Overland Park & Leawood

Roe Park splash pad closes temporarily to assess safety risk

The splash pad at Roe Park was popular with visitors.
The splash pad at Roe Park was popular with visitors. along@kcstar.com

The new splash pad at Roe Park was open only about a week before city parks employees noticed something they hadn’t planned for.

Water from the many fountains — designed to shoot straight up as high as 5 or 6 feet — was not going straight up at all. Wind and exuberant kids were changing the direction of the spray. In some cases, water ended up outside the boundaries of the pad’s electrical bonding grid, and that was a problem.

While there was nothing to indicate the water connected with current from the pad’s water pumping system and no one reported getting a shock, city officials were troubled by the potential safety risk, said Greg Ruether, director of park services for Overland Park.

“In the interest of the assurance of safety we decided to turn it off for now while we determine what to do,” Ruether said.

The pad remained closed this week as the city met with the pad’s designers and building safety experts to come up with a solution.

A week ago, the city celebrated the reopening of Roe Park, 10400 Roe Ave. A deteriorating swimming pool at the park had been decommissioned, and the park had undergone a $2.5 million year-long renovation that included new shelter houses, tennis courts and some other water features.

But it was the 30- by 80-foot splash pad that quickly became the standout feature and a hit with children.

The pad includes a water weave spray from 18 underground nozzles, a misty cooling tower and a water flower. It also has a feature that turns the water off when it isn’t occupied.

Hundreds of children have run through the spray pad since it opened, Ruether said. As they did, it became apparent that the water wasn’t going to behave exactly as expected. Kids sometimes like to use their feet to partially cover the nozzles, redirecting the spray or making it go higher. The wind also became a factor.

“Our expectation was that the water would go out a little bit,” from the pad edges, Ruether said. “But it was sometimes going several feet beyond where we thought it should be.”

The base of the pad contains a metal bonding grid that grounds electrical charges. But the water was ending up outside of that grid, he said. The grid extends beyond the pad edges, but not as far as the water has gone.

The city will assemble the experts to decide how to address the problem. The reopening date for the pad will depend on the solution they come up with, he said.

Overland Park pools will close Labor Day weekend, but the splash pad’s closing date was less definite because it has no standing water and does not require a lifeguard.

The city has apologized for the closure, Ruether said, but wants to be absolutely sure of the pad’s safety.

“We expect it to be there for a long, long time,” Ruether said. “We want to make sure to get it right.”