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A pro’s guide to waterslides

Photos courtesy Acapulco Pools Ltd.
Waterslides can now range from small, child friendly rides to extreme, thrilling jaunts that dominate and attract patrons to theme parks across the world.

Design and installation considerations for commercial aquatic facilities

By Greg Keller

Aquatic rides have advanced significantly over the last several years. Waterslides can now range from small, child friendly rides to extreme, thrilling jaunts that dominate and attract patrons to theme parks across the world. Waterslides of any shape or size can be the perfect addition to any aquatic facility, but how do they work and how have new features made them so much more than a typical waterslide?

The installation of a standard waterslide begins at the start tower. This could be a platform on an existing hill, a play structure, or for more extreme rides, a tall start tower. Concrete footings and columns are used to support the start tower and the waterslide. For the installer, the fun begins at the start tub. During this stage of the installation, sections of the waterslide are connected, creating the custom slide path which eventually ends with a splash into the pool or in a run out. The slide is connected to the pool’s circulation system by adding a feature pump that provides the water to the slide. For some, the installation may seem as simple as putting together a Lego kit, but the planning and design phase can be intricate and challenging.

Waterslides by design

The design phase of a waterslide is completed between 12 and 24 months prior to the installation date. Waterslides for campgrounds, community centres, and water parks have one thing in common—they all begin with the client’s vision.

The client’s vision can include details like the location of the waterslide, targeted demographics for the ride, the scope of the project, and overall budget. Once the installation site has been determined, and the location’s existing physical features have been mapped out, a scope is planned for the specific age group and location, which allows the client to determine which type or combination of waterslides will be best suited for their facility.

This information, combined with the client’s vision, leads to the first concept drawing of the project. During this phase, many builders will visit several water parks to test and compare the various types of waterslides and manufacturers on the market. Once a slide has been selected, the design begins.

Since visions can change over the course of a project, the working design is typically ready after a few adjustments. Once the working design is complete, clients begin to select options and add-ons for their waterslide. This is where technology has really advanced over the last several years.

The installation of a standard waterslide begins at the start tower. This could be a platform on an existing hill, a play structure, or for more extreme rides, a tall start tower.

Clients have a variety of ride categories to choose from. Large “Anchor” rides create excitement and include big bowls and saucers, funnels, walls, complexes, and custom features. Speed slides and racers are the perfect option for theme parks looking to attract thrill seekers. Open flume, enclosed flume, black out, and interactive slides create a variety of unique experiences for all different age groups. It is common to combine and modify each of the different categories to create a custom ride for each individual facility.

Clients must also determine whether the waterslide will discharge into a pool or exit into a runout that sits on the pool deck. Installing a waterslide with a runout has grown in popularity for facilities with one or two slides, since they do not have to section off a part of the pool for the rider to exit into. This allows for a more efficient use of the pool and deck space, which is always limited.

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