Last week Kings Dominion was kind enough to grant Nicole (my co-admin), Luke (our photographer), and me (Zachary) full access to the construction site of the park’s largest area overhaul since the launch of Planet Snoopy: the complete renovation and rebranding of the park’s water park from WaterWorks to Soak City.
For anyone who hasn’t kept up, this conversion involves an incredibly extensive overhaul of a very large percentage of the water park. Once completed, there will be new and renovated attractions, shops, eateries, amenities, theming, and more. Though I have been following the announcements and park-provided construction updates since the beginning, I must say that I really didn’t grasp the extent of the changes until I was given the opportunity to walk around the site and see things for myself. There truly is an incredibly impressive amount of work being done on Kings Dominion’s water park for 2015.
Anyway, because of the sheer number of different projects that make up this overhaul, this post will be divided into three different sections: attractions, amenities, and eateries & shops. If you’d like to jump to any section in particular, feel free to use the Chapters button at the bottom left corner of the screen.
Lastly, before I jump into the post, thanks a ton to Luke for taking all of the pictures you see below, Nicole for supplementing my horrible memory with her great notes, and Katelyn, Kings Dominion’s new PR Manager, for inviting us on a tour of Soak City and putting up with all of our in-depth questioning- I hope we weren’t too nerdy!
All that said, without further ado, enjoy the article!
Attractions New & Renovated Attractions in Soak City
Lets start off with the headlining new addition for 2015: the massive new Hurricane Heights. This truly monolithic slide tower contains six independent slides across three separate attractions: Paradise Plunge, Aqua Blast, and Thunder Falls. Pictures of slide pieces for all six slides in addition to pictures of the current state of the Hurricane Heights slide tower itself can all be found below.
Likely the most anticipated slide in Hurricane Heights is Paradise Plunge. This attraction is made up of three body slides, each of which begin in enclosed capsules with trap door floors. Though it doesn’t appear that any of Paradise Plunge’s slide pieces have been installed as of yet, there are a ton which have been assembled at ground level to prepare them to be lifted into place.
The second attraction that makes up Hurricane Heights consists of one slide with essentially one purpose: very tight downward spirals. Though Paradise Plunge and Thunder Falls are both interesting attractions, Aqua Blast looks to be the one truly unique slide for the Virginia water park market. You can find drop box body slides at Water Country USA and slides that focus on repeated drops at both Water Country and Ocean Breeze, but neither of those parks feature anything like Aqua Blast. In my opinion this is easily the most underrated slide going into Soak City.
Making up the final two slides of Hurricane Heights we have Thunder Falls, a tube slide focused on multiple, straight, open-air drops in quick succession. I must say that I’m incredibly excited to try out this slide as well after falling in love with one similar to it at Aquatica in Orlando. My fingers are crossed for airtime which, on a slide like this, is a completely realistic possibility. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what is probably my favorite feature of Thunder Falls: the opaque slide pieces striped with translucent colored plastic. They look downright stunning.
Aside from Hurricane Heights, the other major addition to the new Soak City is Splash Island, a new children’s play area on the island formed by the park’s lazy river. A good amount of work is still left to be done on it, but a picture of its current status can be found below.
Existing Attraction Refurbishments
In addition to the three slides that make up Hurricane Heights and the new Splash Island children’s area, Kings Dominion is cleaning up a few of their other attractions as well- specifically Tornado, Baja Bends, and Soak City’s lazy river, Lazy Rider. Tornado and Baja Bends are getting paint (thank goodness!) and Lazy Rider is having an additional entrance added next to FreeStylin’. Pictures of the ongoing paint work on Tornado and Baja Bends can be found below.
Shops & Eateries New & Renovated Shops and Eateries in Soak City
Nearly every single last shop and restaurant in what was previously WaterWorks is getting renovated or updated for the launch of Soak City. In fact, the only things in this category that aren’t being updated in some way or another seem to be Boardwalk Fries and Rita’s! While new slides and attractions are great, updating the look and feel of everything around them is a massive part of this conversion that shouldn’t be overlooked. The extent of the work happening here is truly incredibly impressive.
Anyway, as with the attractions section above, each notable project in this category will be separated into its own section below. Enjoy!
New Coke Marketplace
A new Coca-Cola Marketplace will be taking over the previous home of Shoot the Curl in between Freestylin’ and Baja Bends. There’s not much to see as of yet as far as construction goes, but you can see the newly poured foundation in the picture below.
