Spray Parks and Play Value Part 1

Life Floor Spray Parks and Splash Pads

There are many practical reasons to love spray parks. They’re less expensive to build and maintain than pools, they’re often free to the community, and they serve as a place to connect with neighbors and new families. Of course the main users of splash pads, kids, love them for a very obvious reason: they’re fun!

But how do you measure how fun a splash pad is?

Play Value

Fun is a hard thing to quantify and that’s why experts began using the term “play value.” Play Value quantifies how much play a user can experience with something be it a toy, a space, or a structure.


According to The Alliance for Early Childhood, something with high play value should appeal to kids of multiple ages and stages of development. It should allow for multiple kinds of play, for kids to learn a respectful way to interact, and it should stand the test of time. (x)

Building blocks and dolls, for example, are considered toys with high play value because there are many ways to engage with them; there are always new things to build and new stories to tell. Something with low play value might have a lot of novelty and interest at first,  but the design often limits how much kids can actually do. Fad toys (remember Pogs?) come and go because, from a play-based level, there is less to do with them.  

So, when thinking about play value, a well balanced community has many outdoor spaces to foster play. There will be playgrounds, open green spaces, sports fields, and pools, which have all stood the test of time in terms of being a staple in many childhoods. They have adapted in response to evolving safety information, changing community needs, and shifting attention. They allow for many types of play, and appeal to multiple stages of development. Kids can learn to co-play, share, and take turns in all of these spaces.


Splash pads are newer to the playing field, but making up for it with staggering adoption rates. They’re most often compared to things that already exist, such as wet playgrounds, or maybe zero-depth pools. While they share similarities with playgrounds and pools, splash pads have opportunities for play that kids just don’t see anywhere else.

What Kind of Play Value Does a Splash Pad Have?

An example of free and unregulated play

An example of free and unregulated play

There are not many objective, peer-reviewed studies about splash pads. One of the most comprehensive studies we’ve found is Lisa J Lewis’s 2005 paper “Role of Splash Parks in Outdoor Public Recreation” wherein she speaks to industry professionals, digs into play research, and finishes with an observational study of local splash pads.

Lewis notes that “not only do splash parks provide a more versatile play value than swimming pools, some of the risks are simply avoided.” (pg. 9) Since splash pads don’t have standing water, the chance for accidental drowning or entrapment is eliminated. Like playgrounds, splash pad manufacturers have created many different kinds of features and experiences to appeal to different age groups. Toddlers can interact with inset jets, while older kids can use water guns and run through sprayers. It’s a transitional step for kids to become comfortable and excited about water before swimming lessons, without throwing them right into the deep end.

After observing children at two different splash pads, Lewis concluded that, “splash parks provide the opportunity for water play with children defining the activity level. Because of the free play and the interaction of a variety of ages and ability, it is developmentally beneficial.” (pg 90)

Why Does It Matter?

We know kids need to play. According to Kenneth R. Ginsburg and the Committee on Communications, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health: ”Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth” (x)

On top of the psychological reasons for play, there are the health benefits of active playing. Children, U.S. Authorities say, should be getting at least 60 minutes of active time per day, and 2/3rds of them simply are not (x). In the summer when temperatures soar, it can be difficult to get kids excited to go to the park. This is why splash pads make so much sense as an added feature to parks to increase active play in communities. Splash pads are a place for kids, especially younger kids, to play joyfully and freely, as well as cool off.  With a splash pad kids have a much better chance to be active by the nature of a flat surface without standing water. In addition, the features encourage kids to run through, crawl around, and hop over them.

In her final conclusions, Lewis states, “Another factor which affected the pace of the play was the surface material. In Waco, the children ran, skipped and jumped… Indeed, these activities were discouraged by the lifeguard, justifiably, for safety reasons. There is absolutely no doubt that a cushioned surface enhanced the play value, while a broom-finished concrete surface inhibits many behaviors and reduced the play value.” (pg 77)

Join us in a few weeks as we explore the topic of safety surfacing and play value more.

