Splashpads (also called spray grounds) continue to come in, well, waves to parks in the 100 largest US cities.Over 1,333 are now in operation, nearly a 47 percent increase over our 2016 count of 709, which was the first year we added them to our parks surveys.
There are a host of reasons where they are growing in popularity. Key is lower operation and maintenance costs, with lifeguards not required to open and close them like public swimming pools. Second, water usage is generally lower than in swimming pools, as most splash pads operate when a visitor pushes a button to start the flow of water for a limited period of time. Third, in many cases, splash pads are replacing older wading pools with a facility that can serve more visitors at one time. And finally, they can have a longer season in cities across the US, as one of the bigger challenges for parks departments is lifeguard staffing outside the traditional summer break, as most guards are full-time students in high school or college.
New York City leads the 2017 count in terms of sheer numbers: 589, Chicago second with 217, and Louisville third with 32. In terms of splash pads per 100,000 residents, Boston is number one with 9.7, Chicago second with 7.8 and Tulsa third with 7.5 per 100,000 residents.
[In future posts, we’ll cover the latest counts of public beaches and swimming pools.]