As temperatures rose to 90 and above over the weekend of July 14 and 15, residents young and old were flocking to the Big Splash, Grove City's municipal water park.

This year, youngsters have an additional way to beat the heat -- playing in the new Grove City Splash Pad in Fryer Park, 3600 Discovery Drive.

"The splash pad has been tremendously popular," said Kim Conrad, parks and recreation director. "We've seen a lot of crowds out there for the most part. Kids really seem to love it."

With the addition of the splash pad, Fryer Park has become an even more popular site for family picnics, she said.

"Parents can sit and read a book while their kids have fun cooling off in the water," Conrad said.

The splash pad, which opened May 19, is an accessible and interactive water-play structure that features a rocket slide and water sprays.

The facility is a joint project of the city and the Grove City YMCA.

"I think kids seem to have a lot of fun with the space theme we used in keeping with the theme of the playground at Fryer Park," Conrad said.

The splash pad was closed two days earlier this month for maintenance.

"We had a bit of a problem with the surge pump. It was filling up with water and we had to manually flush it out," Conrad said. "But overall, it's worked really well."

Attendance at the Big Splash, 2831 Southwest Blvd., is up over last year, said Tim Baker, recreation supervisor at the waterpark.

"We've had more typical, traditional type of summer weather this year, and that always helps boost attendance," he said. "It seems like the last few years, the summers have been a lot cooler."

"Overall, the season has been oppressively hot or wet," Baker said. "There has not been much in between."

The total attendance at the Big Splash for the season through July 15 is 20,821, he said. That compares to 17,092 during the same time period last year.

More season passes have been sold this year, Baker said.

The Big Splash has 55 staff members, including 39 lifeguards, six admissions staff and 10 supervisors, he said.

In a typical hour, one manager, two admission staffers, one admission supervisor, one aquatic supervisor and eight to 10 lifeguards will be on duty, Baker said. Hourly staff changes depend on the time of day and total attendance.

The lifeguards have scored "exceeding standards" marks on the first two unannounced audits from aquatic consultant Jeff Ellis and Associates, he said. One additional unannounced audit will be held before the end of the season.

The Big Splash features a large zero-depth entrance, interactive water toys, two large-body slides, a six-lane lap pool and two aquatic climbing walls.

Each week, the water park hosts Theme Thursday, with special games, crafts and activities relating to a rotating series of themes. The program is held from noon to 5 p.m.

"It's great because the kids can take a break from being in the water and have fun playing a game or doing a craft," Baker said.

This summer's themes have included Luau Day, Fire Safety Day and All-American Game Day.

Theme Thursday will wrap up Aug. 2 with Zoo Day. Along with zoo-themed games and crafts, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will visit with animals from 2 to 3 p.m.

The water slide was in full use July 14.

"It's probably my favorite thing about the Big Splash," said 9-year-old Thomas Price of Grove City.

"Whenever I come here, I go down the slide as many times as I can," he said. "Hitting the water is a blast."

Braydone Stevers of West Jefferson said he likes to go to the water park when he visits his grandmother, who lives in Grove City.

"The slide's the best," he said. "It's so refreshing to splash into the water. It's not too cold. It actually feels pretty warm. It feels good."

Although guests are encased within a tube for most of the trip down the slide, Faith Grieve said the journey isn't scary or confining.

"It's really dark in there, but it's just fun going down and coming out slipping and sliding," the 11-year-old Grove City resident said.

"I come here about every two weeks," she said. "The Big Splash is so cool. I'd be here every day if I could."

The Big Splash is open through Sept. 3 when classes in the South-Western City School District are not in session. Hours on Mondays through Saturdays are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for season-pass holders. General admission begins at 11:30 a.m. The water park is open from noon to 7 p.m. Sundays.

The splash pad is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends.

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