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The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

 

MANCHESTER — After exceeding expectations in its debut summer, the Dupont Splash Pad is on pace for an even better second season.

The city replaced the aging Dupont Swimming Pool last summer, filling it in and creating a more family-friendly zone where kids are doused with water. The space has gone from one of the city's least utilized facilities to one of its most popular.

Janet Horvath, recreation and enterprise manager for the city Parks and Recreation Department, said Monday that the splash pad has already drawn about 10,800 visitors so far this season.

"We definitely were looking at an alternative to the pool," Horvath said Monday afternoon at the splash pad, speaking above the din of dozens of children zipping around from nozzle to nozzle, getting sprayed and loving it.

"It just seemed like it was a better fit and would serve the patrons of the city of Manchester better to provide an alternative," she said.

It was also significantly cheaper than repairing and renovating the old Dupont pool, which Horvath said had about 7,000 visitors in 2015, its final season.

The tab on the conversion was $425,000, about $250,000 less than the estimated cost to repair the aging pool, she said.

The Dupont conversion required filling in the old pool at 207 Mason St. and installing the many water options as well as a new filtration system. The long-awaited grand opening was in May 2017; the new attraction had about 15,800 visitors before the end of that summer, Horvath said.

Parents like the safety aspects and option of staying dry themselves.

"You don't have to worry about their life jackets or holding them up in the pool," Holly Laro said as she enjoyed some shade in the grass while keeping an eye on her 6-year-old son.

Laro's 3-year-old daughter, Alexandria, was taking a break from the splash zone, which incudes dozens of water jets and spays positioned throughout the concrete where the pool used to be. At the far end, next to the Rock Rimmon bluff just north of the splash pad, kids also waited in anticipation for one of the main attractions: A giant bucket that tips gallons of water onto a slide that sluices it onto the waiting children.

"The big bucket!" Alexandria proclaimed when asked her favorite part of the splash pad.

Although it is supervised, the splash pad doesn't require the expense of lifeguards.

"We don't necessarily have to have lifeguards here. Lifeguards have more training and we pay them more," Horvath said. "The whole thing was less expensive."

Another bonus: Horvath said the popularity of the splash pad is easing the crowds at the Livingston pool.

Like city pools, the splash pad has safety rules. There's no running or horseplay. No glass containers or breakable objects are allowed and bathing suits are required in the splash area. The bathing suit mandate has caught a few visitors by surprise, but Horvath said it's necessary because of the special filtration the splash pad requires.

"The less fibers we have in there, the better off we are," Horvath said.

Parks and Recreation Director Don Pinard has also been pushing for a splash pad at the Hunt Memorial Pool, also aging and in need of renovations.

Still in the planning stages, Horvath said the proposed Hunt conversion would renovate the pool and add a new splash pad in the park just off Maple Street.

"We've got some preliminary designs done," Horvath said. "With this large splash pad on the West Side, we'd like to bring a splash pad to the east side as well."

dalden@unionleader.com

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