Anyone with a young child knows that aquatic play features are a huge draw for any swimming pool and leisure centre. It can mean the difference between parents taking their children to the local municipal pool, which may only have very basic play features, or deciding on a longer journey to a facility packed with all manner of fun features such as inflatables, water cannons, flumes, slides and interactive play equipment. Of course, when there, that same family is also more likely to add value to their visit, at the very least by spending money on refreshments after their swim session. It’s difficult to put exact numbers on how big the UK aquatic play market is, but it is a healthy and growing sector. The public increasingly expects play and interaction, so facilities need to keep up with this demand. “It’s a growing sector, with more and more facilities looking to offer more than just a pool,” says Simon Smith of World Leisure that worked with Ribby Hall Village Holiday Park in Lancashire, the recent winner of four Gold awards at the UK Pool & Spa Awards 2017.“With this increased demand, even new local authority facilities are adding wet play facilities to bring in more footfall and extra revenue,” adds Simon. “Holiday Parks also have to look at what they are offering and update facilities to attract more customers and increase dwell times. Dated and aging facilities are really not attractive could cause people to seek out newer, alternative sites with better attractions.” This trend is confirmed by Tim Bareham, Managing Director of Cresta Leisure, who says that every holiday park project they have undertaken in past five years has incorporated some element of interactive water play.
Effective planning of any refurbishment or new build is critical to ensure the facility runs correctly, right from the start. “Good coordination is needed with the entire design team, including architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers and the pool and play feature specialists as they all play a key part,” stresses Greg Wilson.“Timescales can differ depending on the size of the project, but a minimum of three to six months planning is normally required to ensure all the design ties in and works prior to work ABOVE: Hippo Interactive Waterball at Basingstoke Aquadrome. The Fun Factor of Modern pools must meet the demands for aquatic play … Swimming Pool Scene AQUATIC PLAY Swimming Pool Scene AQUATIC PLAY actually starting on site, depending the size of project.” A synergistic approach between the client, the aquatic play supplier and the pool contractor are all vital ingredients for success, with the client fully aware of what they are getting for their investment. No-one wants any unexpected surprises or misunderstandings at the end of the project. You also need a good design to start with, otherwise you are storing up problems with the client further down the line. Park operators need to provide appealing facilities for all age groups. “We’re increasingly being asked to include cannons, waterfalls, rain curtains, floor volcanoes and wall-mounted massage jets to add more attractions to the pools,” says Cresta Leisure’s Director Simon Bareham. Achieving this – and still providing an acceptable return on capital – requires very careful planning at the design stage, particularly where space is limited. Water slides and flumes have always been popular, but they require a significant capital investment, huge amounts of energy to drive massive pumps and constant life guarding. More facilities are now providing interactive water play pools, incorporating features to suit all ages. Positioned in pools with a 300mm water depth, these have become very popular for indoor or outdoor installations. Low volume sprays, tipping buckets, water cascades, rotating water wheels and pirate ships can now all be incorporated in a relatively small paddling pool. “Playing with water is a vital part of a child’s development,” says Steve Nelson, Certikin’s Commercial Manager. “Although the primary aim of the equipment is to allow kids to have fun in a safe environment, it also allows them to learn through play. The equipment needs to be strong and durable, especially when coupled with the harsh environment of a swimming pool.” All of Certikin’s product range, including Van Egdom and Aqua Drolics, are made from a combination of UV stabilised GRP,Marine Grade stainless steel and chemically resistant rubber.Steve adds: “All the interactive features are very easy to install. There’s no need for additional plumbing because most of the water features have built-in mechanical hand pumps that children operate manually,” he points out. “There’s also no need for buried pipework and costly electrical pumps as the features use the existing swimming pool water“Retrofitting is a breeze – in most situations the only requirement is to lower the existing pool water level to allow small anchors to be installed in the pool floor. This can be done at night so that the facility can open for business in the morning.Certikin features are suitable even if you have no underground plumbing thanks to the Polybloc pool. This is a free form bolt-together paddling pool made entirely of glass reinforced polyester (GRP) building blocks.As Steve points out: “It can be installed almost anywhere and requires no ground excavation and is designed to accommodate any of the Aqua Drolics water features.”Manuplas are the creators of the popular Hippo Leisure range of interactive aquatic play equipment. “At the end of the day, what you’re aiming for in your facility is a way to keeping the whole family entertained, regardless of age or ability,” says company spokeswoman, Teresa Metherell.“This can be achieved by installing a variety of interactive water play features that provide both low level sensory play for toddlers as well as high level anticipatory and big splash play for older children and even adults. It’s important to keep water play areas fresh and appealing. Hippo Leisure’s modular play equipment, including water factories, interactive masts and play platforms are all extremely versatile products and can be expanded or updated to help to encourage regular, repeat visitors. Our ‘interactive water balls’ are a very popular feature in our installations, including the Basingstoke Aquadrome in Hampshire.” Pitfalls to definitely avoid in your aqua play installations include bad design, poor communication, lack of specification and not having specific time scales. “The overall key to success is synergy!” emphasises Tim from Cresta Leisure.
