Launch - Parks & Rec - April 2018


In addition to a wave pool, lazy river, and surf simulator, Epic Waters offers 11 water slides, including "Prairie Plung" body slize, "LassoLoop" looping water slide, and "E-Racers" enclosed mat racing slides. (Credit: Epic Waters)

New City-Owned Indoor Water Park Is One to Watch

by Keith Miller

A new city-owned, stand-alone indoor water park in Grand Prairie, Texas, is attempting to set itself apart in a market dominated by attractions offering accommodations. 

Epic Waters opened in January as the newest component of The Epic, the city’s large, multifaceted recreation and lifestyles development that broke ground in 2015. In addition to the 80,000-square-foot water park, the project will also include a multilevel adventure track, indoor soccer arena, recording studios, spa, culinary cooking theater, 10-acre playground, radio station, and other offerings.

But the signature element is Epic Waters, with its eye-catching, clear-panel domed roof. Indoor water parks have recently begun appearing in often-warm and sunny climates—like that of the Dallas-Fort Worth area where Grand Prairie is situated—and face questions about whether people will want to come indoors to swim when the weather is nice outside. However, Epic Waters encounters no such dilemma because of its enormous retractable roof, installed by OpenAire of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, a feature that also provides a substantial “wow” factor.


To build the sprawling Epic Waters, the City of Grand Prairie implemented a quarter of a cent increase in sales tax, which was voted on by citizens. The park offers discounted tickets to local residents. (Credit: Epic Waters)

“When open, the roof allows somewhere between 45 and 48 percent of the park to be covered by sunlight,” says Rick Coleman, senior vice president of development and operations for American Resort Management, which operates the park. “This past weekend we had it open, and you could feel the fresh air come in. With the amount of open air we can create, it’s easy for us to turn over air. And not only does the roof retract, but OpenAire also installed motorized tilting side windows that roll in the fresh air.”

Regarding the lack of an attached hotel, Coleman says a challenge arises when guests come in from more than an hour or two away, so the water park has partnered with some area hotels for accommodations. But there are 8.2 million people within a 90-minute drive of the park, and in the reverse, Coleman says the benefits of not being a water park hotel are numerous.

“We don’t have limitations of flexibility with large groups and events,” he explains, “and you don’t have to be staying overnight to enjoy the water park. With no rooms attached, we didn’t have to worry about the lights and noise when we had four live bands on opening weekend. Also, lots of parents who come to water parks don’t want to get in the water, and because of The Epic, we can take them over to a culinary class or let them learn to paint.”  

Epic Waters entered its opening weekend with 500 birthday parties scheduled and had another 500 booked within a few days: “We’ve had to add staff to the birthday party lines.” Early overall results were promising for the park, as it hit capacity on its first two weekends after opening.

Coleman says people who’ve visited Epic Waters comment that they just can’t believe the $100 million indoor park is owned by a city. He developed a great friendship and working relationship with Rick Herold, director of parks, arts, and recreation for Grand Prairie, and says, “The first thing we agreed on is that Epic Waters had to be a resort-like experience, and Rick has these amazing dreams for all this space. We’re trying to maximize guest experience while minimizing costs, and cities aren’t always accustomed to operating in that fashion like we are in the private sector. I think more and more communities are going to be open to what we’re doing here. Other cities are watching us.”  

The water park boasts a lineup of slides, rides, and other related attractions. The water attractions were all provided by WhiteWater and include three “firsts-of-their-kind” slides (see sidebar), a double-lane FlowRider, and a not-so-lazy river that’s the longest in Texas and is replete with waves. 

Summer in Texas will bring additional excitement to Epic Waters as a new outdoor wave pool will open on Memorial Day 2018, and later, an adjacent 10-acre, all-inclusive playground called PlayGrand Adventures offering free admission will debut.

1804_launch_intro_sidebarFirsts-of-Their-Kind Slides

Steve Brinkel, president of WhiteWater’s parks and recreation division, says three Epic Waters slides are firsts of their kind either in the United States or the world:

  • “Lasso Loop,” the tallest indoor AquaLoop in the United States
  • “Yellowjacket Drop,” the world’s first innertube fusion ride, featuring the Constrictor/Boomerango combination 
  • “Aquanaut,” North America’s first two-person innertube AquaSphere ride