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Eye of Riyadh
Tourism & Hospitality | Monday 15 January, 2024 2:17 pm |

Art in Motion: The Science Behind Cutting-Edge Water Parks

Saudi Arabia is poised to redefine global entertainment with its triumphant bid for Riyadh Expo 2030 and the honor of hosting World Cup 2034, marking the beginning of a transformative era in the Kingdom. Aligned with the goals of Vision 2030, these wins are set to catalyze the creation of unparalleled entertainment destinations, positioning Saudi Arabia as a premier global hub. In the pursuit of creating entertainment destinations that transcend conventional boundaries, Saudi Arabia seeks partners with expertise in crafting the extraordinary. WhiteWater, a trailblazer in aquatic amenity design and manufacturing, emerges as the creative force capable of turning dreams into reality. Bridging the realm of imagination and feasibility, WhiteWater’s engineering team is responsible for considering factors such as gravity, friction, hydrodynamics, rider dynamics, heat, climate, and myriad others to bring visionary layouts to life.


Mixing Adventure and Precision 

The first step in creating a leisure destination, like many construction projects, is identifying the target demographic and overall capacity of the facility. Leading providers like SEVEN exemplify this strategic approach, engaging with over 24,000 consumers across the Kingdom to discern preferences. This extensive feedback guides attraction development. Utilizing data from this initiative, the engineering team evaluates each attraction's throughput, proposing a diversified mix tailored to anticipated visitor numbers.


Deriving insights from the developer's input, WhiteWater's engineering team engages in a strategic evaluation to identify attractions that not only complement the available space but also resonate with the preferences of the target demographic. A prime illustration of this approach is the recently unveiled Icon Tower in Meryal Waterpark, Qatar. The new water slide tower comprises 12 water slides, ranging from body slides and inner tube rides to family raft rides. The goal was to cater to every visitor's desire, whether high-speed thrills, zero-gravity sensations, or multiple exhilarating oscillations. The engineers intricately wove these 12 water slides around the tower's 85-meter structure, setting a world record for the most water slides to come from a single tower and the tallest water slide in the world. 


With two water slides on each of the structure’s floors, the Icon Tower is dense with thrilling attractions. Of the 12 attractions on the structure, the Abyss water slide on level four of the tower stands out as an engineering highlight, suspended over 40 meters in the air. Weighing a remarkable 20 tons, the Abyss's towering height distinguishes it as a remarkable feat, nearly four times higher than a traditional Abyss funnel slide. Its visual impact is breathtaking, capturing attention with its sheer size off the side of the structure. 


Elevating Water Park Operations

Going hand in hand with ride mix is the logistics of how the water park will operate. Engineering also plays a major role by considering guest circulation and movement within the park. Due to the vertical nature of the Icon Tower, the engineering team had to strategize which attractions on each level to create a natural flow. The water park faced a natural challenge of guests reaching the top of the 85-meter-tall tower, solved by including two pedestrian elevators for guests to wait in shade and air conditioning as they decided on their next attraction.


While elevators help people reach the top of the tower the engineering team creatively addressed moving guests to the next ride in their journey down the water slide tower. The resulting feature includes two water-filled stainless steel transition tubs for seamless rider transfers between different slide sets. This design enables a "choose your own adventure" experience, where riders can navigate onto conveyors before being dispatched onto the next set of water slides. Enhancing the overall experience, visitors can travel the water slide's duration, enjoy tight 90-degree turns with panoramic views, before smoothly floating onto the next set of rides.


 “In an ever-evolving industry, we take pride in being at the forefront, anticipating trends, and creating attractions that captivate,” said Jeremy Gray, WhiteWater’s VP of Business Development. “The Icon Tower is not just a part of our portfolio; it's a milestone in our journey of redefining aquatic entertainment. As we celebrate this achievement, we look forward to continuing to innovate.  WhiteWater's commitment goes beyond engineering and breaking records; it's about helping families to create memories that last a lifetime.”


The Crucial Role of Structural Integrity

After looking at what rides are possible to construct, engineering will analyze the proposed project’s structural integrity, testing out how different weight classes will act on the ride utilizing 3D simulations. According to Phil Zhong, Director of Engineering, the need for precision across variables in water slide engineering is even more important as “unlike hard rides like rollercoasters where you have a seatbelt and are contained to a track, water slides have six more degrees of freedom where people can move across all sorts of directions. When water is introduced, there is a larger number of considerations that need to be made. Engineering uses simulations and data as a guidepost to calculate how the ride will move within a space. A constantly improving system, the WhiteWater team runs simulations from real-world installations, including accelerometers and drone footages to improve the software as well as our designs over time, so the result is a ride that has been thoroughly vetted to be as safe as possible.”


The Icon Tower presented complexity as the team worked on an existing steel framework. Installation supervisors used 3D modeling to determine the size and lifting capacity of slide portions. Assembling on the ground, they used the software to identify angles and access points for fiberglass installation in relation to the steel. With only two accessible sides, the installation team partnered with external rigging specialists to lift pieces onto the tower and weave fiberglass through the steel frame.


Regional Safety Considerations

  1. While the Kingdom aims to create ground-breaking destinations, safety remains a priority. The Saudi Arabian Standards Organization (SASO) sets regulations and standards for amusement parks, ensuring ride design, water quality, lifeguard training, and emergency procedures meet safety standards. WhiteWater, as an international company, considers building codes, permits, and local legislature to meet both local and international requirements. In line with Saudi Arabia's commitment to a safe environment, WhiteWater prioritizes rider safety while providing exhilarating experiences.


One regional safety concern with the Icon Tower is the wind effects due to its location on RIG 1938, Meryal’s island portion of the water park. WhiteWater's engineering team conducted a comprehensive Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis to assess wind-induced effects. The unique geometric layout of the Icon Tower, not covered by readily available design standards, required a detailed CFD analysis model with 120 million elements. This determined wind effects from 36 directions, focusing on spike pressures, vortex-shedding behavior, and potential undesired vibrations. A meticulous comparison against fiberglass allowables ensures a structurally sound and safe design.


A second consideration was temperature in Qatar's summer reaching up to 45°C. The engineering team included heat vents on enclosed water slide features to release hot air, maintaining a comfortable and safe environment for riders. Using a convection system, the vents allow hot air to escape while keeping the attraction dark to preserve the surprise element for guests.

A Vision for Tomorrow: Elevating Saudi Arabia's Leisure Market

Saudi Arabia's growing leisure market, with over 24 theme parks and 420 entertainment centers in development, holds immense development potential. The pursuit of quality-of-life improvement involves upholding global safety standards as the Kingdom ventures into constructing innovative leisure destinations. Skyscraper-sized water slide towers, like the Icon Tower in Qatar, exemplifies WhiteWater’s ability to support Saudi Arabia in bringing dreams into reality to create new benchmarks in global entertainment.


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