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Facility Profile - March 2002

Plenty of Water, No Waiting

Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark
South Padre Island, Texas

By Jenny E. Beeh


PHOTOS COURTESY OF SCHLITTERBAHN BEACH WATERPARK
An overview of the park, including the innovative Transportainment river
system. All-day admission for water play is $26.50 for adults and $21.95 for
kids 3 to 11. Season passes are $96.99 for adults and $63.99 for kids.
There is no charge for inner tubes, life vests or bodyboards.

Waiting in line and having fun are not usually mutually exclusive—especially at amusement parks. So if you're looking for a place to up the fun and skip the lines, you might want to head to the southernmost point of Texas.

To be more exact, the place is Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark in South Padre Island.

"People don't like to be in line," says Jeff Henry, one of the park's creators. "I tried to develop a system that decreased the time waiting in lines and increased the time spent in the water recreating."

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SCHLITTERBAHN
BEACH WATERPARK

Enter Henry's brainchild: Transportainment.

The park design includes a half-mile long Transportainment river system, which, as its name hints, combines the concepts of transportation, sport and entertainment to minimize the time guests spend waiting in lines. Instead of walking to the next attraction, lugging their tubes and waiting in line, guests can stay in the water and tube to most rides and pools, replacing lost time with entertainment time. And because riders float through various elevation changes without ever leaving their tubes, the system is also a highly accessible attraction.

The Transportainment river system can best be described as a network of high-capacity river channels linking the entire waterpark.

"Everything is interconnected," Henry says. The new system is quite different than traditional lazy rivers common at other waterparks, where a slow and calm channel winds its way around but doesn't change elevation or add any elements like rapids. Patrons still usually have to climb in and out of the lazy river to wait in line at each ride.

Thanks to conveyor belts and Panama Canal-style locks among other design elements, the Transportainment river changes tempo throughout its course and has six feet of elevation change, including uphills, downhills, rapids and chutes.

"It also has side and floor actuators, which makes the river change all the time, which makes the ride change all the time, which means the guests won't get bored," Henry says.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SCHLITTERBAHN BEACH WATERPARK

People moving is not its only specialty.

"It's used by different people for different effects," Henry says. For example, times are set aside for kayaking only. From a marketing standpoint, that's especially useful post- and pre-season when the weather is colder, when people would rather play above water rather than be submersed.

In fact, the Transportainment system is so new and inventive to waterpark design, it received a top award for product innovation from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions in November.

But more importantly, patrons seem to love it.

"The response has been great," Henry says. He is especially proud that it has created a refreshing ambience at the park: Guests can stay floating it their tubes and just relax, which promotes a much more leisurely atmosphere for a waterpark, like any amusement park, which tends to have a "hurry up and wait" for the next thrill mentality.

That's not to say the park is low on thrills—hardly—but it gives people time to enjoy the day, without all the rushing and the urgency to get to the next ride.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SCHLITTERBAHN BEACH WATERPARK

This, almost ironic, more laid-back approach to a waterpark atmosphere, has seemed especially attractive to older crowds, Henry points out, those generally over the age of 23.

"They've got the concept," he says, which is why it's no coincidence Henry has also made sure the park's high-quality food, beverages and service are way above typical amusement park fare—and much more attractive to older (post-teenage) patrons.

"It's the only waterpark with table service," he says, referring to the park's sit-down restaurants. The park also hosts shows, concerts and special events.

Again, it's not just the water, but the atmosphere as well that Henry wants to be the park's big draw. Which brings us to the park's unique "Open Gate" policy.

"The only time you have to pay is when you get in the water," Henry explains. The open gate policy is designed to encourage guests to just hang out and enjoy the scenery, hopefully increasing evening traffic as well as food and beverage revenues at the restaurants. "It's catching on," he says.

Located on the beach facing the Gulf of Mexico, Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark occupies a 26-acre site, with 15 acres for the waterpark and seven acres of parking—all designed around nearly four acres of protected wetlands. The park clearly possesses a tropical beach theme, with thatched-roof, palapa-style buildings and literally a thousand transplanted palm trees.

During the summer season, the park employs about 400 staff members, about half of which are lifeguards. The park has an average of about 3,500 guests, with about 3,000 in the water at any given time.

In addition to the Transportainment river system, the park boasts several water coasters, chutes and other impressive attractions including the Boogie Bahn2, billed as the world's largest manmade surfing ride, measuring 80 feet by 65 feet. The ride can create an eight-foot-tall pipeline for surfing expositions and pro competitions. There is also the Rio Beach wave lagoon, a family wave pool.

The centerpiece of the park is a five-story, sandcastle, like a water fun house, with six turrets connected by ramps, stairs and netclimbs. Visitors large and small can explore the castle's more than 200 computerized water features and four waterslides to the surrounding 43,000 square-foot family water playground called Sand Castle Cove.

"It's been a real challenge to pull the park together with all the new technology that's in it," Henry says. "It's really my dream come true."

For more information
Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark: 956-772-SURF
or visit www.schlitterbahn.com