Waves: Getting Guests to Wade into a Story
Great Ideas for Waterpark Theming
By Karen Appold
Waterparks offer hours of fun for their guests. By incorporating a theme into a waterpark, you can increase the fun factor and enhance the appeal. Themes can be extended to a park’s name, names of rides, décor, food items and more.
Big Surf Waterpark, in Tempe, Ariz., has a Polynesian and Hawaiian island theme that was established when the park was built in 1969. It has been embraced ever since. “Guests notice the theme from the moment they arrive,” said Bob Pena, general manager. “Our buildings have Polynesian roofs and we have dozens of palapas for shade, which are common in the Philippine area. The park’s main attraction is its 2.5 million gallon wave pool, called Waikiki Beach, which is surrounded by a dozen other rides and slides with names featured prominently, such as Bora Bora Bay, Kilauea Cove Slides and the Tahitian Twisters.”
In 2014, Big Surf Waterpark added two features that continue the park’s theme and brand. First, it added a full-service bar for patrons 21 years of age and older. The cocktail menu is full of fun and fruity concoctions. Called Tahiti Phil’s, the bar is named after Phil Dexter, the inventor of Big Surf Waterpark. Additionally, the park added a new thrill ride, the Mauna Kea Zip Line. Named after the highest peak in the state of Hawaii, the line sends guests traveling more than 300 feet right above the wave pool.
Big Surf Waterpark has annual visitation of 150,000. “Attendance has continued to climb each season since ownership took over management beginning in 2010,” Pena said.
A desert oasis motif rules at Sahara Sam’s Oasis, in West Berlin, N.J. “Our theme is carried out everywhere—from our marketing to our physical attractions,” said Ilya Girlya, CEO and president. “Our mascot is a camel, our rides are named after desert attractions and the park itself is lined with palm trees, murals and oasis elements including a tiki cabana.” Its latest addition was a 350-foot body slide, aptly named “The Nile Mile.” Attendance is up at Sahara Sam’s Oasis and its adjacent theme park—Diggerland—which has more than 1 million visitors each year.
A German theme is all the rage at Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, based in New Braunfels, Texas. Each location also contains elements that reflect the local area. “The German theme is carried out in our castle design—based on Solms Castle in Braunfels, Germany—that is prominent in all of our parks,” said Terri Adams, chief operating officer. “We also have pseudo German names for many of our rides and our mascot is a dachshund.”
This year, the park added the world’s tallest waterslide to its Kansas City, Mo., property and named it “Verrückt,” which is German for insane, Adams said.
Hurricane Alley Waterpark, in Corpus Christi, Texas, features elements from the aftermath of a gulf hurricane. “We have crashed boats under our rides and at the front of our park,” said Jim Kunau, general manager. “Buoys, fishing nets, kayaks and many other small items are scattered throughout the park on walls and under our breezeway.”
This year, the waterpark added a Flowrider-Double Wave-in-a-Box and observation deck. “We use the 14-foot-tall back wall to advertise and will add some small elements to give it more of an aftermath feel,” Kunau said. For the next season, the waterpark plans to re-tint concrete to resemble sand. “We use two colors and some darker fine lines to help achieve this look,” he said. Attendance is in excess of 100,000.