Getting serious about water fun
New companies are born every day from a need for a specific product or service. The truly successful ones are born out of demand. Waterplay’s original founders, Tim and Lynne Arbuthnot, were LSI dealers in the 80s and also had an irrigation business. They attended Expo ’86 in Vancouver, Canada, and saw some children playing with a new, custom water attraction that was a first of its kind, UFO H20 it was called. They saw how the kids loved it so much, and really thought it was just a blend of what they were already doing—playgrounds and irrigation systems—so they started developing the line, and the industry. Tim and Lynne are widely regarded as having been industry pioneers and among the first in the industry to get the ball rolling with public parks. Waterplay’s first park was built in Whistler, British Columbia, in 1987 and is still operating today—two decades later.
Another secret to success is offering something unique from the competition. For Waterplay, that means building a quality product capable of standing up to those decades of use.
“The quality of our product just can’t be beat simply because we utilize premium grade stainless steel in five-and six-inch diameters. No one else uses this grade of material,” explains Jill White, president of corporate services. “Some others use stainless steel, but it is in only three- and four-inch diameter with a thinner wall. Others use galvanized mild steel, and then there are others that use composites that just can’t stand up to the elements like the strength of stainless steel. They are okay for a supervised and controlled environment, but the simple truth is that our product is built to last.”
Waterplay’s dedication and ability to service the client is also a huge differentiating factor. “We have really invested in people and we constantly hear positive feedback regarding our ability to make the process easier for all involved,” says White.
While there are not currently a great number of residential spray parks around the country, local cities, and private facilities are gaining interest, and the industry is picking up momentum each year. Waterplay is involved in a number of residential projects at any given time. From $300,000 to $1,000,000 it has been involved in residential projects that are entire parks or just simply a deck spray complementing a pool.
While many users of the spray park may draw a comparison between swimming pools and parks, they aren’t really in competition—the usage is different. Instead of seeing the installation of a spray park vs. a swimming pool as an “either, or” choice, Waterplay has found that complementary installations can be beneficial and maximize the enjoyment of both the swimming pool facility and the spray park.
“I’m a huge fan of the swimming pool, will never own a house without one, in fact. But rather I see them as complementing each other. Children of all ages and abilities flock to pools, but only those who are able to swim are really participating,” said White. “The spray park allows an entire family to go to a venue together and have a great time because the older children can play in the pool or the spray park, and the younger, non-swimmers can be introduced to water through a safe environment that a spray park provides. As they become more comfortable in and around water, they will gradually make their way to the pool and begin the process of learning how to swim.”
Having said that, there are some ‘advantages’ that spray parks have over pools in that the operating costs are significantly less with a spray park. Wading pool conversions are big right now for that reason. Old wading pools around the country need to be replaced due to their condition, and municipalities are finding that it is cheaper to upgrade them to a spray park than to replace them with a new wading pool. They are also finding that when they do this, the usage increases. Obviously, a zero-depth park also eliminates any drowning risks associated with any standing water. But really, the goal isn’t to replace a pool because pools can be an important element in any recreation program.
The beginning of a new year is always an exciting time, businesses are busy bringing their research and innovation to fruition in the form of new products, and Waterplay has had a very busy year with its development phase. Some of the new products you’ll find for 2008 include the Slideplay, Shadeplay, and Water Replay. Waterplay has traditionally had a Water Treatment System for spray parks, and now it has expanded that offering. “I believe we are the only spray park equipment manufacturer to have a Water Quality Engineer on staff, and this offering really shows our expertise,” adds White. “In addition to our Water Treatment System, we are now marketing our WaterReplay Retain and Re-use System (RRS) and our WaterReplay Desalination System (DSS).”
The RRS system allows a spray park to use city-supplied water in the park, and rather than draining to waste, this water is collected in a tank, treated as necessary, and then reused for other purposes. Waterplay has been involved in projects where the water has been used to irrigate flower gardens, wash municipal vehicles, clean streets, and even flush adjacent toilets—it’s like borrowing water that you were already going to use.
The DSS system is also exciting because it allows places near the ocean to use water from the ocean, desalinate it, use it for the park, and then supplement the city's supply with the excess water. It is a very eco-friendly process with a lot of green applications such as supplemental power generation.
Waterplay also offers Solar power options for its controllers. Its PLC controllers can be powered with a solar panel, eliminating on-site electrical supply.
It is now also able to provide access remotely for park operators to have access to the PLC controllers.
“We are constantly brainstorming new ideas and there is always some new product in the pipeline. We constantly play with new materials so you can expect to continue to see product development in that regard. Three years ago when the new ownership took control we were using stainless steel and aluminium.
Now we have added fiberglass to our list of materials and it has allowed us to create many interactive components not possible before. I think in the future you can just expect to see more of us as we continue to expand at a rapid rate (300 percent in three years so far). Our focus will remain on customer service and a quality product—whatever it is that comes out of development. The one thing you can be sure of in the future is that any newly developed product will be fully supported and built to last!”
For more information on all that Waterplay has to offer, contact them at 800-590-5552 or visit them online at www.waterplay.com.