[As published in The
Washington Times. The Des Moines Register published a version
of the story on August 14, 2005, as "H2OOOOHHH!," p. 3E. This
material is copyright by the Associated Press and is reproduced here as
a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any
other use may require the prior approval of the Associated Press.]
KINGS MILLS, Ohio -- Smiling
and screaming, Joe Hoffman and his 9-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, tightly
grabbed their raft as they rocketed into a giant funnel and splashed into
a pool of water.
spent the day at Paramount's Kings Island riding the twisting tube slides
while the rest of the family swam in the children's pools. "We stayed an
extra day because of the water park," said Mr. Hoffman, of Toledo.
parks of all sizes are discovering a new recipe to attract more thrill-seekers
and families: Just add water.
a looping steel roller coaster, lazy rivers and speed slides appeal to
the entire family and are cheaper to build.
just fun. People don't go to the beach or lake like they used to," says
Bill Spehn, general manager of Geauga Lake, an amusement park near Cleveland.
"They're now going to a water park."
is spending $26 million over the next two years to create what it says
will be the largest water park in Ohio. The first section opened this year.
what it costs to build one roller coaster, Mr. Spehn says, "you can do
an outstanding water park for $20 million and create something that is
good all day."
Great America near Chicago built a new water park for this year that features
25 slides and an interactive playground with water cannons and a volcano
that erupts every few minutes. It also has cabanas for rent -- with your
own waiter -- where visitors can have lunch or take a nap.
Six Flags parks around the country have added tornado slides to their lineups
in the past two years. A six-story funnel sends riders in a raft spinning
back and forth before dropping them into a pool.
Island added its own version last year.
are signs that a few slides and a wave pool just won't do anymore. Monstrous
raft slides and speed slides that rocket riders on 100-foot drops rival
the thrills found on roller coasters.
rides are getting a lot more exciting, a lot more thrilling," says Melinda
Kempfer, business development coordinator for Water Technology Inc. "Everything
has been taken up a step."
based in Beaver Dam, Wis., has worked on about 50 projects since 1999,
helping amusement parks design and build water parks.
attractions offer what many other rides can't -- togetherness, says Tim
O'Brien, who wrote "The Wave Maker," a book about George Millay, the father
of water parks. He created the Wet'n Wild water park chain, beginning in
Orlando, Fla., in the 1970s.
can only put so many loops and inversions in a roller coaster before you
rule out half of your audience," Mr. O'Brien says. "Families very rarely
stay together and ride roller coasters all day."
a relaxed, tropical atmosphere is important, too. Kings Island completely
renovated its old water park, adding children's areas with a waterfall
and a pirate ship. Visits increased by 20 percent last year in the water
area, says Maureen Kaiser, a park spokeswoman.
Island season pass sales also increased, and daily attendance went up by
7 percent, to 3.5 million guests last year, highest among the non-year-round
parks in the United States. Some people go to the park just to swim.
Felton, who lives a few miles away, bought a family pass and takes her
three daughters and their friends a couple of times a week. "We figured
that would keep them busy this summer," she says. "I just go lay out by
the wave pool."
has nearly tripled -- to 855,000 a year ago -- at Holiday World in Santa
Claus, Ind., since 1993, when the family-owned park opened Splashin' Safari.
the best business decision we ever made," says Will Koch, president of
Holiday World. "It has exceeded any expectations we had."
in southern Indiana plans to double the size of the water area over the
next five years. This year it added a new wave pool, and next year it will
add a raging river. It also offers everyone free sunscreen.
additions include a funnel slide and a giant enclosed slide.
taken to putting in these monstrous water slides and attractions that look
good on a TV ad and have that roller-coaster marquee value," Mr. Koch says.
and family-owned parks say the water-park boom has helped them compete
against the corporate-owned giants that dominate the industry.
in Rochester, N.Y., the crowds come during the day for the lazy river and
body slides. "We used to be a nighttime park, says park President Rob Norris.
"Now people are here longer, and they tend to spend more."
has added onto the water section seven times since the area opened 17 years
oldest amusement park, Lake Compounce in Bristol, Conn., says its water
park has increased season pass sales among local residents. "They use it
like a pool pass," says Jerry Brick, general manager. "A lot of people
come down here to sit on a lounge chair and read a book by the water, and
they come to people-watch."
by park. Some charge one price for the water park and rides, while others
charge separate admission for both. Hours for the water park may differ
from the rest of the park.
Just like amusement
rides, water parks have height requirements for some of the more thrilling
Most water parks have
rules on attire, so check before you go. Some don't allow swimsuits with
metal buttons or zippers on body slides.
Take along flip-flops
for walking on hot concrete walkways, an old towel that you don't mind
getting dirty or losing, and a waterproof pouch that you can wear around
your neck or your waist to stash your car key, cash and credit card. Most
water parks sell these pouches on site.
To find amusement parks
and water parks in a given area, the International Association of Amusement
Parks and Attractions has a clickable map and other information at www.ticketforfun.com.
The World Waterpark
Association also has a search feature for water parks, tips for visiting
and safety information at www.waterparks.com.
Paramount's Kings Island,
Kings Mills, Ohio; visit www.pki.com; call 800/288-0808.
Geauga Lake, Aurora,
Ohio; www.geaugalake.com; 330/562-8303.
Holiday World &
Splashin' Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.; www.holidayworld.com; 877/463-2645.
N.Y.; www.seabreeze.com/ or 585/323-1900.
Lake Compounce, Bristol,
Conn.; www.lakecompounce.com; 860/583-3300.
Six Flags, in various
cities, including Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro; www.sixflags.com.