With the revival of Kentucky Kingdom and new attractions at Cincinnatiâ€™s Kingâ€™s Island and Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, the regional theme park atmosphere this season is buzzing with excitement â€“ and if the billboards along the interstates are any indication, a competitiveness â€“ not seen for some time.
Amid the ebbs and flows of the amusement park industry, one attraction just across the river has maintained itself as a sort of â€œbest kept secretâ€ for 40 years.
Atlantis Water Park serves the Kentuckiana area during the summer months with a focus on family-friendly, affordably priced water attractions for all ages.
Atlantis Water Park features three distinct water amusement areas. Immediately inside the front gate is the Tsunami Sea, a five-foot-deep wave pool that alternates between rolling waves and calm waters every 10 minutes.
Towering above King Neptuneâ€™s Cove is Mount Olympus â€“ a 43-foot tall tower â€“ feeding four twisting and turning water slides â€“ two body slides, two enclosed tube chutes. (Tubes are available for free, or can be rented for use on the slides and in the wave pool.)
Rounding out the family-friendly amenities are snack and concession stands, covered chaise lounge areas, restrooms, rentable lockers, a picnic area and free parking, making Atlantis Water Park what Debby Gilliatt, director of catering for the Clarion Hotel Conference Center, called a â€œhidden treasureâ€ for the Kentuckiana area.
â€œWater, water everywhere, and we still have some to drink,â€ Gilliatt said.
Atlantis grew out of development in the early 1970s between Stansifer Avenue and Newman Avenue, just north of the Colgate Factory property. The Clarion Hotel was built in 1971. The Wave Tech, a five-foot-deep wave pool, was installed adjacent to the hotel just north of Derby Dinner Playhouse.
Clarion President Luther James purchased the hotel and water attraction in 1991, leasing the wave pool out to a separate operating entity. The water park consisted solely of the Wave Tech â€“ later rechristened the Tsunami Zone â€“ until the addition of the slides in 1999. James re-assumed control of the site in 2002 and began adding facilities, including the childrenâ€™s pool area, concessions, lifeguard station and playground, building Atlantis into what it is today.
While not boasting the scope and intensity of the major theme park attractions within driving distance, Atlantis has been able to hold its own as a family fun destination for four decades by focusing on what works: affordability and cross-generational appeal. When Kentucky Kingdom closed its gates after former operator Six Flags walked away from the park in 2009, Atlantis reaped some of the benefit.
â€œWhen Kentucky Kingdom closed down, it took people a little while to find us,â€ Gilliatt said. â€œIt was kind of like we were the hidden treasure there for a period of time. With Kentucky Kingdom closing, it had a little bit of impact. We did see an increase. Obviously itâ€™s all very seasonal and weather permitting. That plays a big part for all of us in the area here.â€
With Kentucky Kingdomâ€™s much-celebrated resurgence, Gilliatt said Atlantis hasnâ€™t necessarily seen a decline in business.
â€œTheyâ€™ve got the amusement park aspect. Weâ€™re the water park,â€ she said. â€œSo people are coming here to relax and bathe in the sun. Bring the kids here. You can have a good time. You donâ€™t have to worry about if the water is too deep or too shallow because everything is well marked here. You have good visibility of the pool area at all times and can easily watch your children. Itâ€™s very safe.â€
Atlantisâ€™ operating season runs from Memorial Day to about mid-August. The park has built a steady client base of locals and those within reasonable driving range. Local parents may bring children for the day while one parent is at work, then come as a family when the work week ends. The Clarion attempts to attract those farther away with a $99 package featuring overnight accommodations and four passes to the park.
â€œWhat weâ€™re looking to do here is to draw a local attraction for local people,â€ Gilliatt said. â€œWe support the locals and what theyâ€™re looking for. If they canâ€™t afford the time or dollar amount to go somewhere else, then they can very easily come over here. It keeps us a very family-friendly splash of a good time.â€
Atlantis Water Park is open 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily. Admission is $8 on weekdays and $10 on weekends. For more information, call or go to www.atlantiswaterpark.net.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune