As we examine new trends at waterparks, we also wonder how they’re weathering the storm and what the future may look like. And while it’s true that some parks were unable to open this season and others opened with limited capacity and new restrictions and protocols, we’re also happy to report that there is some good news when it comes to new waterpark construction and renovation projects.
“Waterslides will always remain a mainstay of waterpark attractions, but if we look beyond these colorful structures, what we see is the foundation to creating the overall waterpark experience, and that’s the in-water attractions,” said Jessica Mahoney, director of marketing for Aquatic Development Group. “A lot of what’s happening today in terms of innovation is taking place in pools and rivers. From innovative wave rivers to in-water play and adventure obstacle courses, these water attractions are redefining the typical flat pool areas and lazy rivers, providing parks with all new ways to get people in the water, increasing guest satisfaction and length of stay.”Mahoney’s firm also builds and manufactures their own equipment, technology and attractions, including skill-based surf attractions. Surf rides can be tailored to each riders’ level of comfort and experience, with operators altering the wave shapes and sizes with one-touch adjustable power level controls. These attractions are offered in various configurations, including single, double or triple lane, as well as a 180-degree surf ride utilizing an inflatable surface. Surf rides continue to be popular mainstay attractions for both private and municipal waterparks nationwide, according to Mahoney. “It is not only an exciting attraction to ride, with additional revenue generated through lessons and tournament participation, it is the perfect attraction for bystanders to sit, grab some food and enjoy the show!”Wave pools and rivers are often the largest and most used attractions at a waterpark, and Mahoney’s company offers a wide variety of wave system options, from children’s pools to family recreational wave pools to high-performance surf and boogie boarding pools. Mahoney notes how the river ride is taking on a whole new life with all the innovation in river waves, lighting and fast currents for swimming.
“We’re seeing more and more waterparks adding second river experiences to offer both a lazy river option as well as a more thrilling one. Even indoor waterparks are jumping on this trend. Soundwaves at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville is one great example, featuring both a lazy and fast-swim river in their indoor waterpark.”
Mahoney said that clients are also seeking out custom themes. “Kartrite indoor waterpark (in New York) was designed to reflect the natural landscape of the surrounding Catskill Mountains.” She also mentioned a recent project in Tennessee, the 50-acre Soaky Mountain Waterpark, which opened in June of this year and was designed to reflect the park’s location in the Smoky Mountains. From the entry point to the furthest part of the waterpark there was 100 feet of elevation. A key objective in the design was to preserve and showcase the unique elevation grade as much as possible, creating a unique ‘mountain modern’ landscape, which allowed them to creatively design the amenities into the elevation versus just flattening it.
With regard to refurbishing waterparks, Mahoney points to Kings Dominion Waterpark in Virginia. “Here we took an older wave pool and transformed the space into an all-new kids area called Coconut Shores. By reutilizing the existing footprint and equipment space, it allowed for tremendous cost savings when it came to the renovation. The new area was transformed into a 3,000-square-foot kids wave pool with playful one-foot tall waves and interactive splash elements, a 45-foot tall multi-level aquplay structure featuring hundreds of interactive elements and a new dining area as well.”
Mahoney also reminds us that out-of-water experiences are crucial too. “This includes everything from ensuring enough deck space, lounge chairs, shading and cabanas, to the amount and locations of food and beverage outlets, changing rooms and restrooms, even ticketing ques and parking access. Increasing length of stay and per-person in-park spend is extremely important.”
Looking back over the summer when most parks had limited capacity, Mahoney said that spacing revisions, along with creative adjustments for lines, seating areas, etc., seemed to do the trick to sufficiently meet social distancing requirements. “That being said, I do think it will become a talking point and something that will be taken into consideration as we move forward, ensuring that a park design must be flexible to work in both ‘normal’ times and in times when we’re facing issues such as this pandemic.”
Mahoney said these considerations might include creative design solutions that can be easily adjusted, allowing for simple in-park changes to ensure social distancing when needed. “For example, planning ahead for adequate spacing for allowing alternate guest flow patterns throughout the park; adequate deck space with larger umbrellas to ensure social distancing; ensuring queue areas are sufficient to handle longer spaced lines when needed; spaced out seating areas around food and beverage outlets; single flow entrance and egress capability; etc.”
Download a copy of the full article featured in September’s issue of Recreation Management today!