With a new name and a lengthy list of COVID-19 safety measures in place, Vernon’s water park is ready to reopen .
Splashdown Vernon, formerly Atlantis Waterslides, will open at 25 per cent of its capacity Saturday, July 18, and the plan is to remain open until early September.
Coldstream’s Chris Steunenberg couldn’t have envisioned opening under these circumstances when he purchased the popular park in 2019, but with his decades of experience in the industry, he’s committed to bringing a splash of fun to local families this summer.
“There’s no business case for this,” he said. “We just thought it’s the right thing for us to do at this time, to get open and at least allow people who want to come out with their families.
“People are starving for things to do.”
The Steunenberg family purchased Cultus Lake Waterpark more than 25 years ago, and went on to build an amusement park across from it.
“The seasonal water park and amusement park business is our life,” said Steunenberg, whose two sons operate different aspects of the business. “As a young man with young kids I would go to water parks and amusement parks all the time, every chance we got.
“It’s just so fun to be able to have an enjoyable experience with your own kids.”
The waterslides won’t be an all-day event during the pandemic. Instead, visitors can attend one of two four-hour sessions — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. During the hour in between sessions, staff will be giving the park a top-to-bottom cleaning.
Guests are asked to arrive half an hour early to their session.
At the entrance, guests will be asked to fill out a COVID-19 contact tracing card.
Beyond the gates, there are bathing limits in the pools and extra staff on hand at the popular Riot River slide to keep tubers apart.
Picnic tables have been reduced in number and spread out to provide extra space for physical distancing. Steunenberg said physical distancing protocols have already been successfully put in place at the Cultus Lake park.
Business promises to be challenging in the short term, but the new owners are playing the long game.
“We’ve got to wait until this thing gets under control and then it’ll start to become a profit centre again. Until then, it’s a community service.”
Upgrades to the park have been in the works since September including a new filtration system, retaining walls and a revamped upper parking lot — and Steunenberg has big ideas for the future once things return to normal.
“We have plans to add more slides, a whole new kids play area and cabanas with a real nice view overlooking the lake,” Steunenberg said.
Plans for the park aren’t yet ready to be unveiled, but Steunenberg said they’ll likely be made public in the next six months, adding he’s met with the Regional District of North Okanagan to discuss the ideas.
The park’s concession stand will be limited to snacks only until further notice.
Tickets are a flat rate of $25 per person.