Feature Article - October 2007
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Making Waves

Big Waterpark Trends Hit Smaller Facilities

By Emily Tipping

Make it unique

To give your community what it wants—and to keep people from going elsewhere to find it—you need to offer a unique experience, something that will draw people in and keep them coming back for more. One simple way to do this is to make sure your facility stands out and offers an experience to remember. Branding, or theming, is one relatively simple way to do this.

According to Kempfer, themes are an important trend in aquatic facilities. "They have become popular in commercial waterparks and have been handed down to municipal parks," she said. "You can package the experience and create an atmosphere that takes the guest into another world as they navigate through the park. It really helps parks get return customers."

In the Hawaiian Islands, Jerry Pupillo knows his park is unique. While many of the hotels and resorts on the islands provide elaborate pools and slides, Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park is the only stand-alone waterpark of its kind in Hawaii. This privately owned, 25-acre water-theme amusement park, designed by Aquatic Design Group of Carlsbad, Calif., and Kauahikaua & Chun of Honolulu, attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually with its nine thrill rides, five family rides, 10 specialty areas and other amenities.

"I think one of the biggest things that makes it a success is it's lush and tropical," said Pupillo, president and general manager of Hawaiian Waters. "We tried to minimize the concrete, and we built slides into the hills rather than having a bunch of towers. You can imitate Hawaii elsewhere, but you can't duplicate it. We can, which gives us an appeal to the tourist customers—that they can come to Hawaii in November or December and go to an outdoor waterpark and enjoy it and be warm."

The Hawaiian theme carries through the parks rides to its events. The Friday night happy hour at the park is called Pau Hana for the Ohana. 'Pau hana' is a Hawaiian phrase that means 'after work,' while 'ohana' means 'family.'

"It's kind of a happy hour on Friday night with an island flavor," Pupillo said. "Families will come out, we bring in lights and light it up, bring in a local band and just create some niche markets. We don't do huge numbers, but it's certainly a good feel."

In Wisconsin Dells at the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort's seven indoor and outdoor waterparks, a rustic feel and an Old West theme can be found throughout the resort's attractions and restaurants. Klondike Cavern, one of the facility's indoor waterparks, features Bonanza Brook, a 500-foot lazy river; Sulfur Springs pool and hot tub spa; and Gold Mine Mountain, a 45-foot kids' activity area with 60 hands-on spray features. The outdoor New Frontier Waterpark features more than 110,000 square feet of western-themed water fun, including the Gold Rush Tube Slide, a 400-foot tunnel that launches from a 40-foot tower; Prospector's Creek, a 600-foot lazy river; and Bear Foot Island, a kids area with water play devices and a 300-gallon dumping bucket.