Not since the opening of the Olympic stadium in 1999 has there been such an exciting, large-scale leisure development to service the Sydney metropolitan area, according to Chris Warhurst, general manager of the new Wet ‘n’ Wild waterpark in Sydney.
Opened in December 2013 in Prospect, the new leisure development took 12 months to construct and lays claim to being the world’s biggest waterpark, with more than 42 rides and attractions. “We have the world’s first combination aqua loop and mat racer tower, the world’s tallest Double SkyCoaster (a daring 250ft dry ride tower) and one of the world’s largest surf wave pools,” says Warhurst.
“When you’re travelling at 120km an hour on our SkyCoaster – which at 75m is 10m higher than the sails on the Sydney Opera House – falling to earth and pulling 3Gs, you really know you’re alive. It’s terrifyingly wonderful,” he adds.
The waterpark, which cost AUS$135m (US$125m, E90.4m, £74.4m) to construct, is expecting to attract up to one million visitors per full season (from September to April each year) and judging by the numbers that have raced through its doors since last December, it’s well on target to achieve this. “The park is built to handle between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors a day and we’ve certainly been seeing those numbers since we launched,” says Warhurst. “We opened on December 12th and by December 19th we’d sold 180,000 season passes.”
The park’s location in the most densely populated metropolitan area of Australia (25km from CBD – Sydney central business district) is helping to feed those numbers, although Warhurst’s hoping to put the park on the interstate and international tourist map as well – with an expectation that around 20 per cent of visitors will come from this segment.
He says: “We’re just 10 minutes away from the Olympic site and 2.5 million Australians live within a 20-minute drive of our park. With a national population of 25 million, that’s one in 10 Australians who can easily access the park.
‘We’ve designed the park to attract Sydney’s different market segments, but we’ve also had visitors from as far afield as the UK and South America.
“The traditional tourist pathway in Sydney is the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, but there’s no reason why Wet ‘n’ Wild can’t also be on that map. We’re just 35 minutes from Sydney Airport’s international terminal.”
Once through the doors, it’s unlikely that visitors will be disappointed with the array of wet attractions on offer. The park’s owners, Village Roadshow, awarded equal mega tower contracts to waterpark suppliers Whitewater West and ProSlide, with both companies supplying two main complexes each and ProSlide also supplying all 10 rides in the Wet ‘n’ Wild Junior area.
The first complex from WhiteWater West is the “world-first” Whizzard Twist™ (H2Go Racers), which takes eight mat-racer AquaTubes and winds them around each other, propelling riders into a race to the finish line. This ride is accompanied by four duelling AquaLoops™ (360Rush) for side-by-side entertainment. The second complex offers riders a multitude of experiences in a thrilling eight waterslide complex that features four MasterBlasters, called The Breakers, and Australia’s first Rattler™ named the Typhoon.
From Proslide, the park installations include the T5, the first and only dark Tornado 60 in Australia, and the Bombora: TornadoWave, which Warhurst says is “arguably the most popular attraction in the park with the longest hang time and most zero Gs”. Hybrid rides include the Double Bowlseye, featuring two BehemothBowl’s – the first attraction of its kind in the Asia Pacific region – and the Tantrum, which features three Tornado 24 funnels.
Proslide’s rides for the Wet ‘n’ Wild Junior area are pint-sized versions of the park’s iconic rides. Warhurst says these include the “worlds first” Kidz Bowl, Australia’s first Kidz Tornado 24, a four-lane Kidz ProRacer, three Kidz Pipelines, three Kidz Twisters and a Kidz MiniRiver.
Village Roadshow chose Australian wave technology company LatiTube for the construction of one of its wave rides. At 15m (50ft)-long with a 3m (10ft) curling barrel, it represents another world first, according to Warhurst.
“The design of the LatiTube allows for the ride surface to change according to a person’s ability, because the surface flexes up and down – a three-year-old can boogie board and a pro-surfer can get tubed on the very same wave. It also has an enormous throughput,” he says.
The waterpark also boasts Australia’s biggest wave pool (by Murphy’s Waves) at 8,500sq m (91,490sq ft), which offers guests a 2.3m (7.5ft) wave length. Warhurst says: “There are no sharks and no rip tides. We like to call it ‘a beach within reach’, as people living in the western suburbs don’t have easy access to the beach.”
With this lack of access in mind, Warhurst says they’ve been working hard to develop its community links, so that youngsters nearby can use it on a regular basis, rather than as an occasional treat, and get to enjoy a beach lifestyle.
“There’s a big surf lifesaving movement in Australia, with children’s after-school and weekend clubs called Nippers. So we approached the organisation and gained permission to create an official Nippers club at Wet ‘n’ Wild.
“We now have more than 400 children enrolled and it’s created a great community around the park, which of course brings both our business and the guests great benefits,” says Warhurst.
Another particular feature of the waterpark is that it’s been designed for optimum staffing levels to keep operating costs down. Warhurst says: “Australia has a very high labour rate when compared to countries like the UK and US. We worked with the designers to ensure that rides could have the maximum throughput using minimum staffing levels, without any compromises on safety of course.”
Currently the park employs 450 staff on a seasonal basis, which includes 92 lifeguards and aquatic attendants.
Sustainability best practices have been applied both in construction and operations. All rainwater across the site is harvested and retained irrigation and general wash down. Neptune Benson supplied the filtration technology, which when used with perlite media saves more than 6.5 million litres per season compared to traditional sand filters.
Wet ‘n’ Wild’s user experience has been further enhanced with the use of waterproof RFID wristbands. Guests receive them on entry – either as temporary bands for day admissions or more robust silicon bands for the season pass holders.
The MyBand wristbands, using technology from Omni software, can be used to access the park, use lockers for a fee and make purchases from the catering and retail areas – dispensing of the guests’ need to carry around credit cards, cash or tickets. Guests can manage their Myband account online, link in park photography to their social media accounts and easily pre-book experiences or cabanas or lockers for their next visit.
For a VIP experience, a certain number of higher-priced Fast Pass wristbands are on sale each day giving the user quicker, no-queue access to most of the slides and rides. At a cost of AUS$50 (US$46, E33.50, £27.55) on top of entry price, it’s a premium offer that produces healthy returns for the business.
For greater comfort and luxury still, 50 exclusive cabanas are available throughout the waterpark on an all-day hire basis. Visitors can choose from a beach view cabana, a family cabana or a VIP cabana. The VIP offer includes a lounge with a television and stocked refrigerator, and access to a shared cabana concierge.
Covering a total area of 60 acres, Warhurst says there’s plenty of scope for expansion at the site, and there are already various planning permissions in place for new developments – giving Wet ‘n’ Wild’s domestic and overseas visitors even more reasons to come back.