Supplement Feature - September 2020
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The Water's Fine!

What's New in Waterparks

By Dave Ramont


Surf rides continue to be popular mainstay attractions for both private and municipal waterparks nationwide, according to Mahoney. "It is not only an exciting attraction to ride, with additional revenue generated through lessons and tournament participation, it is the perfect attraction for bystanders to sit, grab some food and enjoy the show!"

Hazelbaker agreed that these attractions create great opportunities for spectators and extra revenue, pointing out that they're often located near food and beverage areas.

While inflatable obstacle courses are still popular amenities, there are now more advanced obstacle course systems available. Indoor systems are mounted to the ceiling, while outdoor versions utilize a structural support truss that bolts to the pool deck. These can be deployed in under 60 seconds with the push of a button. Featuring many interchangeable elements and modifiable obstacles, these systems can be reconfigured to appeal to all ages and levels, offering fun and challenging competition. Users can input their name and track time with a touch-screen interface and scores are recorded in a database.

These systems also offer up different programming opportunities, with some facilities using them for low-impact aquatic fitness and aqua HIIT group classes. Other venues feature recreational obstacle course racing, even creating leagues and hosting tournaments and other spectator events.

Wave pools and rivers are often the largest and most used attractions at a waterpark, and Mahoney's company offers a wide variety of wave system options, from children's pools to family recreational wave pools to high-performance surf and boogie boarding pools. Mahoney notes how the river ride is taking on a whole new life with all the innovation in river waves, lighting and fast currents for swimming. "We're seeing more and more waterparks adding second river experiences to offer both a lazy river option as well as a more thrilling one. Even indoor waterparks are jumping on this trend. Soundwaves at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville is one great example, featuring both a lazy and fast-swim river in their indoor waterpark."

Lazy rivers are more popular than ever, according to Gerber. She explained that multi-generational design is a critical consideration, and lazy rivers, current channels and wave pools are great examples of amenities that serve the masses. "They're considered 'people-holders,' and will provide space for swimmers to cool off. Amenities like slides bring excitement and even notoriety to a park, but lines get long and there should always be space for large quantities of people. Lazy rivers are people-holders that appeal to families, young children, teens and even active seniors who might be utilizing the river for resistance walking or a relaxing float."

She pointed out that adding action to lazy rivers by increasing the water flow and adding waves adds to the "watertainment" factor, and theming the environment around the lazy river adds to the experience and makes the ride more interesting.

What's Your Theme?

Speaking of theming, is this still a trend for waterparks? Absolutely, said Hazelbaker. Theming provides marketing benefits, increased recognition and increased usage. "The city of El Paso is wrapping up three neighborhood waterparks that are all themed to fit the culture of the communities they serve. Cost related to theming represents about 15% of their construction budget. But there are also lots of solutions for low-cost ways to achieve a theme. Working within an overall design aesthetic to select specific colors, features and art can aid in making an aquatic facility feel like it has more theming involved than the budget might have allowed."

Designers and manufacturers seek to achieve an immersive experience that unites a park in a way that will engage users on every visit, according to Ford. "The great thing about theming is that you can do a lot with very little. Whether that is thatched roofing to create a jungle/island theme, sculpted elements to suspend one's imagination or a multitude of colors for slides, powder coat or accessory items. Attendees are transported to a unique environment with every visit to the park."

Mahoney agreed that clients seek out custom themes. "Kartrite indoor waterpark (in New York) was designed to reflect the natural landscape of the surrounding Catskill Mountains." She also mentioned a recent project in Tennessee, the 50-acre Soaky Mountain Waterpark, which opened in June of this year and was designed to reflect the park's location in the Smoky Mountains. From the entry point to the furthest part of the waterpark there was 100 feet of elevation. A key objective in the design was to preserve and showcase the unique elevation grade as much as possible, creating a unique 'mountain modern' landscape, which allowed them to creatively design the amenities into the elevation versus just flattening it.