When the park reopens next month, it will be greeted by new competition — although not in the Dells. Instead, the challenge will come from Six Flags Inc., which will unveil its brand new Hurricane Harbor water park on the grounds of its Great America Theme Park in Gurnee, Ill.
Noah’s Ark’s claim of being “America’s Largest Waterpark” is in no danger — Hurricane Harbor will be 15 acres, a far cry from Noah’s Ark’s 50 acres. But with 50 to 60 percent of Noah’s Ark’s clientele hailing from the greater Chicago and Milwaukee areas, the new park in northern Illinois does potentially stand to affect the Wisconsin Dells attraction.
Noah’s Ark co-owner Tim Gantz is not worried, however, saying Hurricane Harbor alone will not prompt vacationers to visit Six Flags.
“The Six Flags water park is just an add-on to their theme park,” Gantz said in an interview after the announcement of the new park. “I don’t think it’s something people will seek on its own.”
Based on statistics alone, Gantz seems to have a point. Noah’s Ark has two wave pools, compared to Hurricane Harbor’s one, plus 15 more waterslides than the new Illinois attraction.
But Gantz said more is at play — Hurricane Harbor will not be able to replicate the total experience Noah’s Ark offers.
“The big difference is the atmosphere. At Six Flags, you might have to wait in line for three hours, while here there’s a 10- to 15-minute wait on our most popular attractions,” he said.
Gantz said “it was just a matter of time” before Six Flags added a water park to the Great America facility, noting the amusement-park company has made similar additions to other parks in recent years.
It is a strategy aimed at attracting more overnight guests to the park, according to Great America spokesperson Michelle Hoffman.
“We are looking to have [Great America] become a vacation destination to our guests,” Hoffman said. “The good thing about Great America is the choice it offers guests. You can do it in one day, but you really need multiple days to explore it all.”
Hoffman said Six Flags is not singling out Wisconsin Dells as its target with the new park, noting the majority of visitors to Great America already live in the Chicago/Milwaukee region — the group supposedly traveling to the Dells.
Admission to Hurricane Harbor, which will open Memorial Day weekend, is included with admission to the theme park, Hoffman said.
With Six Flags entering the water-park fray, Wisconsin Dells hardly stood still this winter. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp Resort added an outdoor water park, Copa Cabana Resort Hotel & Suites debuted a new indoor park and three area attractions merged to form Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park.
Although the Dells area alone boasts approximately 20 indoor and outdoor water parks, Mt. Olympus spokesperson Tim Finger said the market has not become saturated.
“I think there’s still opportunities to expand,” Finger said. “At the same time, [we’ve] got to keep the park fresh to keep people coming.”
Finger predicted Hurricane Harbor will have a minimal effect on the Dells because guests come to the area for more than a day trip, unlike Great America.
Gantz views neither Hurricane Harbor nor the proliferation of indoor parks as a large threat to his business.
“The opening of the indoor parks proves the idea that families like water, but those parks are there to get families’ feet wet,” Gantz said. “We consider ourselves the Disney of water parks, the premier one.”