Feature Article - September 2009
Find a printable version here

Sink or Swim

How Waterparks Are Surfing the Economic Waves

By Dawn Klingensmith



Change It Up

One proven strategy private and public waterparks alike rely on to keep their attendance up and excitement high is adding new rides and attractions. Some add something new every couple of years. If you're looking to change up your rides, consider the following:

Surf machines: 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.

Speed slide: 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.

And don't forget the value of adding elements that are attractive to all ages, families and more. Wave pools, water play elements and even spraygrounds are all ways to expand your offerings to bring more fun to your park.