21300 IH 45 North
Spring, TX 77373
April 2004–The smell of Coppertone sunscreen and chlorine fill the air. Guests yell toward employees “When do you open?” and “How much does a family season pass cost?” Behind the scenes lifeguard supervisors screech over the radios asking if all of the guards are in place while energetic music blares from the speakers located throughout the park with songs like “Surfin’ USA.” The concrete burns on the bare feet of the little ones and sweat pours down the faces of the hard-working employees who would love nothing more than to cool down in the 575,000 gallon Wild Wave Pool.
Where do kids in Houston go to have fun in the summer? One of the most popular choices for school age kids is SplashTown, located in Spring. Conveniently located on the feeder road of I 45 North and 2920, the surrounding area has always been a great location for the park with the fast food restaurants within walking distance and the surrounding local neighborhoods and schools. SplashTown serves as a huge asset to the Spring community. The park hosts community events such as lifeguard competitions and vegetarian cook-offs. During the sultry summer, nothing sounds better than a fun filled day at the local water park. SplashTown has been around for years; however, it has not always been a member of the Six Flags Family. Premier Parks, later named Six Flags, purchased this park, named SplashTown U.S.A, along with several others in May of 1999 from the Morris brothers. A little over a year later in June of 2000, Premier Parks changed it’s corporate name to Six Flags. Before SplashTown U.S.A. , the park was called Hanna Barbera Land. A large amount of the clientele that comes to SplashTown remembers the park even in its Hanna Barbera Land days. These guests come back year after year not because the park has the scariest or newest rides, but because the park provides safe, summer fun.
For the last two years I have spent my summers working at SplashTown. As an employee I have a different view than others might have. I visited the park growing up but never imagined all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that SplashTown serves as a premiere summer destination. Working as a member of the leadership staff for admissions I wear a SplashTown logo polo shirt and khakis, usually with a radio attached to my pants. Most members of the leadership staff at SplashTown carry radios in order to keep everyone in tune with the daily events and needs of the park. Guests cannot usually understand what is said over the radios because almost everything is in code. Someone might hear “273 to 270, we have an operational signal 17 at the front gate”. This would translate to “employee A to employee B we have a guest complaint at the front gate.” During slow days, employees with radios conveniently stroll by the locations where they hear any type of action being called over the radio. Working in the admissions department I have seen just about every type of person that comes to the park. There are the water park junkies who use the park as a day care service coming day in and day out on their parent’s way to and from work who wait impatiently at the large freshly painted blue gates for the park to open. SplashTown is also a popular place for mother’s to come with their children of all ages. Moms usually lounge around the wave pool located in the middle of the park or float down the Guadalupe River (commonly known as the lazy river). Secure in the knowledge that SplashTown’s employees attentively watch their children, parents feel comfortable enjoying themselves during the day. On busy days, police officers roam the park, along with our security staff for added security.
Entertaining the local community as well as tourists from all over the world, people young and old enjoy the attractions SplashTown offers. The rules at SplashTown are strictly enforced for safety reasons, explaining why a guest might hear an employee shouting “Please walk!” SplashTown takes great pride in the safety of the park. The lifeguards take their job very seriously and the lifeguard supervisors do a wonderful job ensuring that all of the staff is prepared to perform a rescue. Lifeguards wear red bathing suits, a fanny pack, sunglasses and sunscreen. Supervisors walk around dressed in either a polo shirt and khakis or a navy blue bathing suit with their fanny pack. Their job is to ensure that their guards are being attentive, and they carry their fanny pack at all times to assist a guest with first aid if necessary. It is not uncommon; however, to see a group of supervisors hanging out at what we like to call the back wall of the Wave Pool. They all have radios and are ready to react at a moments notice if they are needed. People might get the misconception that such a young leadership staff is not adequate for a park of this size, but although we all have fun at work we take our jobs very seriously. Unlike the other teenage lifeguards working at subdivision pools, it is not rare to jump in and save someone during a shift at SplashTown. Children and adults alike might get swept away by the water in the Wave Pool or not be able to swim well enough to reach the end of the drop pool at Shot Gun Rapids. When the park is open, an EMT is always on property to ensure that our guests are taken care of in case of an emergency.
Groups of all sizes also come to SplashTown during the summer. Smaller groups of ten or more purchase discounted tickets at the front gate while larger groups buy tickets ahead of time and enjoy picnics in one of the many pavilions. Many large companies, schools and churches come every year to SplashTown. SplashTown even has private parties where large groups can buy out the entire park for the day or night. The swimming attire ranges from the conservative one piece with skirts attached and the usual t-shirt cover up to skimpy bikinis on teenage girls aiming to meet a new boyfriend. Sometimes, young girls even flirt with the good looking lifeguards, repeatedly going back to the same rides. Most men wear swim trunks, the younger ones wearing the bright surfer style board shorts. On occasion an older, usually from my experience hairy man, might play in the park wearing a Speedo. These men typically get nasty glances from the disgusted teenage girls.
Upon entering the property, guests pay $6 for parking unless they have a season parking pass stuck to their windshield. Due to inflation and higher operating costs, all theme parks and water parks increase prices year after year. The one day general admission tickets are $26.99 plus tax, a dollar higher than last years price. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle dated back to 1991 the price of a general admission ticket was $14.95 for adults. AstroWorld, a Six Flags Theme Park in South Houston acquired not one, but two new rides in the 2003 season. SplashTown guests and employees remain hopeful that we will acquire some new attractions next year. When a guest enters the park one of the first places he/she goes is to the lockers in the very back of the park. They reflect a newer generation of technology because they no longer take quarters as I remember from when I played in the park as a child. The lockers can take credit cards and the smallest locker costs $6. As a guest walks through the area around the lockers the aroma of fries and hamburgers fills the air.
In a child’s eyes, The Texas Freefall located next to the lockers towers over the park like the Empire State Building . This ride includes two side by side 5 story tall body slides. Older children find this the most thrilling ride in the park, and smaller children barely making the 48” height requirement use the ride as a rite of passage, using it to prove to friends and family that they are old enough to handle this extreme attraction. Other rides at SplashTown include Zoom Flume and Tree House. The Zoom Flume is an older ride that requires the use of a tube. Tubes are provided at the rides; however, many guests choose to purchase their own tube for use in the Wave Pool or Guadalupe River . The single tubes are $6 and the double tubes are $12. Closer to the front of the park, the popular tipping bucket on Tree House Island fills and dumps water periodically. The immense force of the water dumping out of the bucket causes some small children difficulty in remaining standing. After a tiring day of playing in the sun on the way out of park a family sees an enticing gift shop and candy store. It is not rare to hear children arguing about whether or not they will be returning later in the day when the host/hostess at the exit gate questions them upon their exit. Normally parents tire of the park much sooner than their children. Working in Guest Relations, I commonly allow the older children to use our phone to plea with their parents for a later pick-up time. If the guest is returning he/she will receive a hand stamp. One of which might say “pink” (I was allowed to choose what they said this year).
Unlike many jobs where people dread going to work and do not visit their workplace off the clock, I love my job. In my opinion, the park is one of the best places to work; I even enjoy floating down the river on my days off. The rides and slides easily entertain thousands of people each summer. If someone has the choice of playing at a water park with 30 million gallons of fun or at a neighborhood pool, the choice in my eyes is obvious. This park will undoubtedly provide many happy memories for the kids of the future as it did for my generation.