Water rides expand Cincinnati thrills

Thanks to a couple of Wisconsin companies, more Ohioans are learning what a thrill it can be to get sopping wet during any time of year.

Great Wolf Lodge, based in Madison in 2001 opened the state’s first indoor waterpark resort in Sandusky, northern Ohio. There are 271 family suites and a 42,000 square foot indoor entertainment area has a video arcade, fitness room and rock climbing wall in addition to waterslides, pools, whirlpools and waterfort treehouses.

This month, the Kalahari Resort opens an 80,000 square foot indoor waterpark in the same area. Some of the features – the FlowRider surfing simulator and water roller coaster, for example – can be found in the company’s hometown resort, in the Wisconsin Dells.

By this time next year, this part of Ohio likely may well have at least four indoor waterparks, a significant spurt, although puny when compared to the Dells’ 21 indoor and outdoor splash-o-ramas.

Why study Ohio? I recently returned from a trip to Cincinnati, where another round of water wars has begun. Paramount’s Kings Island (a theme park with 80-plus rides, shows and attractions) is partnering with Great Wolf Lodge, which intends to add a 404-suite resort and 75,000 square foot indoor waterpark that will be connected to the amusement park via tram service.

The work north of Cincinnati should be done next year, and it transforms Kings Island “into a year-round entertainment destination,” says Craig Ross, general manager. An extensive outdoor waterpark already exists.

Sound familiar?

Also in the area are Coney Island (water and other thrill rides) and The Beach Waterpark (outdoors and open seasonally). Coney Island advertises “the world’s largest recirculating swimming pool” – involving 3 million gallons of water.

Spokeswomen for both attractions say more water is fine with them – it all adds to the vacation value of the area.

For more, see www.cincyusa.com or call (800) CINCY-USA.

The job of selecting merely two winners in our waterpark essay contest was difficult. Some of you tugged at our heart. Others were full of the joy and fun.

The winner, Brenda Persson of Wisconsin Rapids, knew how to use words to create a picture of love.

“My daughter was 3 years old and all of 25 pounds,” she wrote. “She begged to go down the Gigantic Super Slide.

“This slide ended in a 6-foot-deep pool of water. She was too little to go alone, so my 6-foot-5 husband went with her. All I remember seeing is a blur of pink rushing past me, followed by a blond head of curls untouched by the water.

“She was sitting in the palm of her daddy’s hand, his head was under the water, but his arm was outstretched straight above his head. They both were absolutely beaming.”

Brenda was writing about a visit to Sesame Street Place, in Langhorne, Pa. How fond is the memory? It has stayed fresh for a dozen years: Daughter Erin is 15 years old now. Sister Kendall is 12, brother Taylor is 9; Brenda and husband Rick have been married 18 years.

The family will receive tickets for a Wisconsin Dells getaway, worth $525. For more about the world’s waterpark capital, go to www.wisdells.com or call (800) 223-3557.

Our runner-up is Shannon Stein, who is completing her first year as principal at Lomira High School. We liked the upbeat outcome of her story.

“My favorite waterpark experience was having the opportunity to actually work at Noah’s Ark for nine years,” she wrote. “I met many wonderful visitors from all over, saw the craziest things happen and was taught leadership skills and patience that have helped me in my current position as a high school principal.

“Best of all, I met my husband there. We both worked as lifeguards. Many, many ‘arker’ romances turned into marriages that are still going strong.”

Adam and Shannon Stein have been married 10 years; a bridesmaid and the best man still work at Noah’s Ark, in managerial positions.

The Steins have one child, Ryan, who is 7 years old. “We almost named him Noah,” admits his mother.

The family will receive four tickets (worth $180) to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., which has a new waterpark. For more about the theme park, go to www.sixflags.com or call (847) 249-INFO.

Many, many thanks to all others who submitted essays. I wish I could reward everybody for their efforts.