Splash Pad groundbreaking

James Twedt, vice president of operations at the Mansfield Area Y, Cristen Gilbert, president and CEO of the Mansfield Area Y, and Mark Williams, president and CEO of Rain Drop Products, break soggy ground on the Mansfield Area Y's new Splash Pad Park to open this Memorial Day weekend. 

The Y officially broke ground for the Splash Pad on Friday, taking the first step towards the most unique project to come from the Y's 150th anniversary capital campaign. In 2017, the campaign raised $1.35 million for three special projects and support of the Y's cancer survivor program.

Scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend, the Splash Pad Park will be built beside the Y's main building on Scholl Road. It will feature 15 creative and colorful water sprays, a submarine, a dumping bucket, and will be surrounded by a new park with trees, benches and a covered pavilion. "I'm a mom of two kids, and I really see the value in bringing something this important to Richland County," Gilbert said. "I know the families and kids utilizing this park will thank you so much this summer."

The Y's capital campaign was supported by a number of local donors, including $85,000 from the Hire Family Foundation and $50,000 or more from the Justine Sterkel Fund, the Richland County Foundation and half a dozen other organizations. The Hire Family Foundation has another special connection with the Splash Pad Park. Rain Drop Products, an Ashland manufacturer of children's aquatic play equipment, employs a Hire family member that will be working on the same equipment that the Y will receive.

"One of the Hire family members is one of the people who's going to program the machines that are going to make a number of the really cool stuff," said Mark Williams, president and CEO of Rain Drop. Williams said the Y approached Rain Drop a long time ago with the idea of building a splash pad park, with the goal of making the park unique to Mansfield."At the same time, Rain Drop was fiddling with some ideas about transforming children's aquatic play to make something more interactive and inclusive," Williams said. "Together we have built a park that you've never seen before. You're going to see lights and sound and cognitive effects, stimulation like you've never seen before. We want to maximize the sensory experience of children of all abilities."

Gilbert echoed that the Y wants to provide summer fun for all Richland County families. "We are inclusive to our community and we're here to meet the needs of everybody," she said. "This project is extra-special for that."