Employment will rise and humanity will fall this spring and summer at the Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom.
The Warren County amusement park begins its 2012 season today with the main park open. The current buzz is about the new Alpine Freefalls water ride complex, which features the ominous, six-story high Cliffhanger attraction.
Swimsuit-wearing riders will step into a platform called a “skybox.” Once their hands are clasped to the backs of their heads, the “floor” of the enclosed capsule will drop away and adventurers will slide at high speed down an 80-degree, U-shaped slide. The ride is more than 200 feet long.
The Freefalls, which includes the Twisted Racer water mattress run, is currently under construction at the park. It is scheduled to open Saturday, June 2. The Alpine complex is located next to the Comet, the park’s famous roller coaster.
The water park will open Saturday, May 26.
Rebecca Close, a spokeswoman for the Great Escape, said the Cliffhanger should appeal to thrill seekers who spend parts of their summer vacations in the park. The Twisted Racer is designed for younger, less ambitious daredevils.
“Four people will line up at the top of the slide,” Close said of the racer. “It takes you through enclosed tunnels that twist and turn through each other and then it opens up into a drag race finish. This is for families and friends. It’s competitive. It’s a great side-by-side addition.”
The Great Escape has 11 water-related rides, including the Black Cobra tube run and Lumberjack Splash Wave Pool. Close said additions are a way to keep visitors happy.
“Our water park is incredibly, incredibly popular, we know from talking to our guests,” she said. “We see over 70 percent of our guests that come in the heart of the summer go through the water park. This is a great attraction, not only to expand the water park, but it also speaks to thrills and family. So it’s a perfect combination for the demographics at our park.”
Alpine Freefalls is manufactured by ProSlide Technology Inc. of Ottawa, Canada. Brad Goodbody, marketing manager for the company, said people should have no fear of tipping themselves out of the slide.
“You free fall for maybe the first 10 or 15 feet,” Goodbody said, “but the weight of the actual slide is engineered and the angle that starts to curve down into the run is such that although you may feel like you’re kind of floating, you are always kind of bound into it.”
The high sides on the slide are another comforting factor. So is the quick trip from top to bottom — Goodbody said riders will drop into the slide and reach the end of the run in seven seconds.
Close said employment numbers have remained constant for the past three years.
“We hire about 1,500 seasonal employees,” she said. “This year. there’s a little bit of a shift. We obviously needed a few more lifeguards for the new ride, but we’ve had a great hiring season.”
This year, park employment officials asked prospective staff members to apply online. “And then we called them, versus the one-day job fair … We know that with the market the way it is, there’s a lot of qualified applicants out there,” Close said. “This gave us the chance to streamline and call in the qualified applicants.”
Close added that about 70 percent of the park’s summer personnel return every year, a workforce that includes college students and teachers. Some staffers are already on the job preparing the park for activities today and Sunday. They’ll also work Memorial Day weekend.
“We have everything from ride operators, food and games, security, parking lot attendants,” Close said. “We also have a lot of cash control positions available, so there’s certainly a position for all skill levels.”
The park still has supervisory positions open.
“People out there looking for work who have had management experience or supervisory experience, we have positions to challenge them as well,” Close said. More details are available at sixflagsjobs.com.
Other new additions to the park include a show by the “Timbertown” characters that were introduced last year. The Adirondack animals (staffers in costume) will participate in “The Moose is Right” game show. There will also be new food and drink vendors.
The mild winter gave the Great Escape a head start on the Alpine Freefalls project and other necessary work around the park.
“Not only did it work out for the new ride, our maintenance crews spend a lot of time in the winter plowing snow,” Close said. “We were able to do a lot of rehab of buildings. We were able to rehab rides, taking them down and fixing them up, put them back out. That’s a very long process and it was one that they were able to do a lot during the winter.”