Feature Article - October 2016
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Wet & Wild Destinations

Strategies for Waterpark Success

By Dave Ramont


The Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells sits on more than 600 wooded acres and offers many lodging options, including guest rooms, vacation villas, condominiums and cabins. It's a popular destination for family vacations, group outings, weddings, reunions and corporate events. And while it offers many dry attractions, the real draw is the four indoor and four outdoor waterparks adding up to more than 500,000 square feet. Each one has a different theme to appeal to all ages. There are thrill rides, mat racers, drop-slides, twisting tube and body slides, family raft rides, bumper boats, and zero-depth spray and play features with geysers, dumping buckets and water blasters. There's an interactive lazy river ride that goes up and downhill and through raging rapids. There's Great Wave—America's largest indoor wave pool, and a sport pool with basketball hoops, volleyball and a lily pad rope challenge. There are indoor/outdoor hot spas and an adults-only indoor/outdoor pool and swim-up bar. The Wild WaterDome features a see-through roof, filling the entire park with natural light and allowing guests to tan and tropical plants to flourish year-round. And, unlike some resort waterparks, Wilderness offers no day passes—the waterparks are reserved exclusively for overnight guests.

Brandon Schindler, director of aquatics at Wilderness Resort, mentioned two of the more popular rides this season: The Lunar Loop, which is a looping body-slide with a trap-door capsule start, and The Hurricane, which is a two- to four-person extreme raft slide that looks like a funnel laid on its side. He also said that the outdoor parks are unquestionably the major draw in warm-weather months. "Our indoor parks are much more lightly used on average during our summer season."

The design of indoor versus outdoor waterparks differs considerably, according to Keim. "The space restraints encountered in indoor park design require that we maximize the use of the available space to provide the most entertainment value possible while ensuring that the park as a whole provides a comfortable and enjoyable guest experience," he said, adding that outdoor parks generally don't have the space limitations or air quality issues associated with indoor parks, which greatly simplifies the design process.

Keim went on to explain how designers of indoor parks must give careful consideration to air handling, humidity control and indoor air quality. Properly selected dehumidification systems and UV pool water disinfection systems are a must for indoor parks.

As to filters and water treatment systems, superior water quality is imperative whether indoors or outdoors. "While high-rate sand filtration is used in most facilities, regenerative media filter systems are enjoying increased acceptance at both indoor and outdoor parks," says Keim.

Adding a transparent roof to an indoor park also provides an inviting environment, according to Keim, as the natural light "weatherproofs" the park's operation while bringing the outside in for guests, regardless of weather. His company manufactures a patented transparent roofing product able to transmit a large amount of UV light, allowing for natural tanning as well as ideal conditions for plant life. The system is also acoustically tuned, creating a more comfortable experience for guests. Plus, operators can "dial down artificial lighting during daylight hours, and the solar gain from the sun assists in heating during cooler weather, both resulting in energy savings," Keim said.

Go Greener

What about other eco-friendly innovations in waterparks these days? Steve Brinkel, president of the Parks and Recreation Division for a Richmond, British Columbia-based manufacturer supporting waterparks and attractions, pointed to the inclusion of variable frequency drives (VFD) in one of their giant waterslides at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Galveston Island, Texas. "It concentrates on power savings, which supports a park's financial and environmental goals."

Brinkel's company designs, engineers and oversees construction of waterparks, and manufactures waterpark products.

MASSIV, the Schlitterbahn waterslide, was deemed the World's Tallest Water Coaster by Guinness World Records. It takes considerable power to push patrons up the steep inclines of the waterslide, but by using the power of VFDs and a proprietary control algorithm, pump speeds can now be dynamically adjusted while the ride is in operation.

Typically, the power that pumps the water jets uphill comes from an always-on fixed-frequency AC drive, running the motor at a constant speed, resulting in an inefficient use of power. The new system results in reduced wear and tear and is more energy-efficient because the motor is not constantly running at a set speed. Testing showed a 55 percent power savings compared to the previous system.

The Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California—which opened in February 2016—features a state-of-the-art recycling system with mechanized pumps, filters and tanks to purify the water before recirculating it into the park's common water areas to reduce water waste.