Feature Article - October 2007
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Making Waves

Big Waterpark Trends Hit Smaller Facilities

By Emily Tipping

Municipalities across the country are taking the idea of themes and running with it, and according to Kempfer, it's not as pricey a proposition as it used to be.

"You used to pay so much money for themes because it was a customization, but now a lot of the equipment comes like that," she said. "There are theme packages you can buy, and they're getting more creative. It's not all tropical. We've done snow and ice. Some municipalities are choosing to reflect the local flavor. In Colorado, we did one where it's a mining town and they went with that theme."

The 23,000-square-foot indoor waterpark at the Apex Center in Arvada, Colo., is operated by the North Jeffco Park and Recreation District. The aquatic experience features Colorado mountain and mining themes with two 150-foot slides, an indoor water playground with fountains and dump buckets, as well as a more traditional four-lane lap pool.

At NRH2O Family Waterpark, a municipally owned waterpark in North Richland Hills, Texas, the theme was taken to the extreme, with an entire back story describing how Professor Frogstein—magically transformed into a frog by Dr. Unfun—discovers the formula for family fun. Ultimately, Dr. Unfun tries to run Professor Frogstein down, and the test tube of formula spills into the swamp. The legend goes on to explain how the spilled formula mixed with the swamp water, transforming the land into a waterslide-dotted, fun-filled family park. The theme is carried out in the waterpark in "Frogstein's Splashatory," five levels of fun for all ages that includes six waterslides, interactive activities and a giant tipping beaker.

On a smaller scale, at Splash Cove at the Jim Allen Aquatic Center in Shawnee, Kan., a water theme dominates, but with a twist.

"Most aquatic designers use the same set of catalogs and pieces, so the facilities begin to look more and more alike," explained William Yarger, president and CEO of Manchester, Mo.-based Yarger Design Group. "We wanted to make sure the facility was branded, so we added features nobody else has, like special theming, major zero-depth entry and a kiddy wave pool."

Splash Cove features a leisure pool with a water-play structure with tipping conch shell, a waterslide, a play/instructional pool and plenty of deck area for sitting. With larger-than-life fish and sea turtles, the facility's theme was meant to tie in with WonderScope, a children's museum located on the same block.

"WonderScope took the real world and shrunk it down to kid size. Everything there is 'Honey I Shrunk the World,'" Yarger explained. "What we did was take the opposite approach of 'Honey I Shrunk the Kids' and turned the kids into the size of minnows and made the fish and theming really big. We put waves under the building, and you'll see big fish and turtles, while the kids are relatively small in comparison."