Since the 1950s, Jay Peak Resort, in Jay, Vt., has been one of New England’s most popular ski resorts, drawing in snow sports enthusiasts from far and wide. However, plans to expand the resort into a year-round attraction came to fruition in December of 2011, with the debut of a 50,000-square-foot indoor waterpark called The Pump House.
“The history of our operation is a ski mountain, but we wanted to create an attraction that guests could use year-round. It would also create an alternative for situations when there may be less than ideal snow conditions in the winter months,” said Waterpark Director, Chris Stuart. In fact, the waterpark was built just in time, as the 2011 winter season yielded far less snowfall then what is typically expected during Vermont winters. “Even with the lack of snowfall last winter, we did not lose any reservations, because there is still so much to do here now. So far, we have entertained about 250,000 guests at the water park,” Stuart said in late 2012.
The Pump House has been designed for those who are adventurous, or thrill-seeking, according to Stuart. For example, where most waterparks feature a lazy river, The Pump House’s Big River is anything but lazy. This is an action river, featuring strong currents and rapids around several turns. The most popular attraction at The Pump House is a slide known as “La Chute,” which stands 70 feet in the air, in the park’s cupola. The rider enters a capsule atop the ride and, once inside, is launched into a free fall at 45 mph, while being whirled around a full 360 degrees, only to get spit out several seconds later. “This is a wild ride and has a weight limit of 80 pounds,” said JJ Toland, director of communications, events and partnerships.
The second most popular attraction is the Double Barrel standing wave ride. The attraction is a combination of snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing all in one, and this ride attracts adventurers from the younger set all the way up to age 80.
The park also boasts three other slides and a climbing wall. Additionally, there is an area strictly for infants, and children up to 8 years old, called Mill Pond, which features water guns and waterfalls. The arcade, snack bar, hot tubs and surf shop are other areas to check out while visiting the waterpark. Of course, adults also all love the poolside bar, known as The Drink.
While the park’s attractions are dramatic and designed specifically for those adventure-seekers, the most outstanding feature of the park is, in fact, not one of the rides. “Hands-down, the best part of this waterpark is our retractable glass roof,” said Stuart. “This roof provides our facility with the most delightful, open air feeling. It can be completely opened up, so everyone can enjoy the air during beautiful days, but when it is hot out, we can close it up and fans help to bring the hot air up and out of the building. On cold days, the building can be enclosed, but guests can still experience that outdoor feeling. It’s great.”
The retractable roof for The Pump House was created by OpenAire, a designer, manufacturer and installer of customized retractable roof enclosures. “We met the owners of Jay Peak Resort at a trade show. It was there that we learned about their plans to create a waterpark that would attract families to the resort during all seasons and we heard their desire to find a way to fill hotel rooms when snow conditions were not ideal,” said David Bolwerk, vice president of sales and marketing for OpenAire.
“When one decides to create a waterpark, the question is always should it be indoors or outdoors? While the trend lately has been indoor waterparks, it is important to remember that people really do prefer to enjoy the outdoors in the summer months. The retractable roof kills two birds with one stone. It allows people to enjoy the outdoors on those beautiful days, but it can be closed when it is cold out, or the weather is not ideal. But no matter what, it will still give that outdoor feel. It is the best of both worlds,” Bolwerk said.
The OpenAire retractable roof is made from aluminum, rather than steel, which is the material often found at other indoor waterparks. “Aluminum is non-corrosive, which is important in waterparks. When you have a waterpark, you deal with water, chemicals and evaporation. All this moisture can create a caustic atmosphere, but not if you use aluminum, since it will not corrode. Using aluminum can provide you with a basically maintenance-free structure,” Bolwerk said.
In addition to creating a park that can be used daily, in any season, there are other benefits that this retractable roof has brought to the Jay Peak Resort, such as lower operating costs. “When you have an indoor waterpark, evaporation is always going to be an issue. It is essential to get that moisture out. Fans and dehumidifiers become necessary to dump the moisture and air out. It is not feasible to run a dehumidifier all day long, every single day. That can be an enormous expense. With an open air building, all the moisture can be exhausted through the roof, which significantly cuts down on operating expenses,” Bolwerk said.
Costs for lighting and air conditioning can also be eliminated with this type of structure. “Our energy analysis shows a savings of 20 percent less energy than a brick and mortar building, where the HVAC is running all the time,” Bolwerk said. All these benefits have added to a positive business climate for this type of structure and the future for these retractable roof enclosures looks bright. OpenAire has several other projects lined up, and most recently completed a glass-enclosed structure for Water Zoo, an indoor waterpark in Clinton, Okla., which opened in September 2012.
Another benefit is that people just seem to delight in being outdoors. “With the retractable roof, the outdoor option is there. But when they can’t be outside, they can still feel as if they are. There is nothing like natural sunlight. It gives off the illusion of a bigger building and it makes people feel happier,” Stuart said. –