Business Resources - Planning & Design - October 2017

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Six Flags White Water added a near-vertical launch system to refresh an existing water slide. (Credit: Proslide)

It’s Refreshing

How to make old slides—and water parks—feel new again

 by James Careless

The water park industry has never been more competitive, with new water parks regularly entering the market worldwide. Of course, these new parks are naturally equipped with the latest in rides and attractions, because that is what happens when someone builds something new.

 
For established water parks with older facilities, keeping up with these new entrants is a serious financial challenge. Most existing parks cannot afford to tear down their slides (and other attractions) and start from scratch. This is why knowing how to “make old rides new again” on a budget is an economic necessity for established operators. Here are some effective ways to do it.

The Many Ways to Revive an Old Ride

There is no doubt a new water slide looks great, because its fiberglass tubes and open flumes are shiny and colorful. This is why hiring Safe Slide Restoration, The Slide Experts, or any of the many other slide-refreshing companies can help any park’s old rides look new again, and help it happen fast.

Of course, shininess only goes so far. If an old ride is simply too pedestrian by today’s thrill-seeking standards, something needs to be done to add a little more zip. Therefore, ProSlide is advising operators of older “sit-entry” water slides to add the company’s SkyBOX near-vertical launcher to their attractions. “With the SkyBOX launcher, each rider enters the slide by standing on a trap door in a transparent SkyBOX pod high above the water park,” says Germain Bisson, ProSlide’s director of product management. “When the trap door falls open, what was once a passive entry for guests becomes a heart-pounding instant drop at top speed. Suddenly, your old water slide has been transformed into a thrill ride at relatively little cost.”

A third way to make an old ride new again is by adding an extra layer of functionality to the attraction. This is the concept behind WhiteWater’s SlideBoarding product, which turns conventional 54-inch-diameter flume slides into interactive video games.

The key to the ride-refreshing product is its rider-ridden SlideBoard surf boards, which take the place of standard inner tubes and inflated rafts. Each SlideBoard is a mobile gaming controller equipped with colored electronic buttons. Riders press buttons as they pass under illuminated colored targets in the flume.

Thanks to each rider creating their own unique gaming account and username when they pick up the SlideBoard, the ride’s electronic tallying system can compile these riders’ scores in real time while they are on the ride. When riders arrive at the bottom of the slide, each one can see how they have done against other riders, as well as their own personal best scores to date.

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WhiteWater's SlideBoard system turns passive water slides into rider-directed video games, thanks to their game controller-equipped slide mats

“Because the SlideBoard system allows riders to compete through 60 levels of play, there are lots of reasons for them to ride again and again to boost their totals and their skill levels,” says Dawn Kirby, WhiteWater’s content marketing manager. “People will ride a SlideBoard-equipped water slide for hours at a time.”

SlideBoarding has been driving repeat slide ridership at Wilderness Resort, a 600-acre hotel and water park complex in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. “We’ve converted a couple of our indoor tube slides to SlideBoarding rides,” says Brandon Schindler, Wilderness Resort’s director of aquatics. “The slides we’ve converted to SlideBoarding are collectively called the ‘Claim Jumper Challenge’ in concert with our Klondike mining theme in the park.”

The popularity of Wilderness Resort’s SlideBoarding upgrade has been impressive. “We’ve recorded some riders going down the ‘Claim Jumper Challenge’ as many as 80 times during their stay, which averages two to three nights per guest. That’s a remarkable surge of interest in what had been conventional passive water slides that most people only rode once or twice.” (It helps that WhiteWater offers a free SlideBoarding app for smartphones, so riders can set up their accounts before they even arrive at the water park. The app comes with the slide’s layout mapped out, so riders can plan their strategies beforehand.)

Change the Context

Making old rides new again is a great way to renew customer interest in an established water park. But sometimes the context in which the rides exist—the water park itself—needs to be made new again, as well.

Forrec is a Toronto-based entertainment design company that helps water parks (and theme parks, too) reinvent themselves. “Working with our clients, we assess their facilities to look for ways to bring their properties back to life,” says Glenn O’Connor, Forrec’s senior director of water parks. “Often, it’s a matter of taking a water park that has introduced standalone rides over the years and re-theming them all into a single storyline that ties everything together—complete with fresh paint, renovations, and new theming. In addition, attention to the little things, such as washrooms and changing areas that have grown tired and need updating, can refresh the guest experience.”

Established in 1995, NRH2O Family Water Park in North Richland Hills, Texas, is a water park that was feeling the need to become new again. “With the park being 22 years old, we were looking for a way to update the overall look of the park and bring it together under one cohesive branding scheme while still maintaining the history and charm of the park that our guests have come to love,” says Frank Perez, the park’s general manager. So NRH2O hired Forrec to devise a revitalization plan, to make the entire complex fresh and exciting for its guests.

“It was mainly about updating the overall brand of the park,” Perez says. “That included not only the introduction of the next generation of characters, but also an updating of the original color scheme so all of our park signage and future expansions would be under one cohesive color scheme.”

This was certainly the case in 2016 when NRH2O added a new WhiteWater slide complex, making sure its colors were in harmony with the Forrec-designed theme, and all at an affordable cost. “The scheme created by Forrec allowed us to take the surrounding area that was an original part of the park and make it look like we spent a million dollars to make it new, when in reality, we accomplished the look with minimal investment,” Perez says. “As we have continued to integrate the new theming into the older facilities and attractions, we have begun to rename some of our concession areas and new food carts to correspond with the new characters.”

An Abundance of Solutions

The range of ideas listed above prove there are many ways to make old rides new again, with budgets ranging in size from minimal to multi-millions. The good news is that established water park operators can pick the options that work best for them, and get started today—before that shiny new park down the road opens its gates and cuts into the
traffic.


James Careless covers the water park industry for Funworld.