The new owner of Alabama Adventure plans to re-open the facility as Splash Adventure, expanding the water park portion of the venue and selling off the rides that made up the amusement park.
General Attractions bought the park in January and is investing $1.5 million to add four new attractions and spruce up the park in time for a May 12 opening under the new name and aquatic focus, the new owners will announce today. AmusementAquatic Management Group is operating the park. Kent Lemasters, chief executive of General Attractions and AmusementAquatic, is familiar with the property. His former company, Southland Entertainment Group, bought the original VisionLand in a bankruptcy transaction for $5.25 million and invested $5 million more the first year to create Alabama Adventure in 2003. Southland sold the company in 2008.
The park will keep its Main Street row of shops, eats and amusements, and the water park will expand with additions that extend its reach toward the Main Street area.
The new attractions will be:
- Aqua Course, a first-of-its-kind water-filled obstacle course -- think a less painful version of the television show "Wipeout" -- with a range of adventurous thrills to safe-but-fun activities. It will have foot-activated water features, water cannons, splash buckets and other interactive features, and it also can be used as a dry attraction when the weather turns cooler.
- A water maze similar to labyrinths at other amusement parks but with the added element of water walls, sprinklers and dumping buckets of water.
- The Friday night "Dive-In Movies" program will show movies on a big screen while viewers recline on inner tubes in the wave pool (turned off during movie time) or on a towel or beach chair on the wave pool's "beach."
- A zip line is being installed on the back side of the water park between the water slide and the Upsurge attraction.
Meanwhile, the amusement park rides -- including the landmark Rampage wooden roller coaster -- will be sold off to other park owners and that property used for special events and future growth, Lemasters said in an interview Wednesday.
"After two years here, I realized that most of the people were going to the water park," he said. At one point, he said he sat at a table on Main Street with two hand-held counters and tallied those who came through the gates and turned right into the water park or continued straight into the amusement park. Between 70 and 80 percent turned right.
An internal poll of visitors found a similar result and when guests were asked what they would like to see more of, water attractions were the most common responses. Moreover, since 60 percent of the costs of operating Alabama Adventure were devoted to the amusement park side because of maintenance and other factors, it made business sense to put future emphasis on the water park, he said.
Lemasters said with the decision to go all-water, a name change was also in order. He said the company considered names such as Splash Island or Splash Landing to play off the Splash Beach name the water park had as part of Alabama Adventure. But when it was noted that the new attractions were more active than passive, those names seemed less appropriate.
"We chose Splash Adventure because it's a more accurate name for the park and it allows us to keep part of the name from Splash Beach and part of the name from Alabama Adventure," Lemasters said. "It just worked."
Along with the new attractions will be old favorites, such as the 27,000-square-foot Wave Action Pool, the quarter-mile Lazy River, the interactive water play structure, Free Fall, Space Bowl, Up Surge Boomerango, children's activity pool, and a variety of water tubing slides and flumes.
Splash Adventure will have food and beverage outlets, restaurants, fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo, rental cabanas, games, more than 700 guest lounge chairs and parking for more than 2,000 cars. There will be a private area for corporate and group events as well as birthday parties. Mercedes-Benz has already rented the entire park out for its employees on May 20, Lemasters said.
Lemasters' company owns 259 acres off Interstate 20/59 in Bessemer, and while the current parks have a footprint of around 89 acres, they actually use around 50 acres.
The water park and Main Street have a 20-acre footprint, leaving lots of room for growth. Lemasters still has plans to build a hotel with an indoor water park on 157 acres he had retained ownership of through park ownership changes.
Splash Adventure plans to announce a line-up of special events for the 2012 season, pricing and the operating schedule. Season passes will go on sale April 15 and are being discounted 25 percent from last year.
Lemasters said those who have had season passes in the past will get an exclusive offer to purchase season passes for $39.99 -- an attractive price when one considers a single day pass will sell for $25.99. A pre-season sale of season passes to the general public is expected to cost $49.99, he said.
Lemasters, who repurchased the park in January, said four new attractions were all he had time to get in place this year. But, he said, the company is looking down the road at what can be added. "We have plenty of room to grow and expand here and plenty of ideas of what we would like to see added," he said.