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The modern pool: Free splash pads pop up across Wichita

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Walter Burress rescues a baby deer struggling in a swimming pool in Augusta, Kan.

Parks and pools throughout Wichita and the suburban area are going modern. Interactive water features, called splash pads or splash parks, are increasingly added — or sometimes in place — traditional pools or parks.

The most recent splash pad opened in Goddard’s Linear Park on April 19.

“It’s a wonderful tool for bringing people together and sharing and enjoying public space,” Brian Silcott, Goddard city administrator, said. “The response from the community has been overwhelmingly supportive and everyone is thrilled for the new amenity.”

The splash pad at 108 N. Main has 20 water features:

  • A Mega Water Bucket fills up with water before dumping onto the platform roof then onto users.
  • Users can control two Aim N Sprays as they shoot out a stream of water.
  • A Rotating Mister can swivel to mist other users.
  • The Rotating Water Arch Bar emits streams of water from a low bar.
  • Users tired from a day of play can take a seat on the Sit N Soaker as streams arc from the top of the bench onto users.
  • A Water Tent covers users with sheet of water.
  • The Shower Water Dome spreads water over the outside dome before showering users below.
  • Two Water Bugs emit streams from a low cap on the ground.
  • The pad also features two geysers, six jets, a curvy jet path and a low bubbler with an adjustable height.

The Goddard City Council approved the cost for the splash pad and pavilion at $1,016,479, according to a project timeline review by the board on Aug. 21, 2017.

Silcott said since the splash pad opened in April, the city has seen an increase in the pool attendance, but he is unsure if the increase can be directly attributed to the new splash pad.

“Younger kids tend to be the ones at the splash pad while the older kids are over at the pool, but one isn’t replacing the other,” Silcott said. “They’re like apples and oranges — they serve different purposes and for a fiscal purpose, it’s better than not having one at all.”

(FILE VIDEO -- JUNE 23, 2016) Dedication of the new splash pad and park shelter at Buffalo Park. The splash pad was the first in west Wichita.

Wichita has six splash pads and eight public pools that are currently operated and maintained by the city, according to the Wichita Park and Recreation Department 2017 Aquatics Master Plan.

According to the report, splash pads are a key element in the modern pool, meeting American Disability Act, or ADA, compliance standards, because of zero-depth entry points.

The report said that interactive water features attract high use from children and families. Splash pads can be integrated into a wide variety of park settings and are relatively inexpensive to operate in comparison to swimming pools.

Since there is no standing water like in a conventional pool, splash pads typically do not require lifeguards. This cuts out the cost of paid employees. Additionally, parks with interactive water features are normally free for the public to use.

Wichita’s next splash pad could be at Tanganyika Wildlife Park. The park’s expansion update for its Children’s Zoo includes plans for a splash pad that will be a feature of a larger play area. Part of the renovation, Trouble Maker’s Cove, was completed in 2017. Eventually the Children's Zoo will include a meerkat exhibit integrated into a gemstone mining experience, a new education building and the expanded playground and splash pad.

Other local and suburban Wichita splash pads include the following locations:

Geyser/Fountain Splash Pads

  • Buffalo Park, 10201 Hardtner, open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Old Town Square, 301 N. Mead, open 10 a.m. to midnight.

  • NewMarket Square, 2441 N Maize Rd, open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Lincoln Park, 1323 S. Topeka, open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Riverside Central Park, 720 Nims, open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Derby, Madison Avenue Central Park, 512 E. Madison Ave., open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Closed July 5-7, 13 and 19-21.)

Interactive Splash Pads

  • Fairmount Park, 1647 N. Yale, open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The water playground includes geysers, jets, aim n sprays, a drizzling water stand, spraying hoops, buckets that dump water and a water-spouting dragon. See if you can spot the frog or whale in the metal designs.

  • Osage Park, 2121 W. 31st St. S., open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Like Fairmount Park's water-loving critters, Osage park also has aim n sprays, spraying hoops, a drizzling water stand, buckets that dump water, geysers, jets and a water-spouting dragon.

  • El Dorado, Graham Park, 1600 Edgemoor, and North Main Spray Park, 1000 N. Main, open 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Head to these to splash pads for geysers, buckets that dump water, shooting water streams, an aim n spray, water shooting out around poles or spraying arcs and hoops.

  • Augusta, Robert Shryock Park, 2923 Ohio St., open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Robert Shryock Park features a series of spraying hoops, geysers, jets, water buckets that dump water and a water-spouting dragon. Water streams escape from Rapunzel's tower and a stream jets out from Excalibur, still jammed into a heavy boulder. Princes and Princesses can cool off in the castle-themed playground near the splash pad.

  • Andover, 13th Street Sports Park, 1008 E. 13th St. Look between the baseball diamonds for three animal-shaped fixtures that spray water out of the top.

  • Valley Center, McLaughlin Park, 716 McLaughlin Dr. Spot some more critters like a water-spouting snake or frog at McLaughlin Park. Other features include geysers and two aim n sprays.

  • Oaklawn Community Center, 2937 Oaklawn Dr, open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. This pad features a series of arcs spraying water, geysers and more. To start the splash pad, touch the top of the orange activator.

  • Maize City Park, 401 S. Khedive, open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cool off in Maize with buckets that dump water, geysers, umbrellas that drizzle water and streams that shoot, jet, and spray out of various poles.

Visitors to Goddard’s new splash pad can rent the pavilion at Linear Park online for $200 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations must be made a minimum of seven days in advance. Linear Park is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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