Inside Edge now the Preferred Installation Provider of Life Floor in North America

From Left to Right, Shawn Travis, Pete Carlson, Jonathan Keller

From Left to Right, Shawn Travis, Pete Carlson, Jonathan Keller

Bringing Industry Leading Installation Coverage to North America

Life Floor is pleased to announce a new partnership with North America’s leading commercial flooring installation experts, Inside Edge. The two companies have partnered together to provide an all-inclusive installation service for Life Floor customers with premier warranty coverage. As part of the new partnership, Inside Edge will develop their Safety Surfaces Division as the Preferred Installation Provider for Life Floor in North America.

“Inside Edge is extremely excited for this partnership.  Life Floor provides an outstanding safety and design solution for aquatic areas. By coupling this innovative product with our industry leading installation expertise, as well as our full suite of project services from site assessment through post-installation, Inside Edge will provide an enhanced customer experience that can be replicated across North America,” commented Inside Edge’s CEO, Pete Carlson.

Life Floor Installation Experts, New Look Inc., Join Inside Edge

New Look Inc., who has performed the majority of Life Floor installations to date, will be joining Inside Edge’s Labor Network as the company’s leading Certified Life Floor installation experts. New Look’s founder, Shawn Travis, is now a member of the Inside Edge Management team and will work with Inside Edge to build out capabilities and capacity across North America.

Travis states how the new partnership will impact the Life Floor installation process, "At New Look Inc. we developed installation methods unique to Life Floor products. At Inside Edge we have the capabilities to scale and enhance these methods across our North American network. With this experience and Inside Edge's resources we will continue to invest in new techniques that will ensure that Life Floor’s current and future designs will be successfully installed. Working together we hope to exceed customer’s expectations.”


Elevating Project Management Services

Life Floor customers will receive an elevated level of project management services, including access to Inside Edge’s proprietary technology.

“What especially excites us about this partnership is the high level of detail in their proven processes to ensure projects are quoted accurately, installed on time and on budget, and ultimately completed to the absolute satisfaction of the customer. Our customers will experience the same level of service and benefits that the leading commercial brands do,” remarks CEO of Life Floor, Jonathan Keller.    

Inside Edge’s project management services will include, but are not limited to: site visits, estimating and budgeting, customized installation plans, materials and logistic management, standardized performance through installer certification, real-time communication and quality assurance, and post installation services to ensure proper care and maintenance of the final installed solution.

Providing Premier Warranty Coverage

The new warranty terms will give Life Floor customer’s added benefit by eliminating the cost of either product or installation failure during the warranty period. “The combination of our two companies means that our customers are not only receiving the best in installation services, but also the highest level of warranty coverage to date. We have never before offered our customers warranty terms that essentially cover all costs during the warranty period. We stand behind our product and are proud to offer a warranty that reflects the unsurpassed performance of our product both in terms of installation and material.”   

About Life Floor

Life Floor is a foam-rubber flooring system designed for use in wet areas with barefoot traffic. Created as an alternative to concrete and other conventional materials, Life Floor is the only safety surface specifically designed and engineered to perform in aquatic environments. Life Floor combines award-winning safety with unparalleled design capabilities, delivered by an expert team committed to a world-class experience for everyone who interacts with our products. All over the world, people trust Life Floor to make their aquatic environments look and feel extraordinary.

About Inside Edge

Inside Edge is the Nation’s leader in commercial flooring services. Completing over 6,000 projects per year, Inside Edge provides project management and installation of all flooring types and are category leaders in Retail and Senior Living. Using its proprietary project management systems, we deliver an exemplary customer experience from first engagement through installation and project close-out. Inside Edge is 100% employee-owned and is driven to deliver an outstanding Customer experience.

