A Rush of Water
Powells Point, Outer Banks, North Carolina
When H2OBX Waterpark opened on June 22, 2017, it marked more than just the debut of another outdoor water park featuring scores of thrilling and fun slides and rides. The new water park in Powells Point, North Carolina, provides an intriguing glimpse at how an experienced ownership group and an accomplished aquatic design company approached opening an aquatic facility in an atypical market for water parks.
Powells Point is a town of about 1,300 people along the Outer Banks of northeastern North Carolina. The Outer Banks are a 200-mile stretch of barrier islands perhaps best known for the first recorded successful powered flight by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, and also for the Graveyard of the Atlantic, the site of numerous shipwrecks over the centuries. The closest city of any size to Powells Point is Norfolk, Virginia, located some 60 miles away.
The ownership group includes Ken Ellis, president and CEO of Aquatic Development Group, which also designed H2OBX; Arthur Berry III, co-owner of Camelback Resort in Tannersville, Pennsylvania; Tim Gantz, the former owner and operator of America’s largest water park, Noah’s Ark; and Jeff Malarney, who has been intimately involved in the North Carolina vacation rental industry. “We’re not opening a park without any experience,” says Brian Czarnecki, vice president of sales and marketing for Camelback Resort. “We have Camel Beach here in Pennsylvania, which gets 450,000 visitors and has seen considerable growth.”
This ownership group believes the market is right for the unique approach it is taking to operating the park. “The Outer Banks are not like Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach,” notes Czarnecki. “It’s much more of a laid-back family vacation place—not large-scale hotels and motels, but big rental homes. We looked at the thoroughfares and traffic, and about 75 percent of the people came in on Route 158 from the north. So, we knew if we built on 158, 75 percent of traffic would have to pass right by the park.”
Czarnecki says since vacationers stay predominantly in the vacation homes, H2OBX reached out to the large property managers and was able to secure 19 of them as shareholders in the water park. This was crucial, as it accounts for 8,000 homes that have a 90 percent occupancy rate, and now the park has direct access to these guests through dedicated e-mails. The park strongly promotes the pre-purchasing of admission tickets, and gives these vacationers a discount. The park is bolstered by the fact that there is little in the way of nearby water park competition.
As for the $46 million park itself, the designers focused on the architectural style of the Outer Banks, incorporating it into the colors, wall finishes, and roofing designs. The theming pays tribute to the Outer Banks’ legendary pirates, boat building, and the Wright brothers, all while offering state-of-the art attractions, with WhiteWater as lead waterslide provider and installer.
The more than 30 rides and attractions include the “Twin Tides Wave Pool,” which delivers ocean-simulated currents, tides, and waves, all generated from the center of the pool rather than the back. Also, unlike traditional wave pools, it features “dual beachfront” entrance points on opposite ends. “Paradise Plunge” is a nine-story freefall slide, and “Teach’s Tides Adventure River” is a lazy river. The park also features a FlowRider surfing simulator.
H2OBX offers 50 private cabanas with first-class amenities and luxury guest service in a private setting. Multiple food and beverage outlets provide a variety of selections, from snacks to gourmet.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
Oaxtepec, Morelos, Mexico
On May 30, 2017, Six Flags opened a new water park in Oaxtepec, Morelos, Mexico, called Hurricane Harbor Oaxtepec. Actually, the water park property itself is not new, originally built in the 1940s. The site was owned by the Mexican national government and operated as a state park, but closed in 2012. Six Flags’ bid to reopen the park was accepted in 2015, and the company was granted a 20-year lease on the property.
Six Flags contracted with Aquatic Development Group (ADG) to completely renovate the property and bring it up to Six Flags’ standards. Improvments include the installation of an updated water filtration system throughout the park as well as a re-configuration of the electrical systems. New attractions include a 2,000-foot-long adventure river, more than nine water slides, and a kids’ play area. There is also a new 30,675-square-foot wave pool, the largest in Latin America. It can create waves up to 2.5 feet in a variety of patterns.
