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Tue 14 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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WOW RAK aims for "top five" park status

Waterpark forecasts 2009 visitor numbers to top one million, even though it has yet to open.

The WOW RAK multi-use theme park and waterpark development in Ras Al Khaimah is set to offer one of the top five waterparks in the world, according to managing director of project developer POLO RAK Amusements Balwant Chawla.

He said: "It's the complete family destination; it includes one of the biggest waterparks in the Middle East and when it's finished it's going to be one of the top parks in the world.

"It's going to be, we're pretty sure about it", added Chawla, who bases his judgement on his experience as former president of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) in the United States.

"We're well aware of everything that is happening in this industry," he said.

Phase one of the joint-venture between Polo Amusements Group and RAK Investment Group is snow-themed Ice Land Waterpark, which is expected to be completed by May 2009.

The waterpark is designed for around 15,000 people each day but Chawla estimates that with the theme park and the Mina Al Arab investment project, which includes plans for 14 hotels, visitor numbers can be expected to reach more than a million people during the first year of operation.

"It is going to be a nice weekend destination for a lot of families," said Chawla. "There are many things we are doing that it's the first time in the world for, and that no park has done before.

"We are making the biggest man-made waterfall in the world; it is 160 metres long and 14 metres high, and people can go inside the waterfall at different heights - it's not just a showpiece. Half a million litres of water will come down every minute," said Chawla.

He added: "This is also the first time we have introduced aqua football. Then we have a coral reef, which will include fish, artificial coral, salt water and we'll supply the kit for snorkelling. There will be clear tubes running through the tank which are very unconventional.

"This is a waterpark which will include all the design types used in the world. There are going to be 27 types of slide," he continued.

"We are also having the biggest dance area with a stage and live DJ. As many as 2000 people can dance in the shallow water. You'll have the rain coming in and so many other effects. That has been very successful at our sister parks in the world ; it's healthy, there's no smoking and the whole family can dance - parents, children and grandparents."

Chawla has been in the industry for more than 20 years and was responsible for developing a waterpark in Delhi, India. He says that he has brought a lot of the lessons learned from this experience and put them into practice here.

The company is also thinking about the long-term prospects of the theme park and waterpark, leaving space for new attractions to be built in the future.

"Attractions only have a life of about five years; replacing of the old with the new is essential. You need to have this - only the very lucky ones can avoid this and still make money," said Chawla, who is also in the process of developing a theme park in Uzbekistan.

According to the Themed Entertainment Association/ Economic Research Associates' (TEA/ERA) Attraction Attendance Report 2007, the top five waterparks in the world are Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, both in Orlando, US, Chimelong Water Park, Guangzhou, China, Caribbean Bay in Korea and Wet ‘n' Wild, also in Orlando, Florida.

The report estimates visitor numbers of between 1.37 million and 2.08 million at the top five parks.

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