Wires, Water, and Summer Vacation

An electrical engineer