From Water Purification to New Media – Technological Trends in the Waterpark Industry

Whether indoor or outdoor, waterparks are a popular destination for fun. While guests participate in slides and rides, few can appreciate the efforts owners and managers must take to provide them with a safe and trouble-free experience.

Located at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore., Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark is a 90,000-square-foot educational waterpark that includes a wave pool, a children’s museum, 10 waterslides and a leisure pool. Resting on top of the unique building is an International Aviation B747-100 aircraft. Through the interactive exhibits and attractions, children learn about the power of water and its necessity for life.
“The waterpark opened in 2011, and our first year we welcomed about 165,000 visitors,” said Executive Director Larry Wood.  “We are somewhat unique in that our pricing depends on the size of the individual and not the age. For those under 42 inches, admission is $25 and for those over 42 inches, admission is $30.”
Although the park was initially built with local residents in mind, tourists who come through the area on their way to the beaches have discovered the educational waterpark, which uses the most advanced technology to keep guests safe.
“When the park was built, we installed a UV system to the Spa to maintain better sanitation. We also have a more environmentally friendly filter media for the pool filters,” explained Wood.  “We made air adjustments to the HVAC systems for better air quality to the park for guests and staff, and we added more educational activities throughout the waterpark and a new H2O theater for educational groups and general guests. As of today, the facility has state- of-the-art chemical control, air control and energy efficiency systems.”
Safety and training are the top priorities for the waterpark. Wings &Waves partnered with Ellis & Associates, who provide access to the International Lifeguard Training Programs and Comprehensive Aquatics Risk Management Program.
“The programs have decades of experience and they have been used in major amusement and theme parks as well as cities,” noted Wood. “Lifeguards go through a 24-hour training program and continue to train throughout their work at our waterpark.  Each week lifeguards receive 1.5 hours of additional training that focus on preparedness. Our guards were awarded the 2011 Gold International Aquatic Safety Award for consistently exceeding the criteria for water safety, and the park also received awards for employee training and most innovative design.”
Wood believes the upgrades in safety using technology and advanced training have to be the trends for the future for all waterparks.
“High-quality training of lifeguard and maintenance staff makes the overall guest experience fun, safe, educational and memorable, and that is what waterparks should be all about.”
The 35,000-square-foot Chaos Indoor Waterpark is part of Metropolis Resort, a family-run resort in Eau Claire, Wis.  The waterpark transports guests to a world of superheroes and villains and features a plunge slide, a two-person tube slide, lazy river, activity pool with a lily pad walk, double hot tub and a splash area for kids. Approximately 250,000 guests per year visit the waterpark, most are families at the resort, residents within a 90-mile radius and school groups.
“As an indoor waterpark, we take our guests’ safety very seriously. It takes a great deal of diligence to operate an indoor park,” noted Resort Manager Benny Anderson.  “A few years ago, we added Sphagnum Moss, which is a completely natural product that is added to reduce the chloramines in the air and reduces the need for chlorine use. It has greatly reduced the impact of chlorine and chemicals on our guests. We have also installed a CO2 regulator to balance out levels in the park.”
Anderson recognizes that waterparks in the area compete for guests, but he credits technology with bringing the parks together to share their experiences and improvements that each has made for the safety of guests.
“We rely so much more on the internet and social media to work with each other for the benefit and safety of guests,” he explained. “The realization that any bad waterpark experience brings us all down has opened all our eyes to the power of social media and communication and the knowledge that we need to help each other out and keep people spending money and coming to all our parks. There are a lot of us who compare notes about what works and what doesn’t work and that has been amazing. It also never hurts to be able to laugh with someone who shares in our unique experiences.”
Along with park cooperation and an increased reliance on technology, Anderson has witnessed another positive trend in the last year or so.
