Wild Water West opens Saturday: Here’s what you need to know

May 29, 2020

With public pools closed for the summer, Wild Water West is expected to be more in demand than ever. And when it opens Saturday, guests are going to find a lot of changes.

The amusement and water park west of Sioux Falls will limit itself to 50 percent capacity, enforcing distancing and cleaning on all attractions and limiting the number of people who can be in the water park areas at one time.

Director of operations Brian Rehnke said he and his team are dedicated to providing the park’s usual summer fun to its patrons while making sure they and the employees remain safe.

“Both the Department of Health and the CDC have said being outside and near or in chlorine is one of the safest places you can be this summer,” Rehnke said.

“But we’re taking this very seriously because we’re a private business, and if we screw it up, we might go out of business. It felt like we were playing darts, and while the dart was in the air, the guy holding the target moved it. We’ve just had no idea what to plan for exactly.”

Rehnke said the park’s staff has consulted with the South Dakota Department of Health and the city of Sioux Falls’ Supporting Operations and Resiliency, or SOAR, team to aid in this year’s unusual opening process. The staff has implemented an exhaustive set of precautions and guidelines for both its employees and customers — everything from employee temperature checks to evenly spaced deck chairs to sanitized life jackets and inner tubes.

Using Google Earth, the staff calculated the amount of square footage for each area of the park to determine how many people should be allowed in at one time. For example, by assuming each guest should maintain a 28.26-square-foot physical distancing radius, the maximum number of people allowed in the 7,500-square-foot activity pool will be 265. 

Lifeguards will be tasked with policing the number of people in each area to ensure proper physical distancing is maintained. Rehnke said the staff aims to keep the park’s total capacity at a maximum of 4,000 to 5,000 people, with an average of 1,500 to 2,000.

The wave pool will be limited to 743 people at once, and the lazy river will be limited to 100 tubes at a time. When areas are full, customers have to wait until someone is done and the tube is sanitized.

Additional measures include opening the park at 10:30 a.m. to season pass holders, giving them a full half-hour to find their spots before the park opens to the general public at 11. Rehnke said this also hopefully will help to prevent a giant line from forming outside the park’s gates in the morning. 

Here are additional regulations for visitors:

  • If you are feeling sick or experiencing any symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath, you will not be allowed admission.
  • All guests will be encouraged to wear PPE while on premise. Masks and gloves will be available for guests if requested.
  • Temperature screenings for all guests will take place before admission. If your temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher, you will not be allowed admission.
  • If you begin to experience symptoms of COVID-19 while on premise, you must isolate yourself and leave the premises as quickly and safely as possible.
  • Everyone will be required to maintain 6-foot physical distancing rules from other guests and staff throughout the facility, including but not limited to waiting in concession lines, mini golf, bumper boats, go-karts, slide tower, batting cages, bars, swimming pools, on deck, in cabanas and pavilions.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the facility in high-traffic, customer-facing locations.
  • Deck chairs will be sectioned in groups of three and spaced 6 feet apart and must maintain spacing. Additional staff will be walking through the park with sanitizer, cleaning and wiping down high-touch surfaces, including deck chairs after each use.
  • The use of pavilion and cabanas will be limited and maximum pods of six people will be allowed together and must be 6 feet apart from the next pod.
  • Bathrooms will be cleaned and sanitized hourly with additional sanitizing wipes available for customers if they want to self-sanitize before use.
  • All concessions will be single-use items. Refillable souvenir mugs will not be allowed to be passed through the window to be filled again. Staff will fill a disposable cup to give to the customer at the discounted rate, and the guests can fill their souvenir mug.
  • Guests will be encouraged to make paperless transactions. Credit and debit cards will be accepted in all places.

Because many capacity and physical distancing restrictions have been lifted in Sioux Falls, Rehnke said these guidelines are self-imposed to ensure that the park can safely stay open all summer. He said an email sent out to the customer base asks for guests’ cooperation and patience as the park adjusts for an unprecedented summer.

“We are going to try to enforce people distancing as much as possible,” he said, “because it’s very possible we can’t be open without the cooperation from our customers.”

Rehnke said he hopes guests feel safe to come out to Wild Water West, as he stressed that the “riskiest” areas in the park are the concession lines and not the water areas. 

“There’s going to be more chlorine than COVID in the air,” he said. “Anybody here who wants to sanitize again can just hop in the pool.”

Additional challenges for the park have been interruptions to supply chains and delays to pre-season lifeguard training. However, with the Sioux Falls public pools and many other potential summer employers closed, Rehnke said hiring has been quite easy this year.

While the past few weeks have been daunting for Rehnke and his staff, he said they’re excited for the park to open to the public and ready for any problems that may arise.

“It has been a challenge,” he said. “When we started planning the season, we didn’t know what the (infection) peak is going to be, what the rules are, the supply chain interruptions — all of it has been an ever-evolving challenge. But every day we find a solution and move forward.”

For a full list of Wild Water West’s COVID-19 precautions, visit the park’s website.

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Wild Water West opens Saturday: Here’s what you need to know

With public pools closed for the summer, Wild Water West is expected to be more in demand than ever. And when it opens Saturday, guests are going to find a lot of changes.

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