Following a £3 million refurbishment, the heated indoor pool at Hafan y Môr Holiday Park in Gwynedd, the largest pool/water park in North Wales, won the coveted Holiday Park Pool of the Year at the UK Pool and Spa Awards 2017. With a bather capacity of 500, the pool features parachuting penguins, a tipping bucket, three 100m flume slides, a multi-lane racing slide, a bubble pool, lazy river rapids and a wave pool. It also has a dedicated play area for toddlers, with water features and a slide.In addition to the leisure pool, the multi-lane swimming pool allows everyone to enjoy their own preferred swimming experience; as well as enabling additional activities to take place without needing to close the main pool.Following the refurbishment, the Grand Opening was attended by Olympic swimmer Jazz Carlin, who cut the ribbon to officially open the pool complex. The event hosted local dignitaries and members of parliament alongside a local community swimming group. Speaking at the opening Jazz said: “I’ve not seen a facility like Hafan y Môr before. It’s an incredible pool which caters for all different age groups. It was great to see so many kids enjoying being in the pool and being comfortable around water.”Andrew Baker, General Manager at Hafan y Môr Holiday Park, added: “This is the biggest single investment by Haven at any site in the UK this year. It shows they have faith in the site alongside the wider area and is testament to the hard work of the staff here at Hafan y Môr. It’s very good news for the future of the park and will add to the array of fantastic activities and facilities we have on-site for our guests.”While there are no swimming pool-specific health and safety laws, the HSE states that swimming pool operators are legally required to protect the health and safety of workers and pool users. Specifically, they must comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and associated regulations. A visit to a swimming pool should be an enjoyable experience, so operators need to protect pool users from real risk without wrongly restricting beneficial pool activities. HSE’s risk management principles are therefore also important in swimming pool management. Operators must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the health and safety risks to workers and users to help decide what they must do to make their pool safe. This is known as risk assessment. The law doesn’t state what specific safety measures an operator must put in place – these judgements must be made by each operator, based on the particular risks in their pool. More information on the law can be found in Managing health and safety in swimming pools. “Health and safety should be a key part of the design,” Simon Smith concludes: “You must ensure the equipment is safe to use for the age range it’s attracting, as well as being safe for staff who need to access the equipment.” ■
World Leisure recently completed a £1.5m overhaul of the swimming pool facilities at Ribby Hall Village Holiday Park in Lancashire scooping the project an astonishing four Gold Awards at the UK Pool & Spa Awards 2017.The holiday park’s pool, used by members and visitors alike, is well known for its water slides and was opened by members of the TV Gladiators in 1997. It was given a refurbishment eight years ago but bosses at the attraction decided the time was right for a complete revamp, with added facilities to maintain excitement and interest for visitors. The new pool features new slides including a 48m interactive play slide. Members and guests can climb a tower to the top of the slide, which then takes them out of the building and back inside again. As they come down the slide, they can play an interactive touchpad game on the inside of the slide, with scores recorded once the ride is complete. Scores can be uploaded to social media platforms, with the top three scores displayed in the pool area.World Leisure also refurbished the splash pool and added an interactive aqua deck play structure, with tipping buckets and integral slides. A themed GRP (Glass Reinforced Polyester) toddlers’ pool links into the splash pool, with a slide and steps to open the pools up to all ages. World Leisure also installed a new sauna, steam room and feature showers, with all new filtration and controls.Mark Leech, senior manager of Ribby Hall Village, said: “It is important as a business to continually invest and improve the facilities we offer to our customers. We believe the new interactive slide and new splash pool features will be real talking points that will bring family visitors back again and again.”