Sultry Summer Solution: A Splashin' Safari!

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All photos courtesy of the Fort Worth Zoo
All photos courtesy of the Fort Worth Zoo

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The Fort Worth Zoo faced a problem. It was a top-ranked, world-class zoo with a million visitors per year, but every year in summer, when the worst of the heat and humidity set in, potential zoo visitors and their kids would opt to stay indoors in front of the air conditioner.

At the same time, there was a stretch of land on zoo property that had lain fallow for years, purposeless, unused and ignored. An animal exhibit had never been planned there — its uneven landscape and location in a moderate floodplain prevented construction of an attraction. But there was one thing that just might work…a splash pad.

Not only did a splash pad offer a distinctive new attraction to the park, but also a unique remedy to the summer heat that had been driving away visitors. A water feature would provide a fun way for guests to cool off while still being able to enjoy the zoo atmosphere.

RELATED: Splash Pads: Fountains of Youth

And by building the splash pad above the floodway and floodplain, the harmful effects of possible floodwaters would be avoided. At worst, the splash pad would be equipped to weather the floodwaters as a structure designed to shed water without damage.

So construction began on the pad with over 10 animal-themed water features and over 25 splashy products placed around the 14,000-squarefoot splash pad. Among the highly themed spray features, aquatic play equipment manufacturer Water Odyssey developed a custom 30-foot tall mother and baby giraffe as the centerpiece. "Our team really enjoyed creating custom water features to mirror the exhibits at the Fort Worth Zoo," says Chris Thomas, director marketing at Water Odyssey.

Surrounding this giant giraffe pair is a safari-themed, multi-level climbing structure with four slides, tipping buckets and themed elements that spray cooling water on delighted children all day. The splash pad includes a large water dump feature that fills guests with anticipation for a 300-gallon, 360-degree deluge every five minutes.

Since the installation and opening of the Safari Splash pad, the summer guest attendance has sky-rocketed, and the zoo is collecting an extra five dollars for each splashy visitor, all while furthering the zoo's mission.

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