-By Carimé Lane

Splash parks and zero entry pools draw a crowd all on their own at water parks across the country. Here, we feature three waterparks and supervisors at these facilities explained the benefits of both and whether they have plans to add more at their centers.
Splash parks are popular in outdoor parks across the city of Mesa, Ariz., said Courtney Clay, recreation supervisor for the Aquatics area of Mesa Parks and Recreation. They are also valued attractions in many of the city’s aquatic centers, specifically Rhodes Aquatic Complex and Stapley Aquatic Complex.

A swim class at a Mesa Parks and Recreation facility. Splash parks let the youngest guests enjoy a variety of water features at the organization’s facilities, the recreation supervisor said.

At Rhodes, they have a FlowRider which is great for older kids – they can surf the 30-40 mph wave and even practice tricks. On the other hand, the splash park at the complex provides entertainment for the younger set. The splash park is equipped with in ground bubblers, squirting flowers, misters, and a water-dumping pelican.
The water playground at Stapley is more elaborate: It’s a water playground in roughly two feet of water with features including fencing that shoots out water, a captain’s wheel you can turn that shoots out water and a tube and speed waterslide. These features are extremely popular with families with young kids. In fact, replacing the old feature in the Fall of 2020 and Spring of 2021 increased attendance at Stapley dramatically. They promoted it heavily on social media during the construction phase, and, once the build was complete, it became their only center to reach max capacity multiple days in a row for summer of 2021. They even had to turn away guests.

Jesskya Hanna, general manager, Magic Springs. Some guests visit the park just for the Splash Island attraction, Hanna said.

All age groups benefit from zero entry pools, said Clay. For instance, toddlers can easily toddle into the water, they’re the perfect place for families to sit and hang out, and also ideal for those with varying abilities – especially those who can’t climb stairs or ladders. Clay finds families are the most drawn to this area because they can hang out while their kids stay close also while having fun and being occupied.
Rhodes and Stapley are maxed out on the features they have for customers, explained Clay. But the new aquatic center builds will definitely offer splash parks. Having splash parks offers more options to families than the traditional lap or swimming lesson pools. For those who have space to play with, a splash park is a great place to build the brand of your facility, said Clay. Splash parks offer people of all swimming levels a chance to participate, not just people who know how to swim, explained Clay. “If you’re scared of the water and don’t know how to swim, you won’t jump off the diving board,” said Clay. “But you’ll definitely run through a water mushroom that shoots out water!”

A child in a spray ground play area at Alma Aquatic Park. The park has completed over $100,000 in improvements in the spring of 2022.

In outdoor parks, splash parks also offer an opportunity for guests to visit during the warm months like April, where going through a splash park is refreshing, but plunging into a pool would be too cold. Splash parks are also safer. While the City of Mesa does have lifeguards on duty at all their aquatic centers, Clay said the ones in the parks are not guarded and splash parks don’t necessarily need to be guarded.
At Alma Aquatic Park in Alma, Ark. Director Kenra Newton said they have a splash park that young kids love.
“They can sit on a bench and be sprayed with water or run through our rainbow sprinkler,” said Newton. “This is a great area for kids to be able to run around without the fear of them falling into standing water.”

A playground in a pool area at a Mesa Parks and Recreation facility. All age groups benefit from zero entry pools, the recreation supervisor said.

Their zero entry pool goes up to 3 feet in depth.
“Parents love our zero entry pool because they are able to sit at the entry of the pool and enjoy the sun while not being fully submerged in the water,” Newton said.
They saw a marked increase in attendance in the summer of 2021.  Over 25,000 guests visited the park in the 11 weeks they were open.
“After being closed in 2020 because of COVID, our guests were ready to get back out and have fun in the sun and water,” expressed Newton.  “We have already done over $100,000 in improvements to our park this spring so we fully expect our attendance to be even higher this summer!”
Jesskya Hanna, general manager at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park in Hot Springs, Ark., said they added their Splash Island attraction in 2013. It’s an interactive water play structure standing more than four stories tall and featuring nine colorful waterslides and an enormous tipping bucket that dumps 1,000 gallons of water every 10 minutes. What’s more, explained Hanna: It has bubbler jets, water wheels, smaller tipping buckets, water curtains, net climbs and waterfalls.
“The Splash Island area is very popular and many guests, particularly those with smaller kids, consider it a favorite year after year,” said Hanna. “It draws multiple visits a summer from some guests who attend solely for this part of the park!”

A shot of an outdoor pool and play area at Alma Aquatic Park in Alma, Ark. The park’s zero entry pool goes up to 3 feet in depth.

“Splash parks and the water features they offer are a big win with kids,” said Hanna. And because everything is centralized in one area, continued Hanna, parents enjoy the ability to stay in one place with their families while enjoying a variety of activities.
“The bright colors, sounds and motion offer engaging, interactive play for guests and make splash pads a great way to cool off in the summer heat,” said Hanna.
Their zero entry pool area has advantages for most guests, said Hanna. The shallow area is a perfect place for young children to play easily and safely, and a place where parents feel more comfortable because younger visitors can walk directly into the water and not accidentally jump in over their heads. For teens and adults, Hanna continued, the ledge is also the perfect spot for teens and adults to sunbathe and an accessible entry point for guests with limited mobility. “This beach-like atmosphere is truly an advantage for all guests,” said Hanna.

A group of Magic Springs Theme and Water Park lifeguards. This Hot Springs, Ark., park added an interactive play area in 2013.

“Our park is packed with water attractions, so we are not currently planning to add additional splash zones,” expressed Hanna. They provide additional lifeguard and dispatch staff to these areas, which makes it a labor-intensive portion of the park, she explained. “We are proud of how our current water attractions offer exciting aquatic fun for guests of all ages and abilities.”
When they open the park on May 7, and the waterpark at the end of May, they are hopeful that demand continues to increase as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our 2021 attendance numbers were up from 2020 and we hope to continue this momentum into 2022 as we continue to grow and provide a magical experience for every guest,” said Hanna.