As for what rides have been most popular thus far, Lorena Zamora, the park’s senior manager of public relations and government affairs, says, “Definitely ‘Tornado’ and ‘Big Surf’ because they’re some of the biggest attractions in Latin America and the first in Mexico. Height and speed makes these attractions favorites for adrenaline seekers. Also, ‘Splash Island’ is a family attraction, and we see the entire family enjoying it and training on the slides to take it to another level of adventure.”
Though the park is in a different market from Six Flags Mexico, which is about 50 miles away, Zamora says the park has been well-received so far: “The market has been responding very well to the brand. They appreciate Six Flags’ quality, and we are receiving visitors from Mexico City that is an hour and 20 minutes away from the park, and also local visitors from the state of Morelos. The weather here is warm all year round!”
Europa-Park Water Adventure Resort
Europa-Park, the second-most-attended amusement park in all of Europe, continues to work on a significant expansion that will bring many more visitors to Rust, Germany. The expansion includes a new indoor/outdoor water park called Water Adventure Resort and a themed hotel. Though Europa-Park says the water park’s opening has been delayed from 2018 to 2019, it is definitely still on the way.
“Due to the complexity of the project, we had to adjust the opening date to 2019,” says Michael Kreft von Byern, a representative of the executive board of Europa-Park. “The construction of the hotel is already in full swing, and the construction of the water park will start [soon].” Kreft von Byern notes the park plans to open the hotel in spring 2019 and the water park by the end of 2019.
The 150,000-square-foot indoor portion of the park will be themed and feature 30 attractions open year-round. The outdoor section will be headlined by a swimming pool more than 4,800 square feet in size. There will be nearly 3,600 lockers, 40 family changing rooms, 149 individual changing cubicles, and 237 other changing rooms of various sizes.
The water park will be a separately gated attraction with dedicated parking located about a half mile from Europa-Park Resort. A shuttle bus will connect the two parks.
Great Wolf Lodge Georgia
Construction continues on the Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, Georgia, located about 65 miles southwest of Atlanta. The $150 million project is scheduled to open in spring 2018 as part of a 500-acre site that will include shopping, restaurants, and commercial offices. It is the latest in a series of new indoor water parks Great Wolf Resorts is opening in warm-weather climates, like Garden Grove, California, and Grapevine, Texas. The resort will feature a 93,000-square-foot water park and 456 themed hotel rooms.
Of the coming resort, Jason Lasecki, director of media communications for Great Wolf Resorts, says, “Great Wolf Lodge Georgia will feature many family favorites found at our other resorts, but we also plan to have some new experiences up our sleeve that will debut with this lodge. We’re still finalizing plans for some of those new experiences, and look forward to sharing additional details later this year.”
He noted guests will find Great Wolf favorites like “Fort Mackenzie” and the company’s collection of water slides designed for kids of all ages. Experiences outside the water park will include the “MagiQuest” live-action interactive game, Scooops Kids Spa, and an array of complimentary kids’ experiences.
Water World, Ocean Park Hong Kong
Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Though Ocean Park broke ground on its planned Water World water park in November 2015, progress has been slow on the project. However, the park tells Funworld that Water World is still going to be completed, but would not commit to the originally announced 2018 opening.
In early June 2017, Gammon Construction, the subsidiary of United Kingdom contractor Balfour Beatty in the Asia-Pacific region, won a HK$2 billion contract to build the water park along the bay in Tai Shue Wan, Aberdeen, Hong Kong. The park will be the first waterfront water park in Southeast Asia. It will operate year-round and feature indoor and outdoor attractions. The design will feature a series of terraced levels on a hill next to the South China Sea.
The site’s inclined topography will allow for large water slides without the need of intricate supporting structures. Ocean Park confirms the themes of Water World will still be Reefs, Caves, and Beaches, and the park will feature 27 outdoor and indoor attractions. It will have a full-load capacity of 7,000 guests and a daily capacity of 10,500.