Supplement Feature - May 2021
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Water Worlds

The Latest & Greatest in Aquatic Park Design

By Chris Gelbach


Attractions for Tweens and Teens

To truly hit a home run in terms of multigenerational appeal requires providing attractions that engage the hard-to-reach teen and tween audiences. Designers are including a variety of active and skill-based attractions as one way to do it—and to do it at different budget levels.

"On the lower-cost side of things, slacklines are very low cost, they can be added in to pretty much any body of water, usually lap lanes, and it provides a unique competition environment," Gerber said.

While climbing walls aren't new, they're a tried-and-true amenity. "Things like adding to that height can increase the competition level and the skill level that's required, and often that deck space gets used just with the people sitting around the edges watching that competition take place," Gerber said.

Martin Aquatic is putting in an adventure pool featuring inflatable lily pads or other children's obstacle course elements or a rock-climbing wall in a pool in almost every new waterpark project featuring multiple bodies of water.

These kinds of attractions can be done even in small pools, like Martin did with Hawaiian Falls Roanoke, which features an inflatable water walk, a sun shelf for sunbathers in the middle and a basketball hoop in the other end of a 1,500-square-foot pool. "It's not all about slides. Having that flat water adds a lot to it. Most kids—most people—like to be active. You don't want to just sit in the water all day long," Martin said.

Higher-end obstacle courses are also either being included or being considered in more and more new park designs as another way to provide exercise, competition and programming opportunities in the waterpark environment.

Surf attractions are also growing, and the options available range from huge patented surf pools with beaches and boardwalks to traditional sheet-wave technologies to options in between.

While some of these options have lower throughput, they are also skill-based and offer significant revenue opportunities. ADG has installed more than 100 sheet-wave surf attractions in waterparks, with more than 30 of them in public parks.

"It is definitely a spectator attraction, and if you put food and beverage and a place for people to sit and relax nearby, you'll see people sit and watch it for hours," Keim said. "It's pretty much nonstop entertainment."

It's also a skill-based attraction that can bring repeat visits and even be programmed through lesson programs. Keim is also seeing parks open up the surf attraction during the shoulder seasons, since surf enthusiasts will go out even when it's chilly, and the attraction only requires two staff members to operate. This also enables the attraction to be used at off-hours. "As a birthday party or corporate event rental space, they're great revenue generators," Keim said. And because people sit and watch the surfers during regular operating hours, "It increases in-park spending and increases time in park," Keim said.

Operation Is Key

Designers are also looking at every other avenue possible to provide big thrills and immersive experiences while still offering the most desirable sightlines for reducing lifeguarding needs and operational costs. "We have a couple of parks that focused more on ceiling-mounted amenities," Gerber said. These can improve sight lines, reduce operational costs and provide something different.

"We've all seen play features in splash pads," Gerber said. "We don't all see storm clouds that send water down from the sky that are full with colorful light shows."

As they go bigger and bolder, designers are also taking great care to create designs focused on easy operation, reduced operational costs and lower maintenance costs. "We want you to be able to have a facility than in 25 years looks great and is operating well and you're making updates and enhancements because you want to, not because you need to," Gerber said. RM