Splash Pads: What's in a name?

Here at Life Floor, we think a lot about splash pads. We design and manufacture splash pad surfacing; we play on splash pads, too, and sometimes, we even invite our kids. As our involvement in aquatics has grown, we began to notice something unusual: no one seems entirely sure what to call these things. There’s actually a pretty wide variety of names, including: splash pad, splash deck, spray ground, aquatic play pad, rain deck, spray deck, spray pad, spray pool, and spray zone.

Some of this variety is no doubt due to trademarks. Vortex owns “splashpad” (one word) while Rain Deck owns, well, “rain deck.” That being said, we at Life Floor would like to informally declare that all the above names stand for one basic idea, and for simplicity’s sake we’re calling it a splash pad (two words).

Now that we’re calling a splash pad a splash pad, what is a splash pad?

Splash pads are based on the fairly classic form of water-play--moving around through running, pressurized water--once made possible by public fountains, commandeered fire hydrants, or by dutiful parents on hot, summer days.

Not a splash pad.

Not a splash pad

Creating a broad definition based on our experience, splash pads are discrete areas with flat surfaces that contain water-play features but do not permit much water to accumulate. They enable play based on walking and jumping--running isn’t “allowed,” but good luck enforcing that-- through water jets, streams, cascades, sprays, bucket dumps, and the like. While water can accumulate on the surface of the splash pad, the focus and purpose of the site is always to interact with the water coming from the features in a zero-depth environment.

Companies that build splash pads include Vortex, Water Odyssey, Rain Drop, Rain Deck, Water Play, Empex Water Toys, ARC, Splashpads USA, Nibro, and Watersplash. Unsurprisingly, a few of these companies and their owners have roots in the public fountain industry. Kids love playing in public fountains, but unfortunately many fountains are not designed with the proper physical safety features or water filtration systems. 

While splash pads are common in waterparks, this may be why they're especially beloved by municipalities. By creating designated public spaces for this kind of recreation, towns and cities can keep public fountains clear of contamination, preserve hydrants for emergencies, and ensure that not every private citizen is running their sprinkler and causing a drought.

As a surfacing company, we can’t help but notice that many of these names include words like ground, pad, and deck--names for surfaces. Unfortunately, the actual surface of these areas is often concrete and thus not actually padded. We’d love to help you out with that.

While all these names can be confusing, we believe they’re pretty much equal... with one exception. We actually don’t like any splash pad name that involves the word “pool.” Splash pads are not pools. That’s important, and we’re going to talk about why in our next post.