The Aquatic Expansion of the Fort Worth Zoo
In 2011, the Fort Worth Zoo received a generous private donation to add a safari-themed splash park to attract more visitors. Zoo officials began looking to add a splash playground and contacted architect firm, Dunaway Associate. At 14,000 square feet, the Safari Splash pad attraction opened to the public in the summer of 2015.
In May 2019, the Fort Worth Zoo was ranked number four by USA Today's 10 Best Zoos across the nation. Boasting approximately 1 million visitors annually, the center continues to introduce new exhibits and attractions yearly. With over 7,000 animals in natural habitats, 11 current exhibits and other zoo attractions, learning and entertainment abound. With a mission of strengthening the bond between humans and the environment through three cornerstones of conservation, education and entertainment at the zoo is a popular destination for friends and families all year round.
Static trends in summer ticket sales demonstrated evidence that traffic declined due to the heat. A new attraction was needed to solve this problem. Searching for an original and innovative way to drive summer traffic to the zoo while satisfying guest curiosity was the goal. Keeping in mind the mission of conservation, education and entertainment, the new attraction had to encompass these key elements.
After evaluating the resources available to the institution, a piece of land within the zoo property was considered as a viable option. This property hadn't been utilized before. An animal exhibit was never a possibility due to unsuitable exhibit qualifications. An uneven landscape offered complications to any possible structure built, not to mention, the property's location was placed in a moderate floodplain. These factors prevented any construction of an attraction up until this point. At the time, the square footage was purposeless, unused and ignored. Despite these difficulties, this area of land was examined as a possible option for the placement of a new attraction. The flooding presented a unique challenge as to what entertainment feature should be added to the park. The functionality and best usage of this space demanded a creative solution.
Research began with inquiring at other zoos to determine an applicable solution to the problem. The answer presented itself in the form of a splash pad. Not only did a splash pad offer a distinctive advantage to the park, but also a unique remedy to the summer heat 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. A splash pad would offer solutions to two of the main problems, such as the uneven terrain and relief from the summer heat. By building the splash pad above the floodway and floodplain, the harmful effects of the floodwaters would be avoided. At the worst, the splash pad would be equipped to weather the floodwaters due to its inherent water functions. Plus, fun water features provide an entertaining, refreshing escape for visitors.
The design and development were provided by Dunaway Associates as the lead designer and Nader Design as the Building Architect, while WET Engineering functioned as the splash play feature designer. Water Odyssey by Fountain People supplied the theming, waterslides and multi-level interactive play structure. Water Odyssey's scope of work for the project was developed and submitted to the shade and water feature construction supplier, Benchmark Enterprises on October 13, 2011. The main site construction team, Fain Group, was hired and assembly began for the creation and installation of a world class aquatic playground. A gracious donation from a Fort Worth family made the installation and creation of the park possible.