Users of South Park in Billings have been waiting a long time for their new “splash pad,” also known as a sprayground, where kids can cool off among a variety of fountains, jets and other water features.
First, construction was delayed for an entire year after the two companies that initially bid on the project had their bids rejected because of problems both had in posting a performance bond. When the project went out for bids again, General Contractors Construction Co. of Billings, which put in a low bid of just over $1 million, was awarded the contract.
Those delays bumped the hoped-for opening date from Memorial Day 2016 to sometime this month, until work inexplicably stopped early in July. Work resumed this past Monday, however, and the contractor is now hoping to have the sprayground ready by the week of Aug. 28.
Children will already be back in school by then, but Jon Thompson, manager of parks for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said spraygrounds, unlike the pools, stay open “as long as the weather stays warm.” In past years, he said, the spraygrounds have sometimes stayed open on weekends through September.
Dustin Grossman, a co-owner of General Contractors Construction, said the project ground to a halt early in July because of delays in obtaining a building permit from the city of Billings.
Dayton Rush, with CTA Architects, which drew up plans for the splash pad, said there were also delays in receiving some of the necessary materials from a Canadian supplier. Some of those materials did not arrive until July 17, he said.
Also, Rush said, although the state approved the splash pad in the spring of 2016, the city of Billings did its own review of the project under the national aquatic code, starting early this June, which took an additional two weeks.
Brian Anderson, manager of the city’s Building Division, saw things a little differently. He said the contractor applied for an electrical permit, “and that opened up the conversation that they didn’t have a building permit.”
That’s when the city shut down work on the project, Anderson said. Even though plans for the splash pad were submitted last fall, Anderson added, no application was made for a building permit.
“They just went ahead and started building,” he said.
At any rate, Anderson said, the contractor was given a building permit in mid-July, and work resumed on the project on Monday, July 24. Rush, with CTA, said concrete for the splash pad is expected to be poured on Aug. 4. The concrete will need to cure for three weeks, with training and testing performance testing taking another week, leading to the expected opening in the week of Aug. 28.
The cost of the South Park splash pad was originally estimated at about $500,000, but that figure rose over the $1 million mark because of a unique feature of this sprayground.
Rush said this will be the first sprayground in Montana with a fully recirculating water system. All other spraygrounds in Billings and elsewhere in the state use treated water just once, after which it enters the storm sewer system and is treated before being released—back into the Yellowstone River in the case of Billings.
The South Park spray pad will have its own filtration, treatment and recirculation system, just like city pools have. Rush said traditional spraygrounds use “ridiculous amounts of water,” and the South Park splash pad is expected to pay for itself in three years by saving water.
The recirculation system is a “big, complicated” thing, Rush said, but it makes economic sense in the long run, and any future spraygrounds in the city will use such systems.
The sprayground will have its own equipment for treating and recirculating water, but it is tying into the South Park pool for its electrical power, Thompson said. The sprayground is being built between the pool and the new playground at South Park. It will be surrounded by a berm where parents or caregivers can relax and keep an eye on their young charges.
Although South Park does have a pool, which has shrunk in size as a result of renovations over the years, it has not had another water feature since the antiquated wading pool was removed for safety reasons in 2009.