The Year of the Water Park - October 2016

Whether they’re breaking ground or cutting grand opening ribbons, water park projects around the world will be top of mind in 2017

by Keith Miller

In 2017, some impressive water parks around the world will either open or be well under construction, ranging from the stunning Water World at Ocean Park Hong Kong to the highly anticipated Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort and the outdoor/indoor water park combination of Water Adventure Resort at Europa-Park in Germany. There’s so much on tap for 2017, Funworld’s dubbing it “The Year of the Water Park.” Here we look at a sampling of these projects that will be making headlines next year.

Volcano Bay
Universal Orlando, Florida

Following a string of hit attractions over the past six years, Universal Orlando Resort looks to continue its success in 2017 with the debut of Volcano Bay water park. Located within Universal Orlando Resort, adjacent to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the 28-acre themed water park will be “radically innovative,” according to the company.

At the center of Volcano Bay will be its showpiece feature—the 200-foot-tall volcano, Krakatau, with hidden caverns and cascading waterfalls. The park will offer 18 attractions, ranging from serene to highly thrilling. They will be spread across four primary areas of the park and include fast body slides that drop from the top of the volcano into the waters below; a quiet, winding lazy river; and a multi-directional wave pool with sandy beaches. Universal says there will also be a state-of-the-art marquee attraction that will be revealed at a future date.

One of the park’s most appealing attributes is its queues, where guests won’t have to lug tubes or rafts through the lines and up slide-tower steps, as raft lifts will handle this task for them. This will come in handy in Krakatau, the first of the park’s primary areas. In addition to the aforementioned marquee attraction, it will feature “Ko’okiri Body Plunge,” a racing 70-degree slide that drops 125 feet through the volcano’s center and is the world’s first slide to travel through a pool filled with guests. It will also be home to “Kala” and “Ta Nui,” two intertwining body slides.

Another park area, Rainforest Village, will include “Maku,” North America’s first “saucer ride,” speeding multi-rider rafts around three saucer-shaped curves; “Puihi,” another multi-guest raft ride plunging guests into a funnel and launching into a zero-gravity drop; and “TeAwa: The Fearless River,” a racing torrent river where guests hang on tight in their inner tubes through roaring whitewater rapids.

Universal Orlando says it will soon introduce its brand-new 3-Park Explorer ticket for guests, for use starting June 1, 2017, allowing them to experience Volcano Bay along with Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

Hurricane Harbor Oaxtepec
Six Flags, Oaxtepec, Mexico

Hurricane Harbor is the name of Six Flags’ chain of eight water parks, each located within or adjacent to one of the company’s dry-ride parks. Until now, all of the water parks were located within the United States. But in February 2016, Six Flags Mexico announced it will be taking over and completely renovating a water park in the state of Morelos that has been closed for several years. When reopened in early 2017, it will be called Hurricane Harbor Oaxtepec.

Six Flags’ public bid to reopen and operate the water park was accepted by IMSS, Mexico’s national social security institute; the company was granted a 20-year lease on the property. The new water park is expected to employ around 1,500 workers.

Located about a 50-mile drive from Six Flags Mexico, Hurricane Harbor Oaxtepec will be the largest water park in the Six Flags system at 67 acres. The company plans to invest $16 to $18 million in refurbishing and expanding the park, including adding new rides, water slides, restaurants, and merchandising locations. However, initial statements from Six Flags indicate some of the existing slides will be used in the new park following their refurbishment.

“Hurricane Harbor Oaxtepec will offer guests a lush tropical paradise setting with traditional Spanish touches throughout,” says America Sosa, communications manager for Six Flags Mexico. “The park will feature thrilling water attractions including slides, a wave pool, a relaxing lazy river, and a great selection of culinary and retail locations.”

According to research conducted by Hotel & Leisure Advisors, indoor water parks in particular have found increased popularity in North America. The number of new or expanded indoor water parks opened in 2016 is set to double the amount from 2015. The company attributes the growth to the variety of amenities and attractions indoor water parks offer.

Great Wolf Lodge
Colorado Springs, Colorado and LaGrange, Georgia

In February 2016, Great Wolf Resorts, the largest chain of indoor water parks in North America, opened its 13th Great Wolf Lodge water park hotel and its first in California in Garden Grove. Though the location boasted the largest water park in the chain, the company is not resting on its laurels. In early 2017, it will open a new water park in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and will begin construction soon on its 15th resort, located in La Grange, Georgia.

The Colorado Springs resort will house the largest indoor water park in the state and will be located less than an hour from Denver. It will be comprised of 311 guest suites and feature 380,000 square feet of entertainment offerings and lodging amenities. The facility will also offer 20,000 square feet of conference space.

