With summer in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere and water parks and pools hitting full capacity, the lines for each attraction will be growing longer and longer. A strange but surprisingly common place sight now is to see people using their phones to pass the time while in a queue (yes, even at water parks). While we at BtT do not condone testing the true waterproof nature of your phone case, we thought since you are on your phone anyway… why not teach you a little history about the rides you are about to step aboard?
Sure the world’s tallest water slide in Schlitterban (Veruckt) has vomit inducing and pants ruining capabilities, it was not always this way. There was a time not so long ago that the term water park did not even mean what it does today. The action was still there but in a wholly different experience. The “original” water parks were more like sectioned lake areas designated for water sports such as boating, fishing, water skiing, etc. While these favourite past times made for great summertime diversions, the crowds wanted something more.
Recently it was discovered that the first “patented” water slide was listed in 1961 by Robert Carrier, dubbed “the portable aqua play device for body planning”. Though it is highly debated what the “first” water park was, water slides had been appearing as single slides into lakes, rivers and pools for some time. There are records that date back further to specific rides, however Lake Delores Water Park in Newberry Springs (Mohave Desert) began its construction in the early 1960’s roughly 17 years before the construction of George Millay’s Wet ‘n’ Wild concept.
Lake Delores WaterPark had a combination of rides including 8 identical 150 foot, 60 degree steel slides along with a raft ride called “The Big Bopper”, diving boards, trapeze drops and a ride that had guests standing up and being shot down a 150 foot long slide and dropping 15 feet out into the water… again all while standing. Sadly over the years this park has fallen to ruin repeatedly and has changed ownership multiple times, lastly opening in May of 2002 as “Discovery Waterpark” only to close in 2004 and have many of the rides dismantled and sold. The most well known ride being the “Big Bopper” which was sold to Cultus Waterpark and re-branded as “Colossal Canyon”.
Sadly this has been the fate of many older water parks as crowd interest thinned and newer, safer technology replaced the old and outdated. As everyone knows, Millay’s Wet ‘n’ Wild parks not only survived but are still thriving today both in the US and internationally being owned by NBC/Universal Media. While Millay may not have officially created the “Water Park” concept, he certainly brought it into the full mainstream. After successfully creating the Sea World development in 1964, Millay changed the face of this themed entertainment field with the new Wet ‘n’ Wild water park in Orlando Florida and for his achievements he was dubbed the “Father of Waterparks” by the WWA (World Waterpark Association).
Slowly, over the years, the idea of concrete slides disappeared as new attractions began springing up; European wave pools, Asian speed slides and other technological advances made way for better public safety and experiences. Never satisfied with just a slide, the public began demanding a more “themed” experience. Many parks and attractions began popping up including Walt Disney World, which featured not one but three distinctly themed water parks (Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon and the now closed River Country). Experiences like these helped to raise the bar for water parks and opened the gate to new ideas. Adding to this the public love for “Flume” rides and incorporating rollercoaster technologies into the mix, the new hybrid water park experiences have really come into their own.
Designers are no longer happy using gravity, and have also begun utilizing jets and uphill drives to push guest vertically as well as horizontally. Upping the experience further by adding a sense of danger with loops, black out and clear tubes, designers have made it clear the old ways are out.
Casual rides have gotten a plus with immersive theming on rides as simple as lazy rivers, which are not designed to not only relax and cool off guests but also to tell a story. Many of these are popping up in locations previously dominated by simple pools and basic slides, such as hotel pools and even cruise ships. Many of these locations have seen the additions with drop slides and rides that send guests out over the side of giant boats in clear tubes, hovering over the ocean. Disney’s “AquaDuck” slide is a perfect example of this. The ride sets up and tells a story while sending guest through a tube into darkness, then out over the ship’s side and back into a drop pool.
Though true, from a speed/height perspective this does not compare to the drop of the new, record-breaking Veruckt, it is yet another stepping stone to the evolution of these attractions and helps to blur the line between mainstream theme park attractions and water park rides.
What will be next? What do you think the next change to this unique industry will be? Have you reached the front of your queue yet? Why keep reading then? Put your phone away, lay down on your mat or tube and wait for the light to flash… red… red red…
Green… time to go!