Fun new additions at Wild Waters
By Joe Callahan
Published: Friday, June 12, 2015 at 5:51 p.m.
It has been 37 years since Wild Waters opened in front of what was then known as Silver Springs: Nature’s Theme Park.
For those nearly four decades, people have annually visited the water park each summer, which is known for its fast flumes, such as The Silver Bullet and The Hurricane, as well as The Wave Pool, Bunyon’s Bend, Mini Monster, Osceola’s Revenge, Alligator Ambush and The Cool Kids Cove.
On Friday, Wild Waters officials hosted a preview of the park’s $800,000 renovation and new additions as about 100 guests splashed nearby inside the water park. They also treated VIPs to lunch, a tour and a reptile show, and shared plans to keep the park going well into the future.
Jim DeBerry, general manager, said the future of the water park is up to area residents. If they support it for the next couple years, it will remain a community treasure, he said.
DeBerry, a serious man filled with obvious excitement about the water park’s new vision, met with nearly every guest, excitedly sharing information about some of the new attractions.
Many city and county officials also said the community must support Wild Waters or the park could become a memory after Sept. 30, 2016. That is when the contract is up with Silver Springs Management, LLC
“Everyone in the community needs to come out and support Wild Waters,” said Kent Guinn, mayor of the city of Ocala.
When the former Silver Springs attraction became Silver Springs State Park, Wild Waters was on the chopping block, according to the state, and many people in the community began fighting to save the attraction.
That was when Bobby Genovese, the Canadianborn, Bahamasbased chairman of BG Capital Group, stepped in.
BG Capital Group brought in Arden Tilghman as president of Silver Springs Management, the vendor selected by the state to operate Silver Springs and Wild Waters. Priscilla Bellchase is director of operations for Silver Springs Management.
The water park’s official name is “Wild Waters Water Park Presented by BG Capital.”
Tilghman said Silver Springs State Park is on pace in 201415 to surpass 201314 attendance by 70 percent. She hopes attendance will rise significantly again in 2015-16, and help keep Wild Waters operating into 2017.
“In the end, it will be all up to the state,” said Tilghman of whether Wild Waters will return in 2017. She said decisions will be based on attendance.
“I have had a lot of great memories out here,” said County Commissioner Kathy Bryant. “I agree with the mayor, everyone needs to support Wild Waters.”
DeBerry said in an email interview last month that he is pleased so far with the cooperation of the Department of Environmental Protection, especially Sally Lieb, who is the DEP’s Silver Springs State Park manager. Lieb oversees the park for DEP and Tilghman is her counterpart with Silver Springs Management.
“She is a visionary,” DeBerry said of Lieb.
“I believe the DEP cares deeply about Wild Waters Water Park and values how the water park enhances ecotourism and brings new visitors who may not normally visit or be aware of our state park offerings,” DeBerry said.
One backlash for Wild Waters this year, in the few weeks the park has been open, have been complaints that customers, even season pass holders, must pay state park admission. That cost is $4 per person or $8 for a carload up to eight people.
Tilghman said it is like residents paying $8 per carload to get into any state park and then paying to rent kayaks.
On Friday, officials introduced the park’s new mascot, “Wiley Water,” and said the park will now have a full liquor and draft house bar, Caribbeanthemed burgers and fries, Fast Eddie’s Fish Taco Stand and Shivers Ice Cream and Deli.
Among the summer events will be “Rockin’ Summer Nights,” which will take place from 6:30 p.m.2 a.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the kickoff set for July 3.
DeBerry said one of the most interesting new additions is the “SipNOodle,” a fun noodle (like those often used in swimming pools) that is lined down the center hole with a plastic tube to hold 24 ounces of drink. The threefootplus fun noodle has a lid and straw, and can be used in the wave pool.
There also are other new attractions at Wild Waters, most of which are not included with the general admission tickets or season passes
• “Kachunga:” An interactive, educational animal exhibit, featuring snakes, turtles and alligators; $12 per show for all customers, including season pass holders.
• “The Mark Robinson Show at the Comedy Lab:” Dubbed as wholesome PG entertainment from the world of comedy, magic, juggling and more, inside a 500 seat open air theater; $10 per show for all customers.
• “Wild Wave Surf Simulator:” Interactive surf board allows customers to ride in a green screen booth; $5 per ride and $10 per video for all customers.
• “Cool Kids Cove:” Has been expanded to include Henry Flagler’s Boat of Bounce, Caterpillar Tunnel of Fun, and Silver Springs Kiddie Canoe and Kayaks, to name a few; $3 per ride.
The park also offers a “dry package” for special programs and shows for those who do not want to get wet. For $29.99, kids will have unlimited rides in the new dry additions in the cove and tickets to the reptile and variety shows.
DeBerry said Wild Waters also has added Savannah’s Catering and chef Bruce Cordrey and that there is a new SplashCade, with more than 15 machines, including dual play basketball, air hockey, skeeball, racing games, classic pinball, the newest claw plush toy game, retro classics and top flight modern games
Joe Callahan can be reached at 8674113 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JoeOcalaNews.
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