Rustic Waters

White Water Bay in Queensbury, N.Y., and Fort Rapids Water Park in Columbus, Ohio

By Donald A. Jaenicke

hey're surfing in New York and Ohio—many miles from the ocean. Two northern theme parks—Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, N.Y., and Fort Rapids in Columbus, Ohio—have added indoor water recreation facilities to create year-round attractions for their patrons.

Surfing the Adirondacks

Located near several upstate New York ski resorts, the 200-room Great Escape Lodge in Queensbury added a $30 million indoor waterpark, called White Water Bay. The 38,000-square-foot waterpark is said to be the only one of its kind in the state.

"We are becoming a four-season destination," said John Collins, general manager of the new facilities.

The waterpark features a number of water attractions, including a lazy river where guests can float around on inner tubes, shallow activity pool, warm-water spa, family raft ride and two tube waterslides with a 41-foot drop that take guests through loops, curls and tunnels.

The Tall Timbers Tree House is a 4,375-square-foot multi-level play structure with nearly 160 interactive water features and activities, designed with the appearance of an Adirondack lodge. The structure also features three more slides between 135 and 160 feet in length. The Boogie Bear Surf is a FlowRider, a continuous sheet wave that allows guests to surf and bodyboard.

The park also includes a spa, a food court, a locker room, an indoor arcade, an upstairs lounge and a 300-person banquet facility.

The exposed glued laminated roof framing helps achieve what the builders have called "the rustic Adirondack effect." The framing was specified because of its warm aesthetics and resistance to corrosion, which might affect exposed steel construction, said Bill Pearson, construction manager for Aquatic Development Group, the design and contracting firm on the project.

Guests of the hotel will be able to use the waterpark for free. A key part of the project was a $1.8 million access bridge over Highway 9. Held in place by glued laminated rafters and columns, the ridge beam that forms the backbone of the bridge design is 90 feet long and 6 feet deep, and weighs in at about 13,000 pounds.

The local newspaper, the Post Star, observed that "visitors to the new hotel and waterpark can trade in their snowboards for Boogie boards."

Riding the rapids range

In a similar project about 600 miles away in Columbus, Ohio, the new 60,000-square-foot Fort Rapids Water Park is based on a rustic Western theme and provides a four-season family destination for the entire Midwest region.

This new park also features a continuous sheet wave that allows guests to surf and bodyboard. Other similar features to the New York project include the Blackout Pass bowl ride, Cowboy Creek lazy river, scenic waterfalls, a four-story interactive water structure with 1,000-gallon tipping bucket, zero-depth toddler play area, 30-person hot tub, party rooms and more.

Like the roof at Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, the roof framing at Fort Rapids

provides a rustic effect, said architect Tom Hesse of John Poe Architects in Dayton, Ohio. The framing was selected for its aesthetic warmth, competitive cost and fast erection.

"[Glued laminated] construction is specified for the primary structure and also for the platform framing," Hesse said. "Two stain finishes are being used. A light stain on the deck maximizes light reflection from the indirect lighting system, and a darker stain accents the structure. Galvanized steel brackets are used to connect [glued laminated] members to further the rough, Western imagery."

With only eight interior supporting columns, open space for the water attractions is maximized, according to Gary Gray, the structural engineer on the project. "The structure is a completely self-supporting, space-frame design," he said.

The laminated timbers used in both projects are a renewable material, gathered from forests where millions of trees are planted annually. No large old-growth trees are needed in the fabrication of the beams.

Apparently, indoor water fun can come with a smaller environmental cost.


American Institute of Timber Construction:

Fort Rapids Waterpark:

Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Waterpark:

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