For several trend-setting cities, waterparks are this season?s new must-haves.
As waterparks grow in popularity, the facilities are emerging for the first time in metropolitan areas around the United States. Many downtown and suburban areas including New York and Chicago are entertaining the idea, bringing the waterpark destination resort a little closer to home.
?[Waterparks] are an excellent tool in terms of downtown redevelopment and revitalization,? said Jeff Coy, president of JLC Hospitality Consulting Inc. in Cave Creek, Ariz. He noted that many cities are doing riverfront redevelopment and including a waterpark as part of the draw. Others are clearing industrial land and converting former warehouses into hotels and waterparks as well.
Denver built a new park in its downtown in the 1990s. With the package came Island Kingdom in 1997, one of the nation?s first waterparks in an urban setting. Soon after that, Six Flags took over, offering Denver residents a chance to trade their skis in for inner tubes in summertime.
In 2008, New Yorkers will be able to hop the subway to the city?s first waterpark. Situated on Randall?s Island across the East River from Manhattan, the $168 million project boasts indoor and outdoor waterparks, providing citizens a leisurely getaway without the hassle of traveling to the next nearest facilities, located 11/2 hours away in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
?There?s nothing like this,? said Jonathan Greengrass, vice president of the Randall?s Island Sports Foundation in New York. ?I think the kids in New York City will be excited. People really like traveling to visit these kinds of facilities. To have one in your backyard is a real boon to the residents.?
Designed by Aquatic Development Group in Cohoes, N.Y., the Randall?s Island project will offer a free swim academy and free access to the parks for participants of the Randall?s Island kids? program.
The Second City is experiencing its first waterparks as well. Chicago?s Navy Pier, for instance, is entertaining the idea of an indoor waterpark hotel as proposed by Canadian designer Forrec Ltd. The waterpark would be housed in what?s currently an exhibition space, said Stephen Rhys, senior vice president of the Toronto-based designer.
?Chicago has a growing resident base coming into the central business area and there are a lot of tourists out here. A lot of people are coming to use the waterfront and shoreline,? he said.
The metropolitan Chicago area has been experiencing a boom in waterparks. In Elmhurst, the Holiday Inn opened the area?s first indoor waterpark hotel in April. Rosemont broke ground in May on a redefined development and convention center that includes the Grizzly Falls Resort, an indoor waterpark resort and hotel. Elk Grove in the northwest suburbs opened Rainbow Falls Waterpark to visitors this summer.
While urban space is limited and expensive, it?s really the customers who will determine the success of a city waterpark.
?You need a market base more than anything,? Rhys said. ?Everything floats from that because financials will be what drives that. That?ll determine whether you can afford the land and build the building.?