Does it seem strange to talk about water slides and park attraction
maintenance during the off season?
Not for Raging Waves Waterparkin Yorkville, Ill. The best
time to make sure everything looks fresh and functions optimally on
opening day is immediately after the waterpark closes for the
season, park managers say.
“Our out-of-season maintenance program is just as rigorous as
our in-season program,” General Manager Randy Witt says.
“Just prior to opening day, we clean, descale, compound
polish and wax all our slides. After the season closes, we
‘winterize’ our slides and perform new product tests.
… We are constantly looking for the best products on the
market that can extend the life of our slides while protecting our
By adopting the same strategy at your facility, you can save money
and ensure that your hottest attractions aren’t wearing
“Closed for Maintenance” signs next summer.
During the peak operating season, regular maintenance is an
integral part of upkeep with any park attraction. Slide cleaning,
waxing and pressure washing can be very time- consuming, but
it’s time well spent. Be sure to use the recommended
materials for your type of slide, and try to avoid products that
contain a petrochemical. Petrochemicals or solvent-based
maintenance products are too aggressive and can permanently damage
the slide’s gel coat.
The off-season is the perfect time to focus on larger tasks. If
your slides are in need of a face-lift, there are several
Gel coat resurfacing is a technique where an epoxy polyester resin
is applied to the slide surface. This method has been used for the
past 20 years because of its technical compatibility with the
original gel coat applied by the manufacturer. But it’s an
expensive process, costing $20 to $25 per square foot, and
requiring experienced applicators and precise metering spray
equipment. Unfortunately, the results often are short-lived because
the lesser quality gel coat resurfacing fades faster than the
original manufacturer formulations. Gel coat paint was first
developed for a variety of applications, including use on lake and
saltwater fiberglass boats. It was never intended to protect
surfaces from UV rays and the chlorinated water that can
permanently bleach the colored pigment. Clear sealant coatings are
available that will minimize this oxidation
Solid color or clear protective chlorine-resistant coating systems
are a viable alternative to gel coat resurfacing. These types of
coatings provide a wet-look shine and the formula resists wear from
flowing water, riders, inner tubes and slide mats. Some interior
slide surface coatings are fortified with Teflon for added
protection on the ride path areas that experience the most wear.
This type of product is specifically formulated for water slides,
and if you have a skilled maintenance staff or a trusted painting
contractor, the cost can be as much as 50 percent less than hiring
a gel coat applicator.
A simple color change is another option that will go a long way
toward bringing your attractions up to date. Solid color,
chlorine-resistant coatings can be applied over any gel coat
surface to change the color just as you would do to change the
color of your house. But proceed with caution and always think of
your customer base when determining what to change about your
attractions. Remember that certain colors together, such as orange
and yellow or orange and red, can appear to be “cheap.”
This is a good thing if you’re attracting customers on tight
budgets. For higher-end customers you’ll want to consider
colors such as deep tans, greens and blues.
Beyond face-lifts, more significant water slide refurbishment jobs
such as extensive fiberglass repairs, fixing leaky seams and
widespread color changes all require specialized skills. In many
cases, one project simply does not merit the expense or extensive
training, so it’s best to call in the experts. Some companies
have certified applicators located throughout the country who can
provide turnkey solutions.
However, large operations may find that training someone in house
makes sense. For example, with 11 indoor and outdoor aquatics
centers, Prince George Countyin Maryland took maintenance to a
new level. Its internal maintenance staff was trained to repair and
restore the water slides.
“We needed to become more participative during our annual
shutdown period with respect to maintaining our water slides and
aquatic play features,” said Sandra Dove, aquatics manager.
“We hired a water slide maintenance company to … train
us on how to restore a family slide and two-lane kiddie slide.
Although none of us had ever restored or refinished a water slide
using products specifically designed for that purpose, we were able
to refinish a family slide and a two-lane racer kiddie slide under
the supervision of the water slide technician. We are now making
plans to systematically address the needs of all of our slides
during their staggered annual shutdown periods. The cost savings
will be substantial.”