What’s making a splash at indoor waterparks? Nationwide, the most popular elements of the indoor, all-weather, get-wet havens are as varied as the areas where they operate.
At Wings & Waves at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore., Executive Director Larry Wood said everyone who comes to his waterpark is excited about the slides. “We have four big slides. Nose Dive may be the most popular one of all, it funnels you into a large bowl and you pop out at the bottom. Our body slide, the Mach 1, that’s very popular too. We have three tube slides and one body slide.” It’s not all about the slides, though, at Wings & Waves, which has an annual visitation of approximately 150,000 guests. “Another big attraction for us is our play structure. It has a helicopter on it, the kind of helicopter used to fight forest fires, equipped to dump 300 gallons of water at a time. And ours fills up with water and we let the kids know what’s coming, and there it is, all that water coming down.” Wood’s facility is a non-profit, located adjoining the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, and as such it also offers a number of educational features unusual in a waterpark.“We have the H20 Science Center on our mezzanine level. There we have interactive science and water exhibits that are very warmly attended. Some exhibits are related to water, others to space and flight, the utilization of water in the Columbia River, and other locally based exhibits,” Wood said. “And we have a 90,000 gallon wade pool. Guests love to get into it and play, but it’s also an educational tool. Every sixth grader in our school district comes into that attraction after the park is closed. We teach them how waves break. It’s a great concept for learning and fun.” With the waterpark itself just two years old, Wood isn’t currently planning updates.
In Anchorage, Alaska, at H2Oasis waterpark, President and CEO Dennis Prendeville said the most popular element of his indoor splash center is called the Master Blaster. “It’s one of the most popular water slides that’s out there. It’s big and it’s fast. Essentially, it’s a water-powered roller coaster.” Prendeville said his Master Blaster was the first of its kind to be put inside a building in North America. “There are three or four of them now, but before our installation, these were only outdoor attractions.” Along with the slide, Prendeville has several other attractions that are strong draws. “The wave pool is also very successful, as is our lazy river. And, we have a couple of other slides that do really well for us, as well as a 263-foot open flume, a hot tub and an activity pool with a big pirate ship inside it. We have approximately 56,000 square feet here.” H2Oasis serves around 100,000 guests annually.
James MacAlpine, director of sales and marketing at the family-owned Schlitterbahn Water Parks headquartered in New Braunfels, Texas, said his top indoor attraction is the Boogie Bahn. “The attraction is designed so that guests can ride an artificial wave that goes 35 miles per hour. And not only is it a lot of fun, guests can keep improving their skills by riding on it. We participate in indoor wave competitions that are offered nationwide, and we help prepare contestants right here at the park,” MacAlpine said.
The Boogie Bahn offers 50,000 gallons of water per minute across the surface of the attraction, but water depth is just a comfortable few inches, with a foam surface beneath riders. For guests seeking water slide thrills, MacAlpine said his most popular attractions are “The Roar, and our Fast and Furious body slides. Roar is over 70-feet tall. There you are, going down the slide for half a second, and then suddenly, it’s a straight plunge down. It’s an exhilarating ride, that’s aptly named. You tend to let out a roar when you’re going down it.” Along with indoor water slides, another big attraction is the Torrent River. “It’s not just a traditional lazy river,” MacAlpine explained, “it has a wave generator that dispenses a virtual tidal wave of water every 10 seconds. People of all ages are excited by that.”
Dan Kube, aquatics operations manager at the 80,000-square-foot Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., has his own thrilling attraction to excite guests. “Our most popular and most exciting ride would be our zip coaster, the Fly’n Mayan. With a Mayan ruins theme, and an extremely high speed, this is a big draw because of the intensity of the ride,” Kube said.
The youngest children at the park have a different favorite, however. “There are two main areas for smaller children. The Incatinka water play area is more of a water jungle gym area. There’s plenty of room to play, and there are small slides that parents can ride with their children. Mount Montezuma’s Mayan Temple entertains small children up to middle school age, with attractions like a giant tipping bucket that has over 500 gallons of water.” This large waterpark along the banks of the Wisconsin River can grab attendance of up to 2000 guests daily in the summer months, Kube said, making it a very successful part of Wisconsin Dells, the “waterpark capitol of the world.”
In Hayden Lake, Idaho, Jennifer Ross, marketing director at Raptor Reef, cites slides as her most popular attractions. “Our newest slide is called The Constrictor. It’s shaped like a snake, with very tight curl turns. It was ranked as one of the top five most extreme slides in the world by the Travel Channel,” she noted. “It’s 350-feet high, and guests riding it slide high along the attraction’s walls.” A well-liked slide for younger guests is the Velociraptor Vortex bowl ride. “The kids make a quick drop into a huge bowl where they can swirl around and around, and then they drop to a second hole, and fly down another slide, which is pretty exciting. The wave pool is also great fun, and parents like it too. They can float on the tubes with their children or watch them in the interactive areas.” With The Constrictor just two years old, the waterpark, home to around 250,000 visitors annually, is not planning any expansion at present.
With exciting indoor attractions like these, the biggest trend in indoor waterparks appears to be having fun getting wet.