Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Water park executives Shane Huish and Jim Hunt worked together years ago at theme park operator Paramount Parks.
Now, they will go head to head in Southern Nevada as competitors on two water park projects.
Huish, general manager of the Cowabunga Bay Water Park in Draper, Utah, will break ground today on Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas near the Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson. The $23 million, '60s beach-themed water park will be located on 23 acres at Galleria Drive and Gibson Road. Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen is scheduled to speak at the groundbreaking.
Hunt works for the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park that's under construction in Summerlin. Huish was approached to be a partner in that project but declined.
Huish said he thinks Las Vegas is large enough to sustain both attractions.
“The Las Vegas market is so big and underserved that there’s plenty to share,” he said. “I think without them here, we’d be a huge success. But by splitting the market, we’ll just be a big success.”
The distance between the parks works favorably for Cowabunga Bay, Huish said.
“It’s great that we’re on opposite ends of town,” Huish said. “I fully expect the public will try out both of them.”
Cowabunga will have at least one huge draw: the first-of-its-kind Wild Surf. Four riders will cling to a tube and be thrust from 50 feet in the air into the world’s largest man-made wave, Huish said.
Three themed areas will pay tribute to iconic American surfing locales: Aloha Shores, which will have a Hawaiian flavor and include a children's play area; Surf City USA, featuring a retro California look; and the Boardwalk, an homage to Atlantic City’s Jersey Shore.
A 33,000-square-foot wave pool will be the park's centerpiece, and clusters of tubes and slides — some for single riders, some for multiple riders — will dot the park. There also will be a lazy river.
Cowabunga Bay's tallest attraction will be a multi-lane racing slide that will send riders on a 55-foot head-first plunge into a pool.
The entire park is being master-planned and plumbed for future attractions, so expansion is possible, Huish said.
Cowabunga Bay and Wet ‘n’ Wild hope to open by Memorial Day.
“We want to be open as soon as we can,” Huish said.
Owners haven’t set daily admission prices, but Huish said sales will begin soon on season passes, which will cost $75 per person or $70 per person for a family of four or more. Prices will vary for customers taller than 48 inches, children under 48 inches and people older than 60. Children younger than 2 will get in free, and admission will include access to inner tubes for rides.
Once the facility is ready, it will be open daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day and on weekends a few weeks before and after those holidays.
The park was conceived several years ago by local developers Shawn Hassett and brothers Ben and Marv Howell, who secured the land and permits for the project. They teamed with the Huish Entertainment Group earlier this year. The project has been in the works for about two years.
Cowabunga Bay won’t allow customers to bring their own food into the park, but Huish said there will be picnic areas outside the park’s gates and two restaurants inside with VIP cabanas and table service. The restaurants will be named Bullwinkle’s Boardwalk Eats and Rocky’s Beachside Café. Huish's company owns the rights to the Jay Ward cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle.
“We’re not talking just popcorn and corn dogs here,” Huish said. “There will be a nice variety of food, including hamburgers, pizza, paninis and wraps.”
Owners also are working on getting a liquor license.
The park also will feature a system that allows people to avoid standing in line. For an additional fee, a computer will hold your place in line for rides and alert you via waterproof wristband when your turn is up. Online reserved seating will also be available for restaurants and lounges.
Huish’s team has plenty of theme park experience. In addition to the water park in Draper, just off Interstate 15 between Salt Lake City and Provo, his family runs three Family Fun Centers, two in suburban Seattle and one near Portland, Ore.
The project is expected to create several hundred construction jobs and 500 seasonal jobs.
As for construction, the Wet ‘n’ Wild park has a head start. Earth movers already dot the property on Fort Apache Road near the Sunset Road exit of the Beltway in southwest Las Vegas.
Wet ‘n’ Wild is majority owned by Australian entertainment company Village Roadshow Ltd. Retired Las Vegas tennis star Andre Agassi is an investor.