Before The Water Flows

Does it seem strange to talk about water slides during winter? Now is actually the best time to make sure all your park attractions look fresh and--most importantly--function for opening day.

Why Winter?

Why is it always easier to fix an air conditioner in December? Air-conditioning specialists respond immediately when you call in the winter. Try to give them a call in mid-July, and you will be spending much more money, and the air conditioner will be down longer. Now is the best time to schedule preventative maintenance so your hottest attractions aren’t wearing a, “Sorry, closed for maintenance” sign this summer.

Inexpensive Facelifts

Is your water slide starting to look like this in Photo 1? If so, it’s probably time for a facelift. Most water-slide companies offer a one-year warranty, but it is usually after the one-year mark when slides begin to appear faded, outdated and even unsafe! If your water slide looks thirsty, don’t wait until the last minute--this equipment requires an extensive maintenance plan that can be rather costly. Instead, put slides on a preventative-maintenance schedule and use longer-lasting materials to save thousands of dollars.

Gel Coating Or Epoxy?

While gel-coat resurfacing is available for water slides, this application can be very expensive (about $10 per square foot), and requires seasonal waxing and extensive maintenance. In this instance, more expensive is not necessarily better. Gel-coat resurfacing uses a technique in which an epoxy polyester resin is applied to the slide surface. The difficulty with this resurfacing is that it is susceptible to harmful UV rays, which cause cracking and fading, and is essentially lower quality than the slide’s original coating.

A more cost-effective way to bring a slide back to life is to use a clear epoxy coating made with polyurethane/urea. The difference is its natural anti-abrasion, which resists the wear from riders, inner tubes and slide mats. Their coating is fortified with Teflon for added protection on slide stress spots or areas that typically experience the most wear. Additionally, using annual maintenance suggestions, the life of your slide’s color can last up to ten years or more. The costs of this application are typically around half the cost, with a savings over the life of the slide around 50 percent less per year than gel coating.

Room For Improvement

Another way to improve a water attraction is to change the entire color scheme, and to add additional scenery and props. Some companies will offer to overhaul attractions to give an entirely new look for about 50 percent less than the cost of a replacement. Projects such as these can help increase patronage to cover the cost in half the time of complete renovations.

Another idea for a water attraction is to bring it up-to-date. If the park has a 1980s look, try something a little different--rather than a complete change, a simple color overhaul can help freshen the look. Remember that certain colors together, such as orange and yellow or orange and red, can appear “cheap.” A simple color overhaul is a good thing if you are attracting customers on a tight budget. Colors like tan, green and blue typically attract higher-end customers. Always think of the customer base when determining what to change about attractions. (Photo 2)

Time To Call The Experts

While certain projects can be done in-house to help save on costs, slide-resurfacing projects require materials, applicators and certifications that are better left to the experts. Ongoing maintenance can be done in-house, but be sure to order the proper supplies to maintain the integrity of the structure. Additionally, talk to the contractor about what materials to use and how often to perform maintenance services in order to maintain the warranty of the coating.


With any park attraction, maintenance is an integral part of upkeep. Slide cleaning, waxing and pressure-washing can be very time-consuming, but they are important. Be sure to use the recommended materials for your type of slide. If you are unable to perform maintenance, to only perform some of the maintenance, or are not sure what you need, recommendations are available on a number of Web sites to help you determine the proper plan.

Get ready for opening day now--nothing turns customers away more than non-functioning attractions.

Kati Trammel is an advertising and public relations specialist in Lakeland, Fla. She can be reached at