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VOL. 128 | NO. 111 | Friday, June 07, 2013

Next Wave

Children’s Museum debuts fun summer educational opportunities

By Bill Dries

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What do you follow a splash park with at the Children’s Museum of Memphis?

Children play in the recently completed H2Oh! Splash spray park at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. The park has over 7,700 square feet and more than 40 sprayers.  

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

A robotic cow, of course.

As children out of school for the summer enjoy the newly opened “H2Oh! Splash” water park at Hollywood Street and Central Avenue, museum public relations and marketing director Carrie Roberts says plans are being made for the robotic cow and a barn on the other side of the museum property including an outdoor classroom.

“It’s a cow that can be milked,” she said. “It is used as a teaching tool to learn about animals and their environment.”

The exhibit on farm life will include the giant milk bottle donated to the museum from the South Memphis Alliance that was once atop the old dairy building on Bellevue Boulevard near Walker Avenue.

The dairy building was demolished to make way for the alliance’s planned center for social services that will also serve as a gateway to the Soulsville neighborhood west of Bellevue.

The water park, which is technically “spray pads,” is already proving to be popular with the worst of the summer heat still to come.

It complements the traditional pool at the Salvation Army Kroc Center that opened last year on the northwest corner of the Mid-South Fairgrounds property.

A gift from Katherine and John Dobbs and their family foundation helped fund H2Oh.

They have committed to helping fund one new exhibit at the museum a year for the next 10 years. It is the largest gift in the history of the museum, which opened in 1990.

“They picked the splash park as the one they wanted to start with,” Roberts said. “We wanted it to still be educational since we are a children’s museum. We chose a growing theme. So it’s all about plant life and bugs that you find in the garden.”

Chloe Jones, 6, beats the heat in the H2Oh! Splash spray park. The park has a variety of sprayers, including flowers, leaves, jet streams, magic mist, turtles and crabs. 

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

It features different sized waterfalls and spray areas as well as metal flower sculptures, real grass areas with real flowers and four large granite turtles.

The museum worked with Memphis Pool Supply Co. on the spray pads, the design and engineering of what is the largest water facility of its kind in the Mid-South at 7,700 square feet, according to Mark Reed, CEO of Memphis Pool.

“It’s well beyond anything that’s been installed around here,” Reed added. “We had a lot of drainage issues. I don’t know that the sight was as difficult as it was just working around the utilities that were already there and having to take parking lot and curb up and maintain the budget we had given them.”

Memphis Pool “kicked in some as well” on the cost of the splash park.

“They are getting more popular because they require a lot less maintenance and they are less expensive to install,” he added. “Over the years pools have graduated from the big diving pools and diving wells and have started to shallow up and be more play areas to float around rather than the diving thing.”

H2Oh is a zero-entry area with no standing water to be held within any kind of barriers.

“Water doesn’t pool on the grounds so the toddlers just learning to walk can have a good time,” Roberts said. “We want to be able to reach as many children as possible. A lot of people that come because they see the splash park – they are also going in and playing at the museum as well.”

The splash parks are about 5 percent of Memphis Pool’s business, Reed estimated. They are becoming popular with hotels and other public places that have to meet access standards of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Just inertia led us there,” Reed said. “They had some pretty onerous requirement for bringing baby pools up to code. It was cheaper to fill in a baby pool and just forget you had it. But what we realized is we can convert these baby pools into some kind of a little small splash pad spray park kind of thing and avoid all of the ADA stuff.”

The corner of Hollywood and Central, where the splash park is, has also changed over the years. It had a front nose cockpit section of a FedEx jet for several years and when the CMOM building was still a National Guard armory, the corner was the first post-World War II home for the Memphis Belle B-17 bomber.

The splash park is open daily to all children through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a separate admission fee from the museum. It could remain open past Labor Day depending on how long the summer heat lasts.

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