The Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma, Wash., selected ORB Architects to design new sprayparks at Jefferson Park, South Park and McKinley Playfield. Prior to designing the trio, ORB participated in an analysis of systems, design and water usage that would guide the replacement of sprayparks citywide.

A key component of this analysis was water usage. Systems for flow-through, recovery for irrigation and recirculating systems all were compared for up-front costs, life-cycle cost and water usage. It was determined that for the specific configurations and sizes of these spraypads, the recirculating system worked best.

In addition, the concept for these sprayparks was to replace existing, out-of-date wading pools that no longer complied with safety codes. This allowed the design to limit site disturbance and reuse part of the wading pool foundations for the new sprayparks. Furthermore, minimal modernization of the existing bathhouses was required to meet current health and accessibility codes.

For the three sprayparks, the designers considered the unique usage, siting and other park play area designs to fit the specific neighborhoods where they were located. This included the bench walls around the sprayparks, which in one case incorporated a granite top to match other features in that park. The colored concrete design patterns and choice of colors also were used to integrate with planning designs elsewhere at one of the sites.

It’s important to note that the communities participated in selecting which types of spray features they preferred. An average of 12 features were included in each park. Particular attention was paid to making sure there was a variety of spray feature types that met the needs of all children who visited, from toddlers to teenagers.

One of the unique benefits of designing three sprayparks together was having the flexibility to select a system in which some components were interchangeable and therefore could be used at any of the three parks. This means that each summer the park department can switch the components around, giving each neighborhood’s kids the feeling they have a new spraypark in which to play.

These sprayparks are primarily for the use of families. The younger children typically play in the actual spraypads, but they are truly a family destination, with parents picnicking on the nearby lawns or sitting on the surrounding bench walls, and other children playing at the nearby courts or ball fields.

The sprayparks were extremely successful in meeting the park department’s desire to increase the safety and health of their facilities while also drastically increasing the usage by families. Each is now a family destination for longer durations on those nice, sunny summer days. And by having more people in the parks for longer periods of time, the parks are safer for all users. A much broader sector of the population is using the parks, from young children to parents — and everyone in between.

The use of spray features automatically adds playful colors to the designs, but these sprayparks also incorporated colored concrete in a variety of fun patterns that enhanced the aesthetic. The park department was interested in making sure these venues were year-round assets to the parks, even when not being used as sprayparks, which is actually most of the year. Therefore, ORB Architects was careful to design the bench walls and other aspects to be very durable, and even usable, by skateboarders and for hard-court type games when the sprayparks are dry.

The park district had a limited budget that was set at the beginning of design, a fact the design team took into account, as they always do. As noted before, the pre-design systems analysis helped the client understand and make the most educated decisions based on water conservation and costs. Following the success of these three sprayparks, the client proceeded with several more around the city using the guidelines established by ORB Architects during this project.


Aquatic space: 9,800 square feet (spread over three sprayparks)

Year opened: 2007

Cost: $1.6 million

Dream feature: Interchangeable spray features so each pad can have “new” features each year


  • Dream Designer: ORB Architects
  • Mechanical/Electrical Engineering :BCE Engineers
  • General Contractor: Nordic Construction
  • Civil Engineer : AHBL Inc.
  • Spraypark Analysis : Aquatic Development Group


  • Chemical Control Systems: Vortex Aquatics Structures Intl. Inc.
  • Filters: Vortex Aquatics Structures Intl. Inc.
  • Sanitization Systems: Vortex Aquatics Structures Intl. / ATG-Willand UV
  • Spraypark Accessories : Vortex Aquatics Structures Intl. Inc.
  • Surface: Davis Concrete Coloring


View Jefferson, McKinley & South Park Spraygrounds in a larger map.