The LaGrange complex will be located 70 minutes from downtown Atlanta. Its centerpiece will be a 93,000-square-foot water park featuring water rides, a multi-level interactive tree house with an enormous tipping bucket, a large wave pool, and a lazy river. Several zero-depth entry pools and child play areas will also be spread around the park.

“We are excited that Great Wolf Lodge has chosen LaGrange to build their newest resort,” says Nathan Deal, governor of Georgia. “Creating more than 600 jobs and investing more than $150 million, the economic impact from the Great Wolf Lodge Georgia operation will be felt immediately, and we anticipate additional investment in the region as operations ramp up.”

Both the Colorado Springs and LaGrange resorts will offer the Great Wolf Adventure Park, a family entertainment center featuring a ropes course, a multi-level climbing attraction, mini-golf, and several other attractions. They will also offer MagiQuest, the live-action interactive children’s game that takes place throughout the resort, and Scooops Kids Spa, providing ice-cream-themed manicures and pedicures. Like all Great Wolf Lodges, access to the water parks in both resorts is reserved exclusively for resort guests.

Water Adventure Resort
Europa-Park, Rust, Germany

Europa-Park, the second most-attended amusement park in all of Europe, is embarking on an expansion that could bring hundreds of thousands more visitors to its property each year. Under construction in 2017, in 2018, the resort will open Water Adventure Resort, part of an expansion developed in stages that will eventually cover 114 acres.

Water Adventure Resort will be part of the first stage of development, which will also include a themed hotel—the resort’s sixth. The water park itself will be situated on the main access road to Europa-Park and will cover 74 acres, consisting of an indoor facility featuring a wave pool, a surfing simulator, water slides, a lazy river, a water playground, restaurants, and retail options. The outdoor area will also offer a wave pool, water slides, a beach, and gardens. Shuttle service will be available between Water Adventure World, the new hotel, Europa-Park, and the resort’s other five hotels.

Jakob Wahl, head of communications for Europa-Park, says the park is fortunate to have a large site for the project, and, as a result, will build it in stages to learn from phase one: “Our creative team has been working on this for three years, and a lot of research and visits to existing great attractions drove us to the conclusion of three basic story-design beliefs: one, no palm trees; two, no pirates; and three, being true to Europa-Park’s theme, we must take our guests on a grand but different adventure.” 

He notes the first phase will consist mostly of a very large building with differently themed areas based around a common story. As the water park gets closer to opening, he says the park will begin to introduce guests to the storyline. “But I can say this,” he adds, “we are not in the tropics and we are not necessarily in a place that is easy to get to. This is a big and historic step for Europa-Park and the Mack Family as we begin to build a new resort adjacent to Europa-Park.”

Water World
Ocean Park Hong Kong, Aberdeen, Hong Kong, China

Spectacular. Beautiful. Lush. Breathtaking. These are a few of the words used to describe the water park Ocean Park Hong Kong is creating, if the official renderings are any indication, they’re spot on. Named Water World, it will be Hong Kong’s first year-round, all-weather water park, and feature both indoor and outdoor attractions stretched across three terraced levels.

Construction on the park began in November 2015 and it is scheduled to open in 2018. Water World’s design features a series of terraces on a hill adjacent to the South China Sea. The sloping topography allows for the construction of huge water slides without having to create extensive supporting structures.

Walter Kerr, executive director of project development for Ocean Park, tells Funworld about this unique use of the terrain: “It will be the first and only waterfront water park in Southeast Asia, setting new standards in seamlessly integrating a state-of-the-art water park with its hillside surroundings. Fully reflecting Ocean Park’s respect for the natural environment, the design of Water World features a series of terraced platforms along a hillside facing the South China Sea, blending in perfectly with the natural terrain, extensive vegetation, and green roofs.”

A pivot-door design on a curtain wall system will allow for natural ventilation of the park’s indoor area while blending the exterior with the interior. Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene translucent skylights will maximize natural lighting to the interior and reduce artificial lighting.

“The main building of Water World will comprise three levels, with each decorated according to the sporting themes associated with the ‘Reef,’ the ‘Caves,’ and the ‘Beach’ respectively,” says Kerr. The 693,000-square-foot facility will offer 27 outdoor and indoor attractions, many of which will be new to Hong Kong. There will be 18 rides of varying intensity levels, from free-fall speed slides to a leisurely lazy river. One of the rides new to Hong Kong will be a surfing simulator. Others will include an eight-lane mat racer and multi-guest rides.

The HK$3 billion park will have a capacity of 7,000 guests and a total daily capacity of 10,500. It is expected to create 2,900 jobs and add HK$842 million to the Hong Kong economy.

Project Zanzi
West Midlands Safari Park, Bewdley, Worcestershire, England

West Midlands Safari Park (WMSP) has long been a place where guests could go on extensive drive-through and walk-through journeys, and see 600 wild animals from more than 160 species romp. Now, the park is planning to open an expansion where another type of animal—the human kind—can frolic about in the water.

