Feature Article - September 2008
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Schooled in Aquatics

Waterpark Trends from the College Campus to the Municipal Center

By Dawn Klingensmith

Proven Crowd-Pleasers

Surf machines: An artificial sheet wave, about 2 inches deep, generated by high-output water pumps. Riders slide down a ramp on a wake- or surfboard to "ride the wave," which flows over a foam-padded surface. A reservoir-and-pump system re-circulates the water. The new "must-have" attraction for waterparks and well-funded municipal aquatic facilities, surf machines are also the latest craze in the cruise ship industry.

Funnel ride (or tornado ride): Riders on tubes go down a waterslide that deposits them into a funnel. Once inside, riders slide up one side and then back down and up the other side, spinning around and around, until they are spat out into the water. Young fans have been known to call it the "toilet bowl ride."

Speed slide: Not for the faint of heart, speed slides are geared to the thrill-seeking teen demographic and deliver top speeds of up to 60 mph. Racing lanes with timers are an option and appeal to teens' competitive nature. Speed slides require little water but ample run-out room (100 to 200 feet on average).

Uphill coaster: Typically uses high-speed conveyors, water jets or linear induction motors to propel riders skyward in roller-coaster fashion to a crest preceding a downhill plummet. For example, the quarter-mile-long Black Anaconda at Noah's Ark Waterpark, Wisconsin Dells, Wis., delivers whiplash turns, and six portions of the ride go straight uphill. Other portions are enclosed, adding to the suspense.

Tipping bucket (or dump or tumble bucket): Encouraging group interaction, the suspended bucket slowly fills with upwards of 500 gallons of water, tips over and soaks people below. Optional sirens or alarms signal when the bucket is about to unload.

Themed water raft rides: Building on the concept of a lazy river, themed "rivers" carry riders through a storybook-type of atmosphere complete with tunnels, miniature "rapids," riverside spectacles, sound effects, animatronics and interactive elements. For example, the River Battle ride at Dollywood, Pigeon Ford, Tenn., consists of eight-person rafts equipped with soaker guns. Passengers take aim at each other and targets along the way, including animatronic beavers, skunks, otters and bears, which either shoot back or display special effects. Rafters can also soak observers along the way.