The largest drop slide in Texas opens at Aquatica San Antonio

ProSlide Technologies tapped to deliver thrills

AT: Tim Baldwin

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Right on the heels of Taumata Racer installed in 2018, Aquatica, SeaWorld San Antonio’s water park, has introduced Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. Debuting March 9 in time for the city’s spring break, the attraction not only boasts being the first new waterslide to open in an outdoor water park for 2019 but has the claim of being the tallest drop slide in the state.

Supplied by ProSlide Technologies, the eight-story tower features two drop capsules and a plummet slide. 

The drop capsule concept has proven popular not only throughout the state, but also the country as one of the most sought-after attractions in the past decade. This style of attraction has been introduced at other SeaWorld Entertainment properties in past years. 

“One of the first ones in our system was when I was at Water Country in Virginia,” said Carl Lum, park president. “I saw how popular it was. When we were thinking about attractions for San Antonio, that came right to mind. To me, it has a really nice thrill. When you ride it for the first time, the suspense of waiting for the floor to drop out and listening to the heartbeat … it’s really cool.”

Once riders are inside the capsule, a clear door is closed. On Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, riders face each other, not knowing which will drop first. Thrill rides of this type involve a trap door floor that delivers a pulse-pounding adrenaline rush, primarily driven by the anticipation of the unknown. 

“The operator can play with them a little bit to see who drops first,” said, Jeff Janovich, VP of business development, ProSlide. “Seeing their friends drop a split second before them can add to the anticipation.”

Bragging rights to the tallest slide of its kind in Texas is an easy marketing pitch.

“We did our research,” said Lum. “We worked with ProSlide to make sure that was accurate.”

“The drop capsule slide over the last few years has really revitalized the speed slide,” said Janovich. “In the early years of the water park industry, speed slides were one of the few slides that existed, so everyone had them. For a while everyone was looking at new innovations. When the drop capsules came out, parks started looking at speed slides as an option because of the new feature on the start.”

The eight-story tower also features a third slide that doesn’t feature a drop capsule.

“When you ride the plummet slide, from a slide experience might be the most thrilling of the three,” said Lum. “We call it the ‘chicken-out’ slide. It’s the one people take when they don’t want to go through the drop box. It’s got some steepness and some nice twists and turns. When testing with our ambassadors, we got some really good comments with the speed and turns.”

“With a straight freefall, you’re traveling in a straight line. But with the transition from vertical to curve, we put longer radiuses to make smooth transitions so that it is comfortable for the rider,” said Janovich. “The G forces are what makes those high-speed slides fun, but you want to make sure the forces build up gradually.”

The attraction is named after Ihu, Aquatica’s colorful gecko.

“One of the things that makes Aquatica special is that it has that great level of theming within the park,” said Lum. “If you compare Aquatica to a lot of our competitors, the theming is really immersive. When we redid the water park several years ago, we had the signage updated that really looks sharp and crisp. It’s nice to have that overall theme that is consistent.”

Despite temperatures having a bit of chill in the air, Aquatica opened the new attraction for spring break.

Even with cooler temperatures, Chuck Cureau, director of public relations, told Amusement Today people were still drawn to the new attraction. “There was something enough to it that they were attracted to it and wanted to do it,” he reported.

“Our [media day] had twice the pace of our previous installation in terms of interest,” said Lum.

To build two towering attractions in back-to-back years could be termed ambitious for a water park.

“We want something new at the park every year,” said Cureau. “We want to keep that momentum going. It really keeps the interest in this beautiful water park. It combines thrilling rides, serene beaches and don’t forget about the animal component. I think that’s what really differentiates Aquatica from our competitors.”

“We’re fortunate to be working with SeaWorld on three attractions this year,” said Janovich. “This was the first to open. We’re excited to have that ongoing success.”

Along with diversifying the attraction lineup, Iku’s Breakaway Falls also makes a visual statement.

“We picked the site with a particular purpose in mind,” said Lum. “When you walk through the entrance gate, you see it right up front. Its location is where Aquatica meets SeaWorld. You are literally looking right at the tower.”

This article appears in the APRIL 2019 issue of Amusement Today.
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