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Sat January 18, 2014 - Midwest Edition
It all started at a business meeting over casual conversation when the question arose: When was the last time you did something big? Apparently for Schlitterbahn Kansas City waterpark co-owner Jeff Henry, not recently enough. But that was all the encouragement he needed. Out of that simple conversation came Henry’s decision to take on the challenge of building the tallest waterslide in the world.
Dubbed Verru¨ckt — German for insane — the waterslide is set to rise 170 ft. (52 m) above the Kansas City prairie. Park officials won’t say exactly how tall it will be, but promise it will knock the current record holder, the 164-ft. (50 m) Brazil’s Kilimanjaro, off its perch.
“It’s been a game changer for our industry on a lot of levels,” said park spokesman Winter Prosapio.
From Henry’s decision, came the task of making it a reality. That work fell to Schlitterbahn’s team of designers, engineers and contractors.
“We build our own rides,” said Prosapio. “Very few in the waterpark industry are spending the amount of energy on ride research and development that we are. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to create a brand new ride and figure out how to build it, especially in the waterpark industry. Innovation goes to the bone level here.”
Once the design was in place, the team built a one-third scale model, tested it and made the necessary changes and adjustments.
It’s a huge difference going from a one-third model to the full-size model,” Prosapio said. “A lot of people went down the one-third model and it was already pretty intimidating.”
The tower of Verru¨ckt was constructed at the company’s New Braunfels, Texas, facility out of former railroad tankers refitted to form the structure. Using plasma cutters, workers hand cut the edges off the tankers to make them round, then blasted, welded and painted them before shipping them by truck to Kansas City, Kan.
Then it was time to lift the tankers into place.
“Initially, we thought when they first looked at it they thought they could get in there with crane of a certain strength,” Prosapio said. “But it was determined the tanks were much too heavy. So we brought in a second larger crane to come and take care of the lift. We were taking the tanks and stacking them on top of each other. That was where we needed to coordinate with the crane company. The thing we all got worried about was when we’ve got these big lifts, that everything lines up. That’s the wonderful thing about precision engineering, everything lined up as planned.”
Crews also constructed a 35,500 lb. (1,619 kg) steel platform to be lifted in place and bolted down on the top of the tower.
As Prosapio wrote in her Schlitterblog, “It’s a long way to the top of Verru¨ckt. Once you get to the top, you’re going to need a spot to pause, take in the view, and consider whether going down the world’s tallest waterslide is really on your “must do” list. Hence, the platform.”
By October, crews, using fiberglass poured at the Texas facility, completed the 601-ft. (183 m) slide. The design team is now perfecting the nozzles.
“We have nozzle technology that is going to be pretty cutting edge,” Prosapio said. “That’s because we are blasting people up five stories. We are very, very, very strong stewards of water. We feel strongly it is a precious resource and we don’t want to waste any of it.”
So what will a ride on the Verru¨ckt entail?
First, visitors will climb 264 stairs. Then, four riders will climb into a specially built teal colored raft. The life guard will check to make sure everyone is safely strapped in and ready to go. Then, it’s a drop down 17 stories to a dip, a blast of water to propel the raft up and over a five-story hill and down to the splash zone. All in about two minutes.
“Someone in that boat is going to say ’let’s do that again’ and someone will say ’I think I am done,’” said Prosapio.
She estimates only about 5 to 10 percent of guests will ride Verru¨ckt. For the other 90 to 95-percent, watching may be a treat in itself.
“The other interesting thing about Verru¨ckt is we didn’t fully appreciate how visible this thing was going to be once we got it up, said Prosapio. “It is insanely visible. You can see it for miles and miles away. It’s lit up at night. Verru¨ckt is becoming more than a waterslide, it’s becoming a monument in that area. We think it is going to be a wonderful icon coming out the Kansas City prairie.
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