New waterpark provides entertainment, jobs to the area
Riding a tube around an 1,800-foot river and sliding down a completely black, enclosed water slide were the most popular experiences to be had last week during a sneak peek of the new Schlitterbahn Vacation Village Waterpark.
But the Torrent River, which marketing director Chris Ozimek describes as “the world’s largest tidal wave river,” and the Black Knight waterslide are only two of the numerous rides and attractions available to visitors of the world-renowned waterpark, which officially opened its doors in Kansas City, Kan., on Saturday.
“This is great. I love it,” said Kansas City resident Donna Summer during the soft opening of the park, which lasted from Thursday, July 16, to the Saturday opening. Summer used to live in Texas, the home of the original Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels, as well as two other locations in Galveston and South Padre islands. “This will be good, if not better (than the Texas locations), but it just takes time. I’ve had so much fun.”
During the sneak peak, eight attractions were available for visitors to experience, including the Bahnzai Pipeline, a 42-foot tall waterslide, the Kinderhaven children’s water activity area, with a giant fountain and 10 mini-slides, and Henry’s Hideout Hot Tub Bar, a bar surrounded by a large hot tub, where a refreshing cocktail can be purchased by simply swimming up to the bar.
Added to that docket since the opening are such rides as the Raging River Tube Chute, which offers a high-energy tube river rapid ride, and the Storm Blaster, an up-and-down water coaster.
“This is the best part,” said Ozimek during the soft opening last Thursday while walking through the park that had drawn people by the hundreds. “And I get to be here everyday. The payoff is seeing the smiles on our guests’ faces and, in turn, that’s what makes us smile.”
This payoff comes after almost two years of construction that started with the groundbreaking in September of 2007. Kansas City, Kan. was among two California and Florida location possibilities, and was eventually chosen because of its proximity to a number of cities that are within a one-day drive of the area. One of those cities is St. Louis, which brought in Felix Chandler and Amanda Meyer to the soft opening on Thursday.
“I like the waves going around,” Chandler said of the Torrent River ride. “It’s the best lazy river we’ve been in.”
“I think it’s way better so far,” said Meyer, who compared the Torrent River to a similar ride at Six Flags in St. Louis. “The (Torrent River), it’s awesome. It’s cooler, it’s definitely cooler.”
Chandler’s brother Rob, a Kansas City resident who was also there for the Thursday soft opening, noted that, unlike the Six Flags river, tubers could go around the Torrent River as many times as they wanted to. He said the free parking and the fact that you could bring your own picnic lunch into the park were also great incentives.
“At Six Flags you have to eat in the parking lot,” Chandler said.
Ozimek said that, not only would the park provide hours of entertainment for waterpark enthusiasts like Meyer and the Chandler brothers, but it would also put money in the pockets of 350 seasonal employees, not to mention the thousands of construction workers who helped to build the park and will continue with the construction of the ever-expanding Schlitterbahn Vacation Village. The majority of these positions were hired, and will still be hired, at the local level, Ozimek said.
“That is our goal, to provide as many local jobs as possible,” he said.
Future expansions to Schlitterbahn Vacation Village Waterpark will include a 130,000-square foot indoor section of water rides with a retractable roof, so that visitors can attend the park year-round. But, for now, the park is tentatively scheduled to stay open until late September. Hours are subject to change due to weather, but a tentative operating schedule on most days is 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. One-day admission is $32.99 for ages 12 and up and $24.99 for ages 3 to 11 and 55 and older. Two-day admission packages are also available. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit schlitterbahn.com/KC/.