May 11, 2012 at 4:33 PM ET
When it comes to attracting customers, the attractions business is often likened to an arms race in which competing parks do battle over who has the biggest, fastest and wildest rides.
These days, you could say it’s being fought with water cannons as parks invest in new water rides that promise faster speeds, steeper drops and more intense thrills.
Case in point: the new Mammoth “water coaster” opening Friday at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind. Located in the park’s Splashin’ Safari area, the ride features seven hills, multiple twists and turns and a length of 1,763 feet, making it the longest water coaster in the world.
“It’s bigger than big,” said spokesperson Paula Werne of the 69-foot-high, $9-million ride. “We thought Wildebeest [the park’s existing water coaster] was huge but Mammoth takes it up a whole other notch.”
Other parks are also unveiling new water rides this summer, a trend that observers say speaks to both the competitive nature of the business and consumers’ expectations.
“If you’re not keeping up with the latest and greatest, you’re going to have trouble getting the kind of attendance you need to be successful,” said David Sangree, president of Hotel & Leisure Advisors LLC. “And with prices as high as $30 to $50 a day, you have some pretty high expectations.”
“The perception of water parks and water rides is making a shift,” said Brad Goodbody, marketing manager for ProSlide Technology Inc., the company that created Mammoth. “Previously, they were seen as theme parks’ poor cousins but now you have rides that will get people to come back month after month.”
If that sounds appealing, here are three new rides that’ll be making a splash this summer:
Like Wildebeest and a handful of other water coasters, Mammoth uses the same linear induction motor (LIM) technology — basically a series of magnets — that newer roller coasters use to propel passengers uphill. Seated in six-person circular rafts, riders may find themselves facing forward, sideways or backwards and may even experience the weightless feeling known as “air time” as they crest each hill.
“There’s nothing like seeing your friends and family members getting soaked, getting scared and screaming and laughing,” said Werne.
Mile High Flyer
Visitors to Water World in Denver will also be able to notch a water coaster experience this summer, albeit on a slightly smaller scale than at Splashin’ Safari. Set to open in mid-June, the LIM-powered Mile High Flyer will feature five hills, four-person rafts and speeds of 15 to 20 mph. In a novel twist, the park is incorporating sound effects, including the familiar click-click-click of a traditional coaster lift hill.
Take your typical tube slide, outfit it in red, white and black scales, and have it end in the gaping maw of one of the scariest species of snake on the planet and you have King Cobra, the newest addition to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Jackson, N.J.
Once in the belly of the beast, riders race down side-by-side tubes, hitting speeds of up to 32 mph, before plunging down a 25-foot, 50-degree slope that resembles a cobra’s extended hood and fanged jaws.
“It’s not a new technology,” said spokesperson Kristin Siebeneicher. “It’s a way to evolve the classic thrill of a waterslide.”
Alas, you’ll have to wait a little longer to experience it. The ride is expected to open in early July.
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.