Facility Profile - October 2012
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Beyond Expectations
AquaVenture Waterpark in Norfolk, Neb.

By Jessica Royer Ocken

"I don't know what they were expecting," said Sheila Schukei, human resources director for the city of Norfolk, Neb., and supervisor of the recreation department. "But the comment from folks when they walk in is that they feel like they're on vacation someplace."

Open only since June 15, 2012, AquaVenture Waterpark at Veterans Memorial Park in Norfolk, Neb., is already a resounding success. "Our goal was 800 visitors a day, and we average over 1,000," Schukei said.

Norfolk is a town of about 25,000, and Veterans Memorial Park has long been a community hub for baseball, soccer, football and swimming. However, the swimming pool was "just a plain box with two diving boards," Schukei said. Built back in the 1970s, it had developed a variety of structural problems and leaks, so there was a growing feeling in the community that an upgrade was needed.

Over 10 years, a citizens group raised awareness and gathered input about what a new-and-improved swimming option might look like. The community voted on it twice, and then a little more than a year ago, the old pool was demolished and the creation of AquaVenture began.

The new waterpark still features a recreational pool with a high and a low diving board and eight lap lanes, but it also now includes a wave pool; a zero-depth-entry pool with geysers, dumping buckets, an interactive keyboard and a slide for younger users; an octopus water play structure with more than 20 toys and features including a water curtain, water cannons and two slides; and the crown jewels: two waterslides.

The 54-inch-wide raft slide is as long as a football field and can accommodate one or two riders per raft. During the design phase, there was concern that kids might not like the enclosed part of the sliding tube if it was too dark inside, so the team opted for colored translucent bands. These not only take riders through a glowing rainbow as they whizz down the slide, but they make this slide one of the first of its kind in the country.

The second slide, a 32-inch-wide body slide, runs for 235 feet and also offers a primary-colored visual treat with translucent tops on the red stripes to let in extra light. "We wanted big, bright primary colors," Schukei said. "That screams fun to kids. We wanted play features that would really attract people."