FAQ's On Waterparks
Common Questions regarding the waterpark industry
Feel free to use these questions and responses as needed in developing any articles you are preparing on waterpark-industry-related topics.
Please attribute all responses to:
Aleatha Ezra, Director of Park Member Development
World Waterpark Association, Overland Park, Kan.
QUESTION: Waterparks have been growing in recent years with more and more of them popping up all over the world. Why do you think we’re seeing an increase in waterparks?
ANSWER: Waterparks appeal to families who want quality recreation time in an extremely safe environment. After all, waterparks are the safest place to have fun in the water compared to oceans, rivers, lakes and even swimming pools. Thus, parents can feel confident about going to a waterpark with their kids. An additional reason for the growth of waterparks concerns the fact many cities are seeing a drop-off in attendance because their flat-water pools simply don’t hold the same appeal they once did. Once people have experienced the fun of a waterpark, they are less interested in visiting a regular flat-water pool. Plus, many of the nation’s pools are getting older and the costs to repair and maintain them are expensive. So these facilities are replacing their old pools with mini waterparks—and thus adding to the industry’s growing numbers. For families who want a safe place to play in the water that’s also really convenient, then, waterparks are the perfect answer.
QUESTION: Has there been any particular facet of technology that’s helping to drive this growth?
ANSWER: Today’s designers can create whatever type of attraction they can imagine. Compare these rides with what the industry first offered. In the past, waterparks built slides on a tower or a hill. Guests climbed to the top and slid down to the bottom. Some of the rides might have included a serpentine path or a speed path, but guests basically were still restricted to simply sliding from the top to the bottom of the slide. Today, technology allows slides to follow any path imaginable. Ride designers have created technology that allows them to move riders up and down the slide path so they’re not limited to simply using the momentum derived in the past from starting out at the highest point on the ride. Ride designers are using similar technology to create oscillating rides and bowl rides. In oscillating rides, guests are propelled from one side of the ride to the other on a flat surface that’s been bent into a U shape. They ride up one side, down to the middle and up the other side. In bowl rides, guests slide around inside a funnel-shaped bowl before dropping down into a splash pool or run-out chute. And, of course, water coasters move guests up and down over a variety of inclines. Waterparks also are merging or blending waterpark attractions. This trend has evolved from the time when most rides used to be separate from one another. Waterparks offered a wave pool, a leisure river, slides and a kid’s area that were all individual elements. Today, parks are tying these attractions together. For example, many leisure rivers now offer wave elements and water spouts. At other parks, you can now float from one ride to another without ever having to stand in a queue. Today, we’re seeing the whole waterpark experience change based on the new technologies now available.
QUESTION: What kinds of new attractions are these new technologies creating? What are some of the new attractions opening this year?
ANSWER: Some of the most exciting rides are similar to ones guests will find in a traditional amusement park. The twist with these waterpark rides, of course, is that they take place on water. All these rides offer a ride similar to that of being on a roller coaster except they ride in a raft. Jets of water or conveyor belts move the guests along. Another attraction that is getting more elaborate at waterparks is the bowl ride. Bowl rides are like giant funnels. You slide down a chute or tube into the top of the funnel and swish around the inside before dropping down the middle into a splash pool or run-out. Another emphasis in ride technologies in recent years has been among family rides or raft rides. The waterpark industry started seeing family rides back in the ’90s, and it has continued to see an expansion of that trend. This emphasis is primarily due to the fact that families are the backbone of the waterpark industry. Thus, waterpark designers are keeping families in mind as they design the rides of tomorrow. All of these different kinds of rides are at both indoor and outdoor waterparks, so guests really have a variety of waterparks to visit to find the coolest new attractions.
QUESTION: Speaking of indoor waterparks, there seem to be a lot of those types of waterparks opening up. Is this something we’re going to see more of?
ANSWER: Absolutely! Indoor waterparks are the fastest-growing segment of the waterpark industry. Their growth makes a lot of sense. After all, waterparks are extremely popular but, when a park is located outside, the weather can have an obvious negative impact. When a park is indoors, guests don’t experience any of the inconveniences of Mother Nature. So indoor waterparks can operate year-round. Plus, indoor waterpark resorts offer families a place to get away and enjoy a mini vacation without having to travel really far. They can spend quality time together in a fun, safe place to play.
QUESTION: There are a lot of these indoor waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells. How did this happen?
ANSWER: The indoor waterpark trend started in 1994. Stan Anderson owned a resort in the Dells called the Polynesian. While he was in Texas looking for new water attractions to add to his hotel, he saw an attraction called “The Water Factory.” He thought this ride would make a good fit for his resort. At that time, the tourism season in the Dells ran only from Memorial Day to Labor Day. So Anderson thought he could put the attraction inside his facility, extend his season and attract more tourists on a year-round basis. His idea was a phenomenal success, and the new indoor waterpark experienced high attendance even during the off season. Within a few years, then, several other hotels had added indoor waterparks too. The trend continued to grow from there. Now, the Dells has 21 waterparks and calls itself the “Waterpark Capital of the World.” I doubt if any other city in the world would dispute
that claim. The Dells isn’t the only place in which you’ll find indoor waterparks however. They are proliferating all over the country. The World Waterpark Association is currently tracking more than 200 projects at new and existing hotels and resorts. And these waterparks are not simply in relationship to hotels. We’re seeing them attached to businesses that haven’t typically been associated with waterparks in the past, such as campgrounds, cruise ships and ski resorts. So the indoor waterpark trend is a far-reaching trend.