Feature Article - September 2004
Find a printable version here

Water 101

Tips for squeezing every last drop of success out of your waterpark and splash play area

By Stacy St. Clair

White Water (Atlanta)

Part of the Six Flags family, White Water serves as the crown jewel. The park, however, realizes it must offer a big bang for the entertainment buck. The Cliffhanger, its top attraction, offers one of the highest freefalls in the world. The rider is dropped 90 feet straight down at a high rate of speed. Patrons must hang onto to their hats—and their hearts.

COOL TIP: Consider expanding your programming and entertainment offerings. In addition to thrill rides, White Water offers musical shows and other acts to keep patrons entertained.

Wet 'N Wild (Las Vegas)

As if there weren't enough to do Vegas, the city also boasts one of the country's best waterparks. Located on the Vegas Strip, Wet 'N Wild kept up with competitors this summer by adding the popular Dragon's Den in the 2004 season. It offers five other extreme slides to keep the decadent Vegas visitors happy—and wet.

COOL TIP: Contribute to the community. The park created public goodwill when it offered the facility to local firefighters for training. Using the lazy river and wave pool, the firefighters practiced their swift water training.

Noah's Ark (Wisconsin Dells, Wis.)

The Wisconsin Dells, without question, is the waterpark capital of the world. And there's no better Dells destination than the 25-year-old Noah's Ark. With more than 60 water-based fun activities, it claims to be the country's largest waterpark. It boasts a number of non-ride activities such as water basketball and aquatic rope climbs.

COOL TIP: Not everything needs to be wet. Noah's Ark offers plenty of activities for visitors looking to stay dry for a while. In addition to rides, it has miniature golf and a kiddie coaster.

  Hooray for History

It has become increasingly popular for waterparks and aquatic centers to incorporate local history and lore into their design and marketing. From rides to souvenirs to concessions, the historic themes give facilities a personality. Here's a look at how some facilities have paid homage to their heritage.

Hawaiian Waters (Oahu, Hawaii): The park has 25 acres filled with Hawaiian-themed thrill rides such as Kapolei Koolers, Volcano Express and Shaka. The theme extends to the Kau Kau Cafe and the birthday hut, where keiki birthday parties were held. The gift store even sells Hawaiian crafts.

Splash Station (Joliet, Ill.): Built on an old railroad line, Joliet officials decided to honor the site's former purpose. The entrance—where patrons purchase boarding passes—is designed like an old depot. The light fixtures are all replicated railroad lamps and the concession stands are imitation roundhouses.

Glenview Park Center (Glenview, Ill.): Though dwarfed by its mammoth waterpark brethren, the suburban aquatic center shows how even small facilities can tastefully incorporate its history. The center is located on the former Glenview Naval Air Station, which served as the primary training command during World War II. The state-of-the-art natatorium celebrates the area's history with a jaw-dropping design. World War II biplane replicas hang from the ceiling. The splash play area has several aeronautical features, including a slide designed to make users appeal as if they're bailing out of a cockpit.

Soak City USA (Buena Park, Calif.): The park is located in Southern California, the birthplace of the 1950s surfer society. Soak City—a play on the Jan and Dean hit "Surf City"—pays tribute to SoCal's contribution to pop culture. Sections of the park are named after local beach towns such as La Jolla Falls, Palisades Plunge and Solana Storm Watch Tower. The gift shop—Wipeout! Surf Shop—sells seasonal clothing, merchandise and souvenirs.