Feature - Sweet Water - October 2018


New for 2018, “Breakers Edge Water Coaster” uses linear induction motors (LIMs) to create a roller coaster effect for raft riders. (Credit: Hersheypark)

Water park keeps 111-year-old Hersheypark young and vibrant

by James Careless

The year was 1907 when famed chocolatier and children’s ­philanthropist Milton Hershey opened “Hershey Park” in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Initially, the park was home to baseball games, picnics, and temporary amusement attractions for Milton Hershey’s employees. Various pools were opened and closed on the site, starting with the first pool in 1908. The park added a miniature railway in 1910, a roller coaster in 1923, and bumper cars in 1926.

In 1970, Hershey Park’s management decided to turn this legacy attraction into a modern theme park, adopting the Hersheypark name a year later. ZooAmerica, an 11-acre North American wildlife park, home to 200 animals, was first included in admission in 1971. Although Hersheypark subsequently upgraded its attractions with a host of cutting-edge rides and coasters, it wasn’t until 2007 that the park re-entered the wet amusement arena, having closed the site’s existing pools during the 1971 theme park conversion.

“We opened The Boardwalk at Hersheypark water park in 2007 to mark Hersheypark’s 100th anniversary,” says Quinn Bryner, Hersheypark’s director of public relations. “Feedback from our guests suggested that having a water park included in general admission would make us an even more attractive destination.”

The Boardwalk at Hersheypark is a tribute to the legendary beaches of the Northeast region, popular from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend each summer. With 16 major water attractions, the 11-acre Boardwalk is now an integral part of Hersheypark’s appeal to guests. While Hersheypark doesn’t share specific attendance numbers, it confirms the investment paid off with significant attendance increases since 2007.


Fun from the Get-Go

When it opened in 2007, The Boardwalk grabbed the attention of Hersheypark guests, since entry to the 11-acre site was included with their general admission tickets. The new site was originally home to “East Coast Waterworks” water play zone with nearly 600 interactive water features, the “Coastline Plunge” water slide complex, and the “Waverider” surfing ride. Since 2007, Hersheypark has added new attractions to The Boardwalk. These include two new water slides attached to the “Coastline Plunge” complex, the popular “Intercoastal Waterway” lazy river, “The Shore” (a 378,000-gallon wave pool with a rolling surf wave that replaced the “Canyon River Rapids” raft ride), “Shoreline Sprayground,” and multiuser cabanas. The Boardwalk also offers attractions for younger children, including the “Bayside Pier” wave pool and “Sandcastle Cove” water play area, plus a full selection of restaurants.

“We have always been about serving families of all ages,” says Bryner. “The Boardwalk’s range of attractions, from mild to wild, supports this multigenerational approach.”

This year, The Boardwalk boosted its crowd appeal with two new attractions:  “Breakers Edge Water Coaster” and “Whitecap Racer,” a six-lane mat racing slide. Both attractions were designed for the park by ProSlide Technology.

“‘Breakers Edge Water Coaster’ is the world’s first HydroMagnetic water coaster,” says Bryner. “The four-person raft delivers a bobsled ride feeling as gravity drops and smooth linear induction motors (LIMs) power guests up and down hills and through flying saucer turns.”

In plain English, HydroMagnetic propulsion technology allows the “Breakers Edge” rafts to climb steep slopes and drop like a roller coaster. There are no belt drives or chains; the rafts move up the inclines as if they have their own power.

“‘Whitecap Racer’ is the world’s longest mat racing slide at more than 500 feet in length, taking guests 70 feet high as they race to the finish in six side-by-side tunnels,” Bryner says. “Each rider goes through two tight 360-degree loops on the course, the only one of its kind. Meanwhile, open racing lanes let the racers see and hear each other, as they race against the clock and each other using a slider timing system.”


On The Boardwalk’s new “Whitecap Racer,” guests race through double looping tunnels to reach the top rank on an arena-size leaderboard. (Credit: Hersheypark)

Riding the Wave of Success

Since its debut in 2007, The Boardwalk has been a boon to Hersheypark. “We broke attendance records that year, thanks to the addition of The Boardwalk,” says Bryner. “Since then, we have never looked back.”

Including The Boardwalk as part of the Hersheypark general admission ticket certainly made a difference. Like all consumers, amusement park guests like to feel they’re getting extra value for the money they spend. 

This said, adding The Boardwalk makes Hersheypark much more of a varied destination for visitors and provides a real counterpoint to the main park’s historic features. 

“We are proud of the fact that we have been here for 111 years and have authentic vintage rides like our carrousel (turning 100 in 2019) to offer families,” Bryner says. “But park guests also want activities that are new and modern. Combining The Boardwalk’s wet attractions with both the new and vintage rides in Hersheypark achieves this balance.”

Bryner explains The Boardwalk has added so much value to Hersheypark that the facility is able to use it to sell discounted two-day general admissions at $85 each (compared to a pair of one-day tickets at $68.95 each). “People will come and do the coasters, the kiddie rides, and the entertainment one day, and then spend the second day at ZooAmerica or entirely at The Boardwalk because there is enough to do to fill a second day,” says Bryner. “It is worth their while to spend two days here.”

Visiting for an additional day also generates earnings from food, drinks, and merchandise with healthy profit margins. “By offering so many attractions and entertainment [options], our guests want to return for a second or third visit. The Boardwalk has contributed substantially to lengthening our guests’ stay, which ultimately contributes to increased revenue,” says Bryner.

Mindful of this fact, Hersheypark has taken several steps to boost in-park sales. 

“On the food side, we launched all-day drink and dining plans last year that allow guests to pay flat rates for all-day drinks and all-day meals across the property,” Bryner says. “These offer great value and convenience to our guests, and let them know in advance what their food/drink costs are going to be at the park.” Hersheypark also launched specialty food trucks in strategic locations, both to drive sales and to provide guests with even more choice in what they can eat and drink.

Another big hit with guests is ­Hersheypark’s King Size Shakes—and make no mistake: With creamy peanut and chocolate ice cream packed into a milkshake topped with two pieces of peanut butter pie and two chocolate-covered pretzel rods—this is a mega shake of epic proportions! 

All told, the mix of wet and dry rides offered by The Boardwalk and ­Hersheypark proper gives guests real options during the summer, when changing temperatures can make a water ride a great way to cool off on hot sunny days, or a dry ride the way to stay warm when it is cool and cloudy outside. 

“Adding the Boardwalk has been a truly great investment for Hersheypark,” concludes Bryner. “We’re delighted to offer our guests three parks in one as they create another 100 years of family memories.”

James Careless is a Canada-based writer who covers the water park industry for Funworld.