the park could accommodate a larger crowd and attraction, so there are talks in the works for something that will accommodate users from newborns all the way up to 16 or 18 years old.”

At Waterworld California, in Concord, Calif., Al Garcia, director of marketing, speaking for General Manager Paul Kimura, noted that the park’s Lil’ Kahuna’s Waterworks was added just two seasons ago, as the kind of family attraction the park had previously been missing. “We offered a wide variety of attractions for guests over 48-inches, but we were lacking in options for children 3 and under. We wanted something that would introduce children to water at a young age, and get their parents acquainted with the park, too.”  The Waterworld spray and splash area attracts small children and their parents. “We have 15 different elements in the area. Along with the splash pads, we have elements such as bungee swings for infants too. Both small children and their parents use the area together.”

A splash deck area at Wings and Waves. Slides make a nice accompaniment to the splash deck, the waterpark director of operations said.

A splash deck area at Wings and Waves. Slides make a nice accompaniment to the splash deck, the waterpark director of operations said.

In New Braunfels, Texas, Schlitterbahn Water Parks is the grandfather of splashparks. Speaking for General Manager Darren Hill, Parks Spokesperson Winter Prosapio noted that Park Co-owner Jeff Henry and his team came up with the soft foam to cover the water play area, an innovation that is used in many splashparks today. “They came up with the idea because the family had small children and they were simply looking for ways to help families play together. Today, of course, our splash zones are a big selling point at the park. We have 12 throughout the entire park. They’re designed for small children and their parents to enjoy the water and feel safe.” Prosapio said that Schlitterbahn’s splashparks are used by all ages, however, not just small children and their parents. “We have many different splash pad designs throughout the park. There’s Schatze Central Park which has a dog theme, with fire hydrants, that’s popular with ages 2 up to 14. Other splashparks, like our small pirate ship area, appeals more to the smallest children.” The park has recently updated several of its splashparks, including Sea Creature Cove and Kiddie Coast. “We added sea creatures to the bottom, so that children are standing on a whale or a manta ray in this particular area. We refresh the attractions just about every year, but our most recent and complete redo was the Polliwog Pond splash zone two years ago. It has an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme now, with mushrooms that spray water.”

In short, splashparks play areas are big business for little children and their families at waterparks nationwide.

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