A Blistering Safety Issue

Life-Floor-Splash-Pad-Cool-Floor.jpg

Sizzle. The sound you’d like to avoid when wet feet touch hot concrete. If you’ve ever been to an outdoor aquatic facility in the summer, this problem is likely a sore subject. One of the most common complaints brought to us by operators is the issue of hot surfaces throughout outdoor facilities, specifically on pool decks, stair towers, and walkways. It comes as little surprise then to learn that concrete can reach temperatures hovering around 120°F, while rubberized surfaces can easily reach temperatures above 140°F. In one recent study, a rubberized surface was reported to be 170°F (X).

So how big of a safety concern is this?  

For reference, the American Burn Association states that human skin begins to feel pain at 111°F and can sustain first degree burns at 118°F and second degree burns at 131°F (dependent on the duration of skin contact and skin age with younger children being more susceptible to burns). On average, third-degree burns can appear in as little as five seconds at these higher temperatures. Permanent damage and scarring appear after one minute of contact with surfaces over 140°F. We’ve included the table below from the American Burn Association to show the relationship between time, temperature and third degree burns.

Time and Temperature.jpg

We’ll spare you the photos, but the issue of burns is sadly common among young children throughout the hottest seasons, and waterpark operators are searching for a better answer.  

You Can Drop Eggs on Life Floor, But You Can’t Fry ‘Em

Imagine stepping into a pair of hot flip flops left in the sun - while hot initially, they cool down nearly immediately after stepping into them. That’s very similarly the phenomenon with Life Floor tiles. While our tiles will be warm to the touch in direct sun exposure without water, tiles will also cool quickly when standing in the same place for a few seconds due to our material’s unique ability to dissipate heat. In fact, our tiles do not retain heat, which is the main contributing factor to hot surfaces like concrete. The reason for this is because of the tile’s low thermal conductivity, which in other words means our foam material is very temperature stable.

Even better, in areas that are consistently wet (spray grounds, zero-depth entries, multi-level play structures), Life Floor tiles stay cool.  

Adding Color & Style to the Solution

We recommend our lighter color tiles for surfaces with direct sun exposure (think Sandbar, Sandstone, Ivory, Foghorn, iceberg ) to keep the surface as cool as possible. Additionally, Life Floor can be installed over metal floor drains and similar metal features to eliminate metal burns.

Life-Floor-Atlantis-The-Palm-Light-Colors.jpg

So there you have it. You can drop eggs on Life Floor, but you can’t fry ‘em.

Contact solutions@lifefloor.com to learn more about Life Floor solutions for your facility.

Leaders in Aquatic Design: Water Technology, Inc.

SLITHER SLIDE.jpg

For our third and final installment of the 2018 Leaders in Aquatic Design series, we had the special pleasure of speaking with two leaders in the field, Douglass Whiteaker, Principal, and President of Water Technology, Inc (WTI) and Jen Gerber, Senior Business Development Coordinator.

Whiteaker’s decades of work within the industry has provided WTI with an expert perspective on how aquatic facilities are moving into the future. When we asked how he found himself in the industry, Whiteaker replied, “I would say I started in the industry at 6 years old with my first competition,” explaining that his competitive swimming is what first introduced his father (an engineer) into aquatics and later influenced his own career path. Gerber’s work with WTI has focused on understanding the evolving scope of the aquatic industry through developing strong relationships with other aquatic leaders, as well as taking an active approach within industry organizations.

WTI handles nearly every aspect of creating water experiences for their clients including masterplanning, design and engineering, theming and branding, and construction administration. “We do a little bit of everything, in every state, in every province, and all around the world, which roughly equates to 150+ projects a year,” Gerber explained. Whiteaker expanded, “We handle the gauntlet of different types of aquatic facilities throughout the world. We do many of the destination waterparks both indoor and outdoors, and municipal aquatic facilities in North America and beyond. We design resorts and competitive facilities all around the world as well as membership-based facilities like country clubs, YMCA’s and wellness/fitness centers.”

