In the arid climate of New Mexico, in a city of mountains and desert, there is a place where people can surf waves moving at up to 30 mph – in the middle of winter.
Opened in 2010, the Radisson Hotel & Waterpark in Albuquerque has literally brought thousands of gallons of aquatic fun to this desert city. The indoor park features a 63,895-gallon Lazy River, a 32,235-gallon Activity Pool, a 12,577-gallon Wading Pool, an 8,690-gallon Indoor/Outdoor Adult Spa, and possibly the signature attraction, the 57,230 FlowRider Double Interactive Wave Rider, which produces the aforementioned surfing waves.
The park has also brought more than 60 new jobs to the city, and has offered an exciting new vacation option to the residents of New Mexico.
“It’s brought something really fun to Albuquerque; we haven’t had anything like this in a long time,” said Angelica Gonzales, Aquatics Manager at the park. “The fact that it’s open year-round makes it a great getaway – during fall break or Christmas break, you can come to the park and feel like you’re at the beach.”
The indoor facility features a dazzling, two-story array of pools, slides and attractions, with a mezzanine level overlooking a sprawling panorama of pools. The pool area accommodates up to 724 people, and the Mezzanine level, which also features the Surf’s Up Snack Shack, fits 344 guests. The waterpark complex is stylishly decorated with original Art Deco-inspired murals, and boasts a state-of-the-art, D.J.-controlled sound and light system. In the midst of all of this, there are 26 water play features, including a Tipping Bucket, three basketball hoops, waterfalls, spray features and inner tubes.
“There’s really nothing like it anywhere,” said Nick Hernandez, supervisor at the park. “I know a lot of people who love the waterpark, and who want to stay at the hotel because of the park.”
Arguably the centerpiece of it all is the FlowRider, which is described by its manufacturer, Wave Loch, as “not just an activity, but a sport.” The machine uses submersible propeller pumps to inject a three-inch sheet of water over the engineered surface of the ride, creating a surfable wave. Suitable for beginners and seasoned surfers, the attraction is known to yield some skillful surf demonstrations –and some comical wipeouts – for the enjoyment of both participants and spectators.
“It’s definitely our main attraction,” Gonzales said. “People don’t get a lot of chances to surf around here, and it’s a lot of fun to see how much they enjoy this.”
In fact, the park is the only indoor waterpark in Albuquerque, and one of very few waterparks or amusement parks in the state of New Mexico.
“There’s one smaller waterpark down south in Las Cruces,” said Gonzales, “but as far as a year-round waterpark resort, we’re about it.”
It is understandable, then, that the park is a considerable draw to those seeking a vacation getaway without having to leave the state. The hotel and park is located in the midtown business district, and is within minutes of historic Old Town Albuquerque, major shopping centers, theaters, museums and other attractions.
“Since our waterpark is one of only a few existing in New Mexico and is in the state’s largest city, it affords families throughout the outlying areas to come to Albuquerque for shopping, cultural and sporting events,” said Tilden L. Drinkard, general manager of the hotel and waterpark. “Families can stay with us, and the kids can have a ball while Mom and Dad relax in the lounge, or have dinner.”
During the fall and winter months, the park is open on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays, with extended hours during the summer months. Currently, families or smaller groups are required by the city to have a guest room at the hotel in order to enjoy the park, Gonzales said. However, the attraction’s sales team works with local organizations such as the Boys and Girls’ Clubs, scouting organizations and the city’s Parks and Recreation department to create discounted daily group rates for local youth groups of 10 or more.
“This enables some kids whose parents wouldn’t be able to afford a guest room to come in and enjoy our park,” Gonzales said.
The park also offers various package deals for guest stays at the hotel, such as the “Super Splash Package,” which includes waterpark passes, arcade tokens, breakfast for four and a pizza delivered to the room. There are also birthday party packages as well as “surf school,” an introductory class on riding the wave machine.
Gonzales said the park has also initiated a “Chili Club,” named after the park’s chili pepper mascot. This promotion is designed to offer day admission at discounted rates on select dates, as well as discounts on hotel packages and food purchases.
“We’re going to really work on promoting the Chili Club next summer,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said the waterpark has most definitely transformed the hotel since it opened on March 12, 2010 (a date subsequently designated “Splashtastic Day” by New Mexico governor Bill Richardson). She said not only has it increased the volume of business on weekends, it has also changed the appearance and energy of the hotel.
“It becomes a different hotel on the weekends. During the week it’s very business-class, but on the weekends it becomes like a cruise ship,” she said. “We have a Caribbean scene on the weekends, and all of the employees dress up in Hawaiian clothing. You see kids running around with their swimsuits on. It’s a lot of fun.”
Drinkard said he enjoys seeing guests having so much fun at the 30,000-square-foot facility, which he said is “really a blast.”
“It really is great that there is a facility in our arid state that allows families to really enjoy water sports such as surfing,” he said. “It’s a truly unique setting for the whole family.” –
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