Refreshing Water Park Attractions
As the effects of COVID-19 continue to create feelings of uncertainty, water park operators looking for brighter days ahead can plan ahead now to introduce new ways that will attract guests—while keeping costs under control. Breathing new life into existing attractions can pay dividends well into the future.
“One may immediately think that making a large capital investment is all that can be done to revive your water park,” says Matt Eckert, president and CEO of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. “But this simply is not true. Look at what you have and what improvements can be made.”
Polishing Attractions Can Make a Difference
Water slides and rides can become faded and look weather-beaten after spending years getting baked by the sun. A simple, economical way to reenergize them is by polishing and repainting their surfaces to create a brand-new look.
This was the case at DryTown Water Park in Palmdale, where years of California sunshine led to the fiberglass surfaces on slide towers appearing faded. DryTown called in slide manufacturer WhiteWater to reverse the damage.
“The tower’s three slides were resurfaced to restore smoothness and vibrancy,” says Scott Heke, WhiteWater’s president of after sales. “DryTown also opted for a tower refurbishment, switching out the original concrete infill for easy-to-maintain T-1800 fiberglass decking. Similarly, at Bahama Beach Waterpark in Dallas, Texas, we were able to make the park’s 15-year-old slides good as new with slide resurfacing.”
The RainFortress water play structure operated since 2004 by the Rhodes Ranch Community Association in Las Vegas “still had many years of water play left to give, so the association decided on a refurbishment,” Heke notes. “This involved repainting the structure, resurfacing the slides, and replacing the interactive water guns and water wheels. New nets and skirts completed
Quassy Amusement & Waterpark in Middlebury, Connecticut, conducts this kind of refurbishment/refreshment on an ongoing basis.
“Our huge ‘Tunnel Twister’ water slides—installed in 2006—received an in-house facelift a few years ago,” says Ron Gustafson, Quassy’s director of marketing and public relations. “That included a thorough cleaning and brightening compound applied to the outside of the flumes.”
Gustafson says the small investment makes a huge difference.
“Bright and pretty makes all of the difference as far as initial guest perception,” he tells Funworld. One money-saving tip: “Colorful flags go a long way in adding eye appeal at the top of slide towers at a minimal cost,” Gustafson says.
In 2020, Quassy’s staff dismantled and repainted its 17-year-old “Saturation Station” SCS Interactive modular play area.
“The huge dumping bucket was taken down with a crane last year and refinished by our team,” Gustafson says. “Much of the fencing along the tiered attraction went into the park’s paint shop this offseason. In addition, numerous elements such as water cannons, fountains, and sprays had valves and other components rebuilt.”
The Allure of New Elements
Guests love everything that is new and shiny, and adding new features to a restored water park attraction can restore their interest in it.
Jim Dunn, president of Aquatic Development Group (ADG), is a big fan of what he calls “guest enhancers” to get more mileage out of existing attractions. For example, “if you have a slow river, you could add boosters to create a new, faster ride experience,” Dunn says. “If you have stairs leading into the river, you could build a sun shelf or beach entry instead, providing you with a whole new area of deck/capacity for the attraction.”
Depending on the attraction, the new features do not have to be big or expensive.
“Sometimes it is the little things that can make a huge difference,” says Eckert of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. “They include adding spray elements, using different tubes where safely possible, adjusting queuing and loading to maximize capacity and lessen wait times, or even adding a fresh gelcoat to the slides. Guests notice the smallest of changes, and they love when something is new, no matter if it is big or small.”
Repurpose What You’ve Got
Sometimes the best way to breathe life into an existing water park attraction is to repurpose it into something new. For instance, “Water World in Colorado had a wave pool that was not being used to its fullest potential,” says Dunn.
“So ADG utilized the existing foundation of the wave pool to create the world’s first boogie boarding surf. With this renovated feature, guests flocked to this area of the park, filling up the deck space and utilizing this once underperforming pool.”
In the same vein, Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia, wanted to revive an underused area of its park and replace an old play structure.
“ADG surveyed the site and realized that with some creative reworking, we could utilize the foundation of an underused 35,000-square-foot secondary wave pool to incorporate two brand-new attractions instead of just one, for the same project budget,” Dunn says. “The new attractions include a new multilevel play structure and a kid’s miniature wave pool with waves up to 12 inches high.”
Use New Attractions to Revive Old
“While it may not always be an option, new attractions can also bring life to old attractions,” says Eckert. When Splashin’ Safari opened the new “Cheetah Chase Water Coaster,” the ride brought “fresh energy and attention to ‘Wildebeest’ and ‘Mammoth,’ our other top-ranked water coasters,” he says. By adding a new attraction with elements not before found at the park—such as launches and dueling portions—“Cheetah Chase” introduced what Eckert calls “that extra something.”
“[A new attraction] can allow you to tout other similar attractions as well,” Eckert concludes.