WMSP’s new water park, which will begin construction by late 2017 and will be built on the side of Bunkers Hill, is part of an £80 million expansion that will also include a 250-bed hotel, spa, and conference center. “It is currently named ‘Project Zanzi,’ says Bethan Davis, public relations officer for WMSP, “and it will be complete with indoor beaches, slides, a hotel, and African-inspired ‘jungle.’” 

The water park hotel features safari-style theming and will be a “journey of exploration” for visitors. Guests will enter the complex through a “wow zone” that will run the full height of the building. Bars and restaurants in the water park and hotel will offer a variety of cuisines. The conference area, to be called Confex Centre, will have dining and exhibition facilities for 1,000 guests. WMSP says the design of the hotel will be “something exciting,” but won’t provide further details until a later date.

The water park is expected to attract tens of thousands of additional guests to WMSP each year, which sees 750,000 visitors annually. Plans are in the works to build a new stop that would link the park to the nearby Severn Valley Railway.

Other Water Parks Springing Ahead

A few other large water park projects that should be under construction
in 2017 bear watching:

Great Wolf Lodge Orlando
Great Wolf Resorts has purchased 50 acres of land near Walt Disney World, and has confirmed its plans for a new indoor water park resort. This will be the indoor water park chain’s first resort in Florida.

Water Park in Cartagena, Colombia
Carruseles has verified it has plans for a new water park, which is part of a bigger project that includes an outlet mall. The company says the layout for the water park is being done by WhiteWater.

Water Park/Active Sports Theme Park, Sunshine Coast, Queenland, Australia
Sanad Capital Pty Ltd plans to begin construction in 2017 on an AUS$400 million water park/sports theme park that will include Australia’s first surfing wave pool.

Crystal Lagoon
Sharjah Waterfront City, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

It’s hard to imagine a better place for a water park than the United Arab Emirates. Eight months of the year the average high is 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) or higher and it rains less than 10 days annually. Water parks like Wild Wadi, Dreamland, and Yas Waterworld have capitalized on this ideal swimming climate, and now another huge new park is in the works—Crystal Lagoon water park in the Sharjah Emirate.

The park is set to be part of Sharjah Waterfront City, which will stretch along 22 miles of coastline and contain 10 islands connected by canals. The first phase of the project will eventually cover 3 million square feet and cost AED 9.35 billion upon completion, which is expected in 2018. In addition to the water park, it will include entertainment areas, a shopping mall, and restaurants.

When announced in September 2015 by Hayssam El Masri, president of Sharjah Oasis Real Estate, which is developing the project, Crystal Lagoon was predicted to contain 40 attractions. One of the rides was described as having the action of a water ride and the interactivity of a video game, and was originally touted as the first of its kind in the region. But Clara Rice, director of communications for Jack Rouse Associates, which is currently working on a revised master plan of the project, notes the firm is reworking the plan. “We are in the midst of completing a new master plan based on revised attendance figures,” she says. “As of now, the ride we mentioned is still part of the plan; however, given the time elapsed we can no longer guarantee that it will be the first of its kind in the Middle East.”

Coventry Water Park
City of Coventry, Coventry, England

In spring 2017, construction is scheduled to begin on a £36.7 million development in Coventry, England. The venue is expected to attract 1.3 million visitors each year, with about half that number utilizing the water park.

The multi-use facility will house a water park with slides, wave pool, lazy river, and an activity zone, plus a 25-meter swimming pool, day spa, climbing wall, squash courts, dance studio, and a gym.

The inner-city site is a restrictive location, and the building design maximizes the available floor footprint, with the elevated water park area encapsulated in a 164-foot-diameter drum-shaped design. A unique aspect of the interior design is the way the upper levels of the water park descend through a central void, with a spiral access ramp providing entry to the water park levels from the changing areas. 

There are six internal rides, offered as a combination of single- and double-tube rides and a selection of body slides. These will include a water coaster, a double-oscillating tube ride, a U-sectioned toboggan experience integrated within the slide tower, a speed slide with a drop-door start, a family body ride, and a body bowl.

All the rides start from an internal ride tower, with the majority terminating on the same level as the wave pool and lazy river water. There’s also a body-bowl feature experience terminating through the central core, one level below. Surrounding the bowl exit will be a series of interactive water areas connected to a number of smaller rides, from the access ramp connecting the changing exit to the main water park area. 

FaulknerBrowns Architects, which designed the canoeing and sailing facilities for the 2012 London Olympic Games and an Olympic-standard aquatics center in Dubai, is designing the project. Water Technology Inc., the worldwide aquatic planning, design, and engineering group, is consulting on the water park. They say the park’s overall guest experience will be delivered through a unique combination of multi-level building design and shape, through which the various combinations of rides and attractions will be presented as an integrated whole.