New Wave Rides Ready to Market `Thunderfalls'

By Kirdavis | THE JOURNAL RECORD, May 15, 1985 | Go to article overview

New Wave Rides Ready to Market `Thunderfalls'


Kirdavis, THE JOURNAL RECORD


At a hilltop log cabin you mount a small plastic sled floating on a six-inch pool of water. The few seconds allowed for pondering what k eeps you afloat flutter by in rapid succession before the operating lever falls, dropping your sled onto the bubbling rapids.

The sled attacks the writhing current at speeds of 25 to 35 miles per hour, the wide turns rocking you from side to side. Just as you feel you mastered the crests a wall of blackness swallows you whole. The river's perilous corners become awesome gut-wrenching wraiths, manhandling your sled through the tunnel shadows.

Your eyes adjust to the darkness, but not the speed. Through the turbulence a blinding light plows toward you. Suddenly your sled screams from the tunnel and skates across a shining pool of water.

Then it's over. In little over 60 seconds, you've mastered "Thunderfalls," the new entry in amusement park attractions from New Wave Rides, Inc., 11601 NE Expressway.

"Thunderfalls," an enclosed two-person water slide over 360 feet long, will make its worldwide debut Friday at Frontier City, the 29-year-old theme park owned by The Tierco Group.

The ride, explained Bill Crandall, president and owner of New Wave Rides, is designed to provide the high-speed, edge-of-your-seat thrills of multi-million dollar rides without the major expense. The total ride may be installed for less than $500,000, making it affordable for small regional theme parks like Frontier City, Crandall said.

That philosophy is the backbone of New Wave Rides, noted Thomas Hall, vice-president of marketing. New Wave Rides was founded in November, 1984 by Bill Crandall and Associates, the five-member management firm contracted to oversee Frontier City, from an evolving need for innovative, marketable, and affordable new rides, he said.

New Wave Ride's first offering, the "Riptide," met with instantanious success following its Frontier City introduction last fall. Hailed by industry experts as the "most innovative and affordable new ride for the amusement industry since the river rapids ride," New Wave Rides has since sold five models of the "Riptide" to amusement parks in the United States and Australia.

The success of the "Riptide" illustrates a significant "Catch-22" plaguing the amusement industry, Hall noted. Incorporating new attractions is an annual necessity in the theme park business. Parks must continually pump in "fresh blood" to keep their novelty and fantasy elements alive.

But inflation and the high costs of technology have taken their toll on the amusement business. Escalating consumer expectations, meanwhile, have proven biting even to theme park giants such as SixFlags and Kansas City's Worlds of Fun, Hall said.

For the nation's estimated 40 smaller regional theme parks, such as Frontier City, the expenses are unapproachable.

"In 1973 we put in an old-time wooden roller coaster at Six Flags over Georgia for $1.6 million," noted Hall. "At that time you could count on that ride being effective (as a new attraction) for three seasons.

"Today that ride would cost you $6.5 million and if you were really lucky, you'll get one season out of it," he said.

One way Crandall and Associates has worked around the high expense of novelty at Frontier City is by invigorating the park's traditional rides. The carnival roller coaster, for example, has been given two fresh coats of paint. An "experience" is being considered for the log flume in 1986.

Such changes give older rides a sense of "newness" to repeat customers, Hall said, though they can not totally replace the need for new rides. Yet due to inflation, he noted, few firms produce newrides at a regional park's budget level.

Even more imposing, the newest technology in the amusement industry is being applied to the growing water park circuit, he said, instead of for theme parks. …

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