Ten minutes south of Wichita, Kan., is the growing community of Derby. Over the past decade, Derby’s population has increased more than 20 percent. The Rock River Rapids Aquatic Park was created to provide more recreation opportunities for the expanding city. The aquatic park includes 145,860 square feet of aquatic space with three main areas, a leisure pool, a lap swimming pool and a slide complex that includes a lazy river. Among the themed elements are wooden bridges and posts, rockscapes and amenities such as the “jungle fort” water-play structure in the leisure pool, all of which help give the facility a waterpark feel.

As patrons come through the entrance gates, they first encounter a wooden bridge leading to the leisure pool. This 10,068-square-foot, shallow-depth pool includes a zero-depth entry; a therapy bench that shoots jets of water onto the backs of relaxing guests; a number of spray features; and the fort play structure, topped off with a 750-gallon dumping bucket. The bucket is visible throughout the facility, and every dump cycle draws people, old and young, to be drenched by its falling waters. To keep patrons cool and comfortable, and allow parents to easily remain close to their children, there’s ample deck space and several shade structures in the water itself.

Located to the right of the leisure pool is a water-slide complex with four distinct rides. A traditional body slide, a large enclosed tube slide, a large open-flume slide, and a thrilling drop-speed slide empty into a plunge pool that connects to a 603-foot lazy river, featuring a rockscape arch and waterfall. Rounding out Rock River Rapids park is the 50-meter competition pool, which sits to the left of the central leisure pool. In addition to the eight swimming lanes, the pool also has a recreational angle. Two drop slides sit side by side, and riders fall several feet as they emerge from the short open flume splashing into the water below. Across the pool from the drop slides are 1-meter and 3-meter diving boards, multiple floatables, and a basketball hoop.

In developing the project, the goal was a 40- to 50-year life span, and the design team used a forward-thinking approach. The resulting waterpark provides space for future additions and amenities, including potential code changes such as increased diving well depth or mandatory UV sanitization systems. Several elements also were included to provide for increased usage, such as oversized piping to allow for increased turnover and the fixed lifeguard station on deck. Also, concrete mix surfacing was selected to provide greater durability, along with high-efficiency, low-rpm pumps and filters designed for less water consumption. The water-conserving landscape design helps further reduce waste.

Throughout project construction and design, the Derby community was an active participant. From the beginning, city leaders and the recreation commission collaborated with a very active swim team to establish goals for the facility. Once the construction phase was under way, project leaders used local contractors and suppliers as much as possible, and a sidewalk lined with engraved stones was planned to display facility donor names. In its inaugural summer, Rock River Rapids welcomed 140,000 guests, and since then the park has become a testament to Derby’s successful civic development. It serves as a premium outdoor competitive facility, provides numerous programming opportunities and fulfills the community’s need for recreation space.


Aquatic space: 145,860 square feet

Year opened: 2004

Cost: $5.7 million

Dream feature: Three distinct aquatic spaces — a leisure pool, waterslide complex with lazy river, and a competition pool.


  • Dream Designer:Water’s Edge Aquatic Design
  • Site Testing:Geotechnical Services Inc.
  • Aquatic MEP Engineering: Hoss & Brown Engineers
  • MEP and Structural Engineering: Mid-Kansas Engineering Consultant
  • General Contractor: Walz Harman Huffman Construction Inc.
  • Buildings Architect: WDM Architects


  • Chemical Control System: Chemtrol
  • Dive Stands: Duraflex Intl. Corp.
  • Filters: United Industries
  • Heaters: Laars
  • Ladders/Grab Bars: Paragon Aquatics
  • Lane Markers: Anti Wave
  • Lighting: Amerlite/Pentair
  • Lockers: Bradley Corp.
  • Pumps: Aurora Pump
  • Rockscape Arch and Wall: Custom Fun
  • Sanitization Systems: Stranco Aquatics
  • Spray Park Accessories:Water Odyssey
  • Starting Blocks: Paragon Aquatics
  • Sun Shades:Sun Ports
  • Water-Play Structures: SCS Interactive
  • Waterslides : SplashTacular Inc.


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