With WTI’s expansive reach across aquatic markets, the firm prides itself in understanding the different needs of each user group across markets. “Our team is unique in that we focus on scalable innovations for our clients. Whether large waterpark or small municipality, innovations are finding creative solutions within schedules and budgets,” Gerber said, pointing to the rise of municipal waterparks, which have been influenced by larger resort parks.

So while needs differ between user groups, how WTI approaches each client remains universal. WTI’s design principles are based on the belief that good design considers user experience. In the Athletic Business article Trends in Aquatic Design Over the Past 40 Years Whiteaker notes, “Though the operation and construction costs have increased due to new methodologies and technology, ultimately these changes are driven by the higher level of expectations of the consumer, who desires a safe, healthy and entertaining experience for patrons," (x)

In our interview Whiteaker goes on to explain the term ‘water-tainment’, “It's about how we maximize pool participation through ensuring visitors have a great experience. In the municipal market, not only do we want to make sure we have the entertainment and recreation side dialed-in, but we also want to make sure that we have the ability accommodate aquatic programming opportunities for the facility. In all aquatic environments, but more specifically, membership-based and sports swimming facilities, pools have to provide a great experience for all abilities, which includes safety as well as social interaction. Watertainment is ultimately something different for each patron, age group, ability and interest and as designers, it is our job to deliver that experience to everyone.”

Gerber adds that the firm believes strongly in trying anything at least once, “We are constantly creating new designs that blow the last thing we did out of the water. Whether that is creative theming or making an immersive environment, to the entire park experience, we are always looking for ways that we can grow and innovate.”

This focus on innovation can be seen in projects like YAS Waterworld (x), a waterpark in Abu Dhabi UAE, where waterparks and resorts compete for the growing tourism market. WTI designed four one-of-a-kind rides throughout the park. National brands like Great Wolf Lodge, North America’s largest family of indoor waterpark resorts, continue to choose WTI for their immersive, themed environments and have completed seventeen facilities together, with multiple currently in development.

With WTI’s reach across markets, their eureka moments in design often happen when they take a trend in one market and apply it to another. “Lazy rivers initially became popular in waterparks and after seeing that trend, the aquatic industry responded to municipalities by providing an opportunity to participate in recreational venues.” Gerber explained. Whiteaker went on to describe how eureka moments also happen when clients want to reimagine aquatic features for programming, “Lazy Rivers started as a leisure activity, and later became an avenue for fitness programs - adults could walk with the current, exercising and socializing along the way.”

Gerber also believes many innovations stem from working within the client’s current space constraints and existing infrastructure. “Typically there is a sentimental attachment to the existing space, someone in the community loves an aspect of the facility and that’s why they choose not to start fresh,” Gerber said, “For example, there are many old L-shaped pools where people fell in love with the facility and cherish the memory of learning to swim. For that reason, Facility Directors are not going to destroy a nostalgic community space, instead they’re going to renovate it. The bottom line in these situations is being respectful of the relationships and the memories that exist in that facility while also providing a fresh vision for rejuvenation.”

Safety is also a significant planning stage in the design process with Whiteaker stating, “Part of achieving the owner’s goals and objectives means designing a space that is safe and efficient. For example in a recreational facility, one way to consider the safety of users means thinking about the layout. Placing zero depth entries near the entrance of the facility means that when kids are excited and run away from parents toward the water, they’re running into less than two feet of water as opposed to the deep end.” Whiteaker goes on to explain that safety also includes addressing the number of staff (and therefore staffing budget) a facility will need to properly oversee attractions and swimming areas. Facilities can add hundreds of thousands of dollars (even millions) over the course of the facility’s life if a design requires more life guards and staff to keep it safe.  


Thank you WTI, Jen Gerber, and Douglass Whiteaker for spending time speaking with us and sharing your design expertise and perspective!

Life Floor intends to highlight industry leaders through this blog series. In doing so, for the sake of accuracy, we may include quotes and opinions that are not shared by Life Floor itself. However, all quotes that appear are included because we believe they are valuable for consideration by both ourselves and for the aquatic industry as a whole.