Reclaiming downtown park through aquatic play

The city of Mesa is an eastern suburb of Phoenix and the third-largest city in Arizona. Located in its downtown core, Pioneer Park is Mesa's oldest public park and at the heart of significant development efforts. With the recent extension of the light rail system through the city's core creating a connection with downtown Phoenix and beyond, Pioneer Park was in a prime location to be a lively community hub, yet its aging features left the park underused.

City officials understood that revitalizing the beautiful space and reclaiming it for families to enjoy would be a catalyst for local development. A multimillion-dollar parks and recreation bond package was approved to breathe new life into Mesa park facilities, including Pioneer Park. Landscape architect and project manager Zak Koceja worked with a number of contractors to bring this new vision of Pioneer Park to life, and Vortex Aquatic Structures was selected to partner for the aquatic play installation. 

Fun for all in the central plaza

The park's little-used central plaza was transformed into a unique Splashpad® that provides some 840 square feet of high-value aquatic play possibilities. The positioning was a strategic decision to create strong visual appeal from street side to help draw people into the park.

In revamping the park, project leaders worked to ensure both the appeal and accessibility of amenities. The Splashpad®, for example, focuses on ground sprays and elements that provide aquatic fun and refreshment for children of all ages and abilities. Its streamlined geometric design was created to appeal to adults as well, hoping to keep them on their feet and engaged. As Marc Heirshberg, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities for the City of Mesa, explains, "That's really the idea of what we're trying to do with a lot of our park projects: create this intergenerational play experience so that parents are out there and in there, experiencing it with their children."  Nonetheless, benches line the play area to allow parents to sit for a bit while the kids continue to play.

Look up

Given the hot Arizona climate, the Splashpad® is open year-round for all to enjoy and cool off. High above, an airy kaleidoscope of large and colorful fabric sails is draped over the installation, casting shade over parts of the play surface to give users a bit of respite from the blistering sun. In fact, shade was one of the most important and oft-requested features mentioned by surveyed users when the Splashpad® was first designed. And the fun doesn't stop once the sun goes down, as LED lighting effects add a whole new dimension to the playable fountain jets.

The Splashpad® is topped by a 15-foot interactive Watermark feature. Fed by a 4,000-gallon filtration and recirculation tank, the centerpiece showers down sheets of water in programmable flow patterns that feature graphic patterns or text messages in the water wall that splashes down to the concrete base.

Bringing the downtown community together

The purpose of the renovation was to reenergize the oldest park in Mesa's system, to anchor downtown revitalization efforts and to create a park that both serves the neighborhood and hosts signature events for the City. The project has accomplished, and in many ways surpassed, its goals. Since reopening, Pioneer Park has kept busy with hundreds of people and families enjoying the park day in, day out, enhancing the feeling of security in the entire area.

Local activities are also on the rise with the establishment of a farmers' market and food truck dining on weekends, which are conveniently advertised using the Watermark's programmable design feature to encourage return visits. With its rebirth, Pioneer Park has successfully cemented its legacy as a destination location and a core component of community life in downtown Mesa.

  • Solution Types Playable fountains
    Watermark • Digital Water Expressions
  • Location Arizona, United States
  • Project Types RECREATION & EDUCATION
    - Parks & Aquatic Centers
  • Opened November 2017
  • Partners Miracle Playground

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