Surfer Joe’s Replaces Chick-fil-A
Previously Kings Dominion’s water park contained a counter service Chick-fil-A location near its entrance. While it could be counted on for a good chicken sandwich Monday through Saturday, like any Chick-fil-A outside the park, it always remained closed on Sundays. Because Sunday is naturally one of Kings Dominion’s busiest days, this was sorta a massive issue. To remedy this problem, the park is replacing the Chick-fil-A with a new Kings Dominion-operated eatery named Surfer Joe’s. A little more information about what to expect from it can be found in Nicole’s excellent 2015 Culinary Preview article, here. Below you will find a picture of the current status of the previous Chick-fil-A location. There is still clearly a lot of work to be done here but I can’t wait to see it completed- if only to have the opportunity to try some new Chef Paul creations!
Soak City’s other major eatery, Sharky’s, is receiving extensive work as well. Though not much progress can be seen right now, we’ve been told that this currently counter-service restaurant will be converted to a grab-and-go style eatery by the time Soak City opens on May 23rd. If you’d like to know more about the planned menu, check out this post in which we had the opportunity to speak directly with Chef Paul about the next iteration of Sharky’s.
Shorts & Shades Renovation
The inside of the gift shop at Soak City’s entrance, Shorts & Shades, will be completely renovated for 2015 as well. Not entirely sure what to expect when it’s completed, but there is certainly a ton of work happening inside right now.
Amenities & More Overhauled Amenities and Infrastructure
What good are great new attractions and eateries if getting into the park to try them out is a miserable experience, right? Well, it seems Kings Dominion agrees.
Though I’m pretty sure everyone would consider the projects listed above plenty enough justification to call what Kings Dominion is doing to Soak City a massive, sweeping overhaul, the park is pushing things a step further. In addition to marketable additions like new rides and restaurants, Kings Dominion is putting a large chunk of change into fixing up the parts of the park that people don’t think about when they’re booking a vacation- things that they can’t post pictures of online and have most people get super excited about.
Though I love flashy new things just as much as the next person, any park that puts serious consideration into the experience their guests have every step of the way from the moment they walk in to the moment they leave is a winner in my book. Renovating restrooms, changing rooms, showers, cabanas, etc. shows that Kings Dominion is serious about improving every part of the guest experience with its replacement of WaterWorks. For that, I can confidently say “Bravo, Kings Dominion. Bravo.”
Part of the conversion of WaterWorks to Soak City involves adding a number of new cabanas ranging from the standard cabanas to VIP and VIP Party cabanas. Private cabanas aren’t a new concept for Kings Dominion’s water park, but for 2015 they are being completely overhauled and granted a number of new privileges including a speciality dining menu created by Chef Paul and an exclusive changing room for cabana guests. Though there’s not a ton to see at the moment, you can spot a few metal cabana frames in the pictures below.
New Restrooms & Changing Rooms
As mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this section, Soak City will be opening with new restrooms and changing rooms towards the back of the park as well as renovated restrooms and a refreshed bath house near the front gate. Though we don’t have pictures of the current progress on the front restrooms and bath house, pictures showing the future locations of the new changing rooms and restrooms can be found below.
Backlot Retaining Wall Replacement
The retaining wall which separates Kings Dominion’s Backlot Stunt Coaster from Soak City’s Tornado is in the process of being replaced with a much nicer looking one. Also, the park let us in on a little secret while we were on the tour: The current plan is to do something about the ugly backsides of the Backlot Stunt Coaster billboards! Fingers crossed!
New Freestylin’ Walkway
For a while now Freestylin’ has been bizarrely isolated at the end of a dead end path in front of the lazy river. That changes this year. In 2015 Kings Dominion’s water park will open with a new pathway that parallels the lazy river all the way back to the pathway under Rebel Yell. Not only will this make Freestylin’ far more accessible, but it will also reduce foot traffic through the area in the center of Lazy Rider where Splash Island and the new Coca-Cola Marketplace will both be located. This seems like a fantastic way to bring some additional traffic to one of the park’s older water slides while also alleviating congestion through an area that will be stuff with new things to see for 2015.
The picture below shows the new pathway running back towards Freestylin’ along the side of Lazy Rider.
I doubt I need to tell anyone this but, well, 2015 is truly a huge year for Kings Dominion. Would I like to see a little more attention put towards their 40th anniversary? Sure, but at the end of the day, Kings Dominion appears to be focusing on something far larger and more important this year: radically improving the experience each guest has from the moment they walk into KD’s new water park to the moment they leave. I don’t know that I could hope for anything better than a park that puts its guests first every step of the way.
Walking through Planet Snoopy in 2013 I saw a new dawn of sorts for Kings Dominion. Every inch of the Kidzville conversion felt purposeful. It was clear that the park considered its customers every step of the way. It appears to me that 2015 will bring that same acute attention to guest experience to Kings Dominion’s water park. That is something I can wholeheartedly get onboard with and I can’t wait to see KD’s Project 2015 debut on May 23rd.
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I hope you all enjoyed the post and will stay tuned for plenty more in the future!