“I have seen a rise in additional spending in the park. We have kept our admission at $10, which has been great at keeping guests coming in, but we have also seen growth in souvenirs such as T-shirts, food, lockers and other merchandise.  It’s a nice trend to see.”
Bahama Beach Waterpark in Dallas, Texas is an eight-acre waterpark owned by the city of  Dallas.  Turned over to city ownership four years ago, the park includes the Calypso Cooler Lazy River, The Coconut Cover interactive playground, the Bermuda Triangle body slides, the Tortugas Express racing slides and the Riptide and Bahama Bullet tube slides.
“We do have a wide variety of attractions for our guests who mainly come from the Dallas area,” said park General Manager Richard Sharnsky.  “Annually, we probably get about 60,000 guests, each of whom spends between $30 and $50 per day including concessions and gift shop purchases.”
Sharnsky believes that technology both for the waterpark itself and for promoting the waterpark is essential for keeping guests safe and informed. Recent technological upgrades to the facility include the addition of a UV machine that gives additional disinfectant to the water, which keeps guests safer.
“We have so many children here so we have to go the extra distance to make sure the water is safe and clean.”
The park has also relied on Internet technology in the past two years to inform guests and potential guests about the attractions and specials at the park and additions to the park such as Paco, the park’s new parrot mascot.
“We have come to rely heavily on an internet presence, especially through social media,” Sharnsky noted. “We also use an email system to send out newsletters, notices, specials and discounts to our guests. Guests want to be kept up to date on what we do in the waterpark and how we can accommodate them. We need to be able to get out the word on everything that goes on in our park quickly.”
Located on 379 acres, Beech Bend Park & Splash Lagoon in Bowling Green, Ky., is a family owned enterprise that includes a campground, drag strip, oval track and amusement park. The Splash Lagoon waterpark, which is part of the amusement park, offers Surfs Up Wave Pool, Lazy River, the Lotta Wotta interactive play structure, Ragin’ Rapids waterslides, a leisure pool that is twice the size of an Olympic swimming pool and most recently, Tiki Island, a four-story structure that boasts seven slides and other interactive attractions.
“Overall, we get about 750,000 guests per year and about 250,000 of those guests are for Splash Lagoon,” said Charlotte Gonzalez who is the park manager and daughter of owners Dallas and Alfreda Jones. “The waterpark requires the most vigilance because there are so many details that go into running a waterpark, especially when we add new attractions as we did recently when we added Tiki Island. We have to ensure that cleanliness and safety is foremost. We want our guests to have a happy and exciting experience that will make them want to come back.”
The most important technology and safety upgrade Gonzalez has made in the last two seasons has been the conversion of all pools to a liquid chlorine system. The new system allows for more accurate readings and thus makes the pools easier to maintain.
Splash Lagoon draws guests from a 120-mile radius, which means many of the guests come from central Tennessee and Nashville.
“We are not as big a park as other waterparks and we don’t get as crowded but safety and technology is always essential.  We use whatever it takes to keep our guests happy. This is why we have this business. It’s been around since 1898, and we love to entertain our guests in a safe and pleasant environment.”
As General Manager of Wild Waves in Federal Way, Wash., Todd Suchan emphasizes the importance of guest satisfaction and safety each day.  The 75-acre park includes amusement park rides, a zip line, pirate ship, a 24,000 square-foot wave pool, activity pool, Hook’s Lagoon, body and flume slides, and a family raft ride, among other attractions.
“Each year we look to see what can add to increase our guest satisfaction. Technology plays a huge role in improvements,” Suchan said. “Recently we have put in Wi-Fi throughout the park and started to incorporate social media into all our promotions. Our website also lists each attraction and the height and skill requirements for that attraction. We are also investigating a mobile app for 2013, a new type of pool floor coating, and a more efficient system of reuniting lost children with their parents.”
Although the park’s main customer base is local to Washington, it has in recent years attracted residents from Oregon as well.
“Our upgrades in technology plus the addition of our zip line, which truly turned into a popular trend last year, helped us get the attention of guests from out of the area.” –

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