The 'Rush' is on
Dollywood's Splash Country is in the midst of constructing its new water coaster, the first of its kind in Tennessee.
The $6-million RiverRush water coaster, set to open this May, acts much like a normal roller coaster. Just add water.
"It's a very thrilling experience for families," said Pete Owens, Dollywood public relations manager. "It's a high-adrenaline ride for us, but it's a ride that families are going to want to ride together. It'll be something a little different for them in a waterpark environment."
The four-story structure features four drops, the highest being 25 feet at a 45-degree angle, over approximately 1,175 feet of tube track, with the same starting and ending location.
"Like a regular roller coaster, it has ups and downs," Owens said.
The hydromagnetic coaster uses gravity and linear induction motors — essentially a series of magnets — to propel the 10.5-foot, four-person rafts along the high-speed conveyor. Seven of the inflatable, toboggan-style rafts can run on the coaster simultaneously, each operating within a break zone controlled by large, underground computers.
"It's pretty seamless technology," Splash Country general manager Mike Brown said. "You'll never even know you're going over magnets and electrical wires."
The coaster covers approximately 15 feet per second, for a lengthy minute and 20 seconds.
"For a waterpark attraction, that is very long," Owens said. "The longest experience we have is obviously ... our lazy river attraction, but for a slide attraction this is going to be a significant experience."
The attraction is manufactured by ProSlide Technology; it is the fourth-largest water coaster made by ProSlide. RiverRush construction began in August 2012, and it is currently 95 percent complete.
"Despite the rainy weather we've had this winter, we're still on track and on schedule," said Brian Dudash, director of construction and development at Dollywood. "We had an early start this summer."
Dollywood plans to feature the water coaster as the theme of its annual parade, which is May 10 this year, the day before Splash Country opens.
The closest ProSlide attractions similar to RiverRush are two versions of a water coaster at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., and a smaller version at Great Wolf Lodge in Cincinnati, Ohio, but Brown said the terrain around this water coaster makes it unique.
"We've done a great job of incorporating the terrain, with the hills and dips and valleys, to give you a great advantage so you can watch from (the ride)," Brown said. "You won't get that at any other park."
Owens said the park had been thinking about doing something special with the acre of land near the park's Big Bear Plunge whitewater rafting-inspired slide, where RiverRush will be. The below-grade terrain would have made access to a normal slide difficult, because guests would have had to climb a lot to get to the top of the attraction.
"Because this technology allows us to start and end at the same place (below grade), it became a much better option for us," Owens said.
The park also wanted to add a large family attraction, which it hadn't done since adding The Cascades — a $5-million, large lagoon-style pool attraction featuring slides, water sprays, a waterfall, a tiered deck area and a geyser — in 2007.
"The way the design for RiverRush laid out, it was perfect," Owens said. "It takes advantage of the terrain, it provides an easy way to get in and out, and it's going to satisfy families. They're going to love it."