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Waterparks and Spraygrounds Designed to Catch the Eyes

June 7, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Like many campgrounds across the Midwest, Lake of Dreams Campground in Merrill, Mich., has its own lake. Unlike some of its peers in the campground business, however, Lake of Dreams also offers its guests a variety of eye-catching water toys, including a floating climbing structure from Verona, Wis.-based Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS) called “The Summit Express,” plus another structure called an Aqua Tower.

“They’re very popular,” said Jim Ortiz, office manager for the 198-site park — so popular, in fact, that the water toys generate day use business from people who live in the surrounding area.

CRS President Ron Romens said interest in water toys is catching on in campgrounds as they take steps to cultivate a new wave of campers. “The last two years we’ve had a really large increase in new customers that haven’t used this type of recreation before,” he said, adding that demand for water features is coming from family-oriented campgrounds. We’re seeing demand from large campgrounds, 400 sites and up, and from campgrounds that have 100 sites and under.”

Prices range from as little as $1,000 for a 20 foot by 6 foot watermat, which can be anchored in shallow or deep water and used as a floating carpet on which people can walk, dance or simply hang.

Another popular item, the Summit Express, is a floating climbing structure that’s 16 feet tall and 25 feet, 6-inches long. “It has a terraced climbing wall and a zero entry slide into the water,” said Romens. “And on the inside it has a bounce house and a jungle gym.” It retails for about $7,500.

“Dollar for dollar,” Romens added, “I think it gives you the biggest bang for the buck. You get immediate impact from a marketing standpoint. They’re not near as much maintenance as what a swimming pool or waterpark would be.”

Romens added that individual components can be purchased and hooked together to create play zones. “For about $10,000, you could create a nice combination of events,” he said.

Some parks, including Lake of Dreams Campground, charge a wristband fee to those who use the toys, which makes these toys revenue generators as well.

Of course, floating water toys aren’t the only water attraction gaining attention in America’s private parks. Many parks are also investing in spraygrounds, which are appealing particularly to young children.

Mark Williams, CEO of Ashland, Ohio-based Rain Drop Products LLC, said cities were the first to embrace the sprayground concept because they saw it as a way to provide children with a way to cool off without the cost, maintenance or liability risks associated with a swimming pool.

“The pools are getting older (in many cities across the country),” he said. “They’re cracking and leaking, and when you compare the upfront investment of a pool versus putting in a sprayground, the value is there.”

While Williams concedes that spraygrounds do not necessarily appeal to teenagers, they have strong appeal for younger children, from toddlers through tweens, and they provide a safe environment for them to play.

Rain Drop itself provides water spray devices that range from toddler area attractions with very low, flow benign types of features to “tween sets” that include tumble buckets and interactive cannons.

Williams added that while the sprayground concept was initially embraced by cities, campgrounds and the hotel industry are also showing increased interest in the product.

“It’s a neat little business and it’s taking off in many markets,” he said, adding that campgrounds typically invest in spraygrounds to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

“There’s even a sustainability play,” he said, adding that today’s spraygrounds are now being equipped with sensors, similar to motion detectors, that turn the devices on and off as children enter and leave the sprayground area. “If only one child is at the sprayground, only one feature will turn on at a time,” he said.

Prices for individual sprayground features vary widely, depending on how many water attractions the campground would like to install.

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