By Karen Appold
When it comes to attractions at waterparks, some guests are looking for a thrill, some aren’t as daring but still enjoy slower paced rides and others just want to cool off in a pool or spray park. Knowing this, waterparks offer a variety of attractions. So which ones do visitors frequent the most? It depends on which waterpark you ask.
At Golfland SunSplash, Roseville, Calif., Steve Rodgers, general manager, said extreme rides are the most popular. “The Master Blaster” holds the title for the most popular ride for the last 20 years. This water coaster ride exceeds 750 feet in length and has five lift areas where riders are pushed up a hill with water. Another popular ride, “Double Dare,” requires guests to climb over seven stories, step in a launch capsule and then go from top to bottom in eight seconds with powerful G-forces gluing the rider to the side wall all the way down the slide.
A fast ride is also a favorite at his park, said Jerry Pupillo, general manager, Wet’n’Wild Hawaii, Kapolei Hawaii. O-Hana Highway involves having four people ride a giant round raft down a 600-foot long course that includes sharp turns and drops.
Fast rides also attract the most guests at Raptor Reef Indoor Water Park in Hayden, Idaho, said Chris McCreary, director of operations. The park has three water slides and a mat/body slide. “For those who are a bit more timid or not tall enough to enjoy the slides, the wave pool is a popular option,” McCreary said.
Simoriah Scharer, facility director, Dropzone Waterpark, Perris, Calif., said the Flowrider, an artificial wave machine that gives guests the opportunity to surf or boogie board without being in the ocean, is a favorite. But the lazy river, a continuous flow of water that gives parents the opportunity to float in a tube and tan while their children swim around and play throughout the park, is also hit.
Speaking of the lazy river, it’s actually the most popular attraction at Alabama Adventure & Splash Adventure in Bessemer, Ala., said Lisa Bolin, shared services manager. “It is the most relaxing ride for all age groups,” she said. “Not all guests will use the wave pool, a splash attraction or a more extreme slide, but everyone enjoys the lazy river.”
Thrills and chills don’t top the list for guests at Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks in Wildwood, N.J., either. George Rohman, senior operations manager, said some of its most used attractions are activity pools, which offer both swimming sections and interactive play elements such a lily pad walk and overhead rope and net climbs. “Many guests just want to swim and interact with members of their family or party in a pool,” he said. This is further evidenced at its Ocean Oasis Water Park property’s “Puddle” pool, an old four-foot deep splash pool that was built years ago for a future water slide that was never constructed. It’s very popular, especially for parents with young children.
At Carolina Harbor in Charlotte, N.C., it’s a toss-up. Brian Oerding, director of operations, said, “All of our attractions are equally busy; there’s no clear favorite.” The reason for this is the wide variety of guests who visit the park. Thrill seekers prefer drop slides and waves pools; kids gravitate toward water slides and spray structures; and others want to kick back and relax on the lazy river.
Although it’s not a waterpark, ZooTampa at Lowry Park in Tampa, Fla., replaced its aging flume ride with a brand new Shoot the Chute ride called Roaring Springs in June 2018. CEO Joe Couceiro said it’s a refreshing escape from the Florida heat that families can enjoy together. Twenty-some guests climb aboard a boat, which gently drifts along a crystal-clear spring surrounded by native landscape and wildlife. Then, it suddenly goes down a 30-foot drop, creating a big splash. The less adventurous can also revel in getting splashed at Lookout Landing, a bridge overseeing the attraction.
“Even though we’re not an amusement park, we feel the need to offer some diversity in our experience, especially in a market like central Florida where there’s a lot of competition for a consumer’s time and dollars,” Couceiro said. The ride and bridge are located in a new area called Roaring Springs Village, which features a traditional country store with Florida souvenirs and local novelties. Joe’s Diner serves classic Florida favorites, including adult beverages and food options from conch fritters to fish tacos to frozen rum drinks. Adults can indulge in these treats while kids enjoy the town’s new play area or relax while waiting for other members of their party on the Roaring Springs ride.
Roaring Springs Village is part of a bigger future project called Florida Realm, which will include Florida Wilds—a series of refreshed or new habitats that will house native Florida wildlife and Florida Waters—which will feature Florida marine life. It will also include a retail component called Key West, which will consist of eateries and shops.
In 2018, Alabama Adventure & Splash Adventure added the FreeFall slide, an extreme, open flume body ride with a straight, vertical drop. In 2019, the park will add a Twister slide, which has multiple turns and drops. “We added these slides because the previous slides had old-school engineering and were ready for repair, so we decided to replace them with modern design and safety in mind,” Bolin said.
Recently, Carolina Harbor re-themed and doubled the size of its waterpark, adding a second wave pool, more kids’ areas and a complex of six extreme water slides. “The waterpark is such a popular attraction that we needed to increase capacity to accommodate our guests,” Oerding said. “We knew it was important to maintain the balance between family-friendly and thrilling attractions.”
Wet’n’Wild Hawaii’s newest ride, Waimea Whirl, requires guests to climb aboard a two-person inner-tube and then drop 30 feet into a bowl at a high speed and stay glued to its wall as they circle the perimeter multiple times. As soon as the tube loses speed, Pupillo said riders move to the bowl’s center and are quickly flushed out into a slide, down another 20 feet and into a splash pool shared by Waianae Coaster.
Another new addition to Wet’n’Wild Hawaii is the Chief’s Luau, where guests can explore the Polynesian Village. They can participate in activities such as traditional Polynesian tattoos that are kid-friendly, lauhala hat making, spear throwing and fire starting. Other options include sipping a Mai Tai cocktail and sinking your teeth into a lavish Hawaiian feast, a sumptuous array of traditional luau foods blended with Hawaiian regional cuisine. Polynesian drummers and dancers entertain guests.
Golfland SunSplash added a Tornado Wave from Proslide called RipTide, which is a four passenger ride. Families enjoy riding together on a clover leaf shaped tube.
For 2019, Golfland SunSplash will add Proslide’s RocketBLAST, a 650-foot long water coaster that includes three 30-foot saucers. The ride features patented water jets that apply consistent force to boats, quickly driving them up steep hills.
According to Bolin, the park is considering adding more family type water attractions, such as a racer slide or a family tube slide. “We’re a family-oriented park and want to provide attractions that families can enjoy together,” she said.
Pupillo said the park is looking to add more than 3,000 solar panels this year, which will cover 80 percent of the parking lot. “Covered, shady parking will be an added perk for guests,” he said. Wet’n’Wild aims to be a clean, green solar machine by June 2019. This effort contributes to Hawaii’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2045.