Waterparks have come a long way through the years.  What likely started as a tire swing over the local swimming hole has grown into a multi-billion dollar worldwide entertainment industry.  Through the years, designers and manufacturers have produced an endless line of creative innovations that keep guests coming back for more.  Park owners are always searching for the next “big” thing that will keep guests coming back.  Park owners are frequently finding themselves asking, “How can I keep guests entertained longer?”

As the waterpark industry continues to evolve, the definition of what makes up a great waterpark grows ever bigger, more adventurous, and more entertaining.  Here are just a few of the latest trends in waterpark development.

 RIDE INNOVATION

The ride manufacturers in our industry are top-notch professionals.  Every year, new rides are brought to the market.  They’re bigger, faster, longer, more thrilling, and a step beyond what anyone has ever ridden before.  Some of the more recent innovations include:

Water Coasters – These rides feature uphill sections to go along with the more traditional downhill waterslides.  Masterblaster was the first and has been around for a while now.  Ride manufacturers have recently started pushing the envelope on these rides.  Magnetic induction propulsion systems were brought to the market with Proslide’s Hydromagnetic Coaster rides. These rides took the uphill coaster from two person tubes to four person rafts.  The uphill water coaster family of rides continues to evolve as the ride manufacturers slug it out.  Both Whitewater and Proslide now offer Magnetic induction water coaster rides.  Both companies offer family-size versions of their uphill coaster rides with rafts holding up to six people.  These rides have proven to be very popular and the family-size versions have very high capacities – rivaling capacities of dry coasters at themeparks.

 Family Rides – More and more rides are appearing that are designed for multiple riders and families.  Three to six person raft and tube rides are a definite trend in waterparks.  All of the manufacturers are getting in on this trend and the options are extensive.  It makes a lot of sense for park owners.  These rides have some of the highest capacities of any ride in the park, as well as some of the best reviews.  Although the cost for these rides is significant, the dollar-per-ride cost is really quite efficient.

Water Attractions

Wall Rides – These rides are the ones that send riders up a (nearly) vertical surface where they can have a zero-gravity experience before plunging back down.  Among the leaders in this category are Whitewater with the Abyss, Boomerango, Python and Anaconda, and Proslide with the Tornado, Tornado Wave, Pipeline Wave and the Tantrum.

Hybrids – What if you could take two, three or even more great ride experiences and mash them all together into one great ride?  Hybrid rides are becoming more and more popular as ride designers take the best they have to offer and put them all together.  If you’re looking for the next great ride for your park but just can’t decide which one to get, you’re in luck.  Ride manufacturers have grown adept at combining several great experiences into a single ride.  And guests love them.

SKILL DEVELOPMENT

When people think of waterparks, the first thing that comes to mind is riding down a waterslide.  While these are staple attractions in any waterpark, skill development activities keep guests coming back repeatedly as they try to improve their performance.  These activities will also increase the duration of stay in a park as guests seek to improve their times or performance.  And longer stays translate to increased in-park sales.

Surf machines certainly fall into this category.  Not only do they pull riders back to the park time after time, but properly positioned with food & beverage outlets and good viewing space, they act as an anchor for increased sales from these outlets.

Some skill development activities are much simpler.  For example, a multi-lane mat racer slide can be easily transformed from simply a great ride into a competition venue by the simple addition of some photo-eyes and a time clock.  The competitive juices start flowing as groups of friends will go again and again while trying to beat each other and improve their times.  It’s like experiencing the ride on a whole new level even though it is the same great ride.

WAVES, WAVES, AND MORE WAVES

The standard wave pool has long been an anchor for waterparks.  These pools provide fun and excitement for a large number of guests and have always been extremely popular.  That popularity has spread to other parts of the park.  Lazy rivers are rarely lazy anymore.  Bobbing waves, dumping waves, translating waves, beaches, and rapids are all part of rivers now.  Throw in some caves and tunnels, waterfalls and spray effects, and these rivers have more adventure than anything else in the park.  With their capacity to absorb people and the long ride length, these features have become important parts of the overall park plan.

THE GREEN MOVEMENT

Let’s face it, waterparks use a lot of water and energy.  Cutting back on water, power, and chemicals is great for the environment, but it’s also great for the bottom line of your park.  Technologies exist that can result in significant savings in all three areas.  Use of these technologies is becoming increasingly popular as utility costs continue to rise.  Although they typically cost a bit more on the front end to install, the payback is very quick and they continue to save you money year after year.  However, as with any technology, not all products are created equal.  Shop wisely and use the advice of professionals to ensure you get the right product for your park.  Here are just a few of the options available:

  • Regenerative Media Filters – These are relatively new to the market and have quickly established themselves as a must-have for waterparks.  When compared to sand filters, the savings are significant.  They can reduce water usage by over 90%, which also results in savings on both heat and chemicals since less gets poured down the drain.  They can also operate at approximately 20% lower pressure differential when compared to sand, which can result in 20% less cost on your power bill.  We have seen these filters pay for themselves in anywhere from one to five years, depending on utility costs, bather loads, and operating season.
  • Ozone – This is a trick we learned in the aquarium industry.    Ozone is a strong oxidizer that is produced from oxygen in the atmosphere.  It is produced on-site and introduced into the pool water where it quickly reacts with any organic molecule with which it interacts.   This results in significant reduction in chlorine usage since there is less work for the chlorine to do.  When properly designed and installed, ozone will kill cryptosporidium in a single pass and also oxidizes chloramines.  One operator, of an award-winning indoor waterpark, told us after four years of operation with ozone, “I won’t tell you I don’t have any chloramines.  I can only tell you that I haven’t been able to measure any.”  In those four years, he only shocked the pools twice – both times after fecal accidents and because he “felt like (he) should do something.”  Capital costs for ozone have proven to be similar to UV, but with lower operating costs.  In fact, ozone systems will pay for themselves in approximately three to seven years.
  • Variable Frequency Drives – I’m often surprised by how often these get “value-engineered” out of a project.  Several years ago we designed a park that decided to take these out of the design to save on costs.  A few years later the operator chose to install them in the park along with a control system that would optimize their use.  The cost savings were incredible.  They saved tens of thousands of dollars in the first year alone – which was more than enough to pay for the new drives.  Now, the savings will continue to pile up year after year.

 

The waterpark industry is a great industry and we’re privileged to be a part of it.  Perhaps no other industry has as much fun as ours.  The innovation, excitement, and the smiles on the millions of faces we entertain each year are what drive us.  We’ll continue to push the envelope by adding thrills and new ways to play with water.  We’re excited to see where we go next.

 

Go check out this article in the October/November 2013 issue of  World Waterpark Magazine Here