Fred Frantz
Fred Frantz

An education and training fund has been set up in memory of waterpark industry innovator Edward James Frantz III.

Frantz, who went by the nickname “Fred,” was the co-inventor of a waterpark staple – the giant dumping bucket. He died of a heart attack on April 30. He was 60.

The “Pass the Torch” fund will support programs and provide scholarships to students studying welding, industrial maintenance and technology at Tillamook Bay Community College in Tillamook, Ore.

It was there in Tillamook where Frantz developed the prototype for a massive bucket that, once filled to capacity, would tip over and douse parkgoers with tens of thousands of gallons of water.

Rick Briggs, a pioneer of interactive waterplay structures, conceived the idea and presented Frantz with a sketch on a napkin. Frantz, who owned a welding shop called The Metal Mender at the time, not only brought the project to fruition, he improved upon the concept.

The first few test runs were problematic. Getting soaked by the full weight of the water wasn’t the most pleasant experience, so Frantz, who conducted these experiments in the middle of winter with his daughter, placed a roof under the bucket to provide shelter. The result was a great cascade of water that splashed over the top, drenching guests around the perimeter.

Frantz also added thrilling sound effects to warn guests of the impending deluge.

Briggs was so impressed with Frantz’s work that the two founded an engineering firm called SCS Interactive in 1989. Together, Briggs and Frantz explored new ways to play with water. They created various contraptions to set off chain reactions designed to get guests wet in unexpected ways. SCS also set new standards in waterpark theming.

The firm was later sold to WhiteWater West, which has made many of their inventions hallmarks of the modern day waterpark. Frantz continued to help develop new products for the attractions company, such as Foam Factory, a multilevel dryland play structure where guests use pneumatic pipes, cannons and vacuums to blast foam balls at each other.

In 2002, Frantz joined Briggs, along with Denise Weston and Jonathan Barney, at Creative Kingdoms, a firm that creates interactive gaming experiences for theme parks and resorts. He became one of the engineering wizards behind the company’s signature achievement, MagiQuest. The immersive adventure game has since become a marquee attraction at the Great Wolf Lodge chain of indoor waterparks and resorts.

Frantz also created the Super Saturator, a combination rollercoaster and water ride that was the first of its kind.

Colleagues describe Frantz as a mentor to many, a "tinkering genius" who was instrumental in making their wild ideas work.

“He’s the guy who made that napkin imagination come to life over and over again,” said Weston, who serves as WhiteWater’s director of imagination.

Frantz was always the more grounded of the creatives he worked with, thus his title: Director of Reality.

At one point, Frantz’s Oregon Coast workshop employed more than 30 people who built a variety of waterpark equipment and structures. Frantz’s mentorship will live on in the Pass the Torch fund, giving students hands-on experience in a variety of industrial fields.