Supplement Feature - October 2019
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Just Add Water

Indoors or Out, Waterparks Offer Fun for All

By Dave Ramont

"Consideration for future changes and phases is always part of the design process," said Nachreiner, explaining that they're involved in many renovations and upgrades, whether it's changing a piping valve or adding a waterslide. "Over the life of the facility, maintenance needs will require repairs and replacements, and expansions and additions maximize appeal and help to prolong the relevancy and lifespan of the facility." Clawson said they're involved with evaluation and planning for expansion, redesign or renovation works on eight to 10 facilities a year. "Especially as many of the first-generation parks are getting to be 30 to 40 years old."

Mahoney agrees that parks are always on the lookout for something new to keep the experience fresh and exciting for guests. "It's about differentiation and excitement, but can also be about meeting the need for more capacity. We've designed our water rides to be the perfect expansion project that allows you to build out to incorporate deck space, cabanas, food and beverage, room for entertainment and more as needed." She cites Castaway Cove in New Hampshire's Canobie Lake Park as an example, where the entire expansion was built around a river ride.

Deck layouts are crucial to the user experience, safety and operational efficiency of a facility, according to Nachreiner, and creative designs can maximize capacity potential with areas for cabanas, food and beverage, retail and event space, while also managing guest flow. "Adjacencies between aspects such as the change rooms, shallow pool areas, play features, team staging areas, shade structures and many others are huge drivers to the overall design." Seating areas are often situated around the most popular attractions, especially skill-based rides, allowing for prime spectator viewing.

Are skill-based and competition-based attractions still growing in popularity? Clawson says yes. "You learn a skill like surfing or challenge yourself or others in a wet ropes course—of course you have to come back to improve, or watch your kids improve. Large-format surf parks, whitewater parks, cable ski/boarding parks—these kinds of venues are making their way into the waterpark space."

Participation in skill-based attractions can often be purchased on an hourly basis to incorporate lessons, and monthly memberships and season passes target repeat customers dedicated to honing their skills. Mahoney cites the popularity of surf simulators, which are available in single, double, triple and 180-degree configurations. Organized leagues and sanctioned competitions with major sponsorships are increasingly common.

There are boogie-boarding surf rides, tidal rivers and skill-based adventure rides which target multiple demographics. Innovative launch portals, wave pool entries and multiple exit ports are incorporated into the designs to maximize rider throughput. Wave pools and wave systems feature more options in wave height and pattern variety, and they've become easier and more efficient to operate. There's a mini wave pool for toddlers featuring two-foot waves. Active play is another way to incorporate skill-based attractions, according to Mahoney. "Our Adventure Lagoon water ride includes not only rock climbing and water crossing areas, but inflatable obstacle courses as well."

Nachreiner said that courses, structures and equipment that create competition and challenge the participant against the elements have a strong future in aquatic programming. He feels it's a great time for developing an aquatic center, as there are many new and enhanced programs and attractions available. "These include new methods of adding waves in compact pool spaces, new types of waterslides and interactive features in slide flumes, exciting underwater games and more advances in the ever-evolving industry of surf simulation."

"Finding creative ways to integrate technology continues to play a big role," said Mahoney, describing a park they recently opened in Orlando called Island H2Olive. "The entire theme of the park is centered on social media. They also integrated a new RFID (radio frequency identification) system for guests that allows them to personalize their park experience through music choices, upload photos to an app, accumulate points for rewards, etc."

Clawson said that since many aquatic venues are getting more waterpark-like in nature, it's putting pressure on true waterparks to really differentiate themselves. And while it's partly a competition thing, partly he believes it's a recognition that we have a basic connection with water. "Why does every resort brochure feature a photo of their pool with the resort in the background? That's what we go there for—it's all about the water. What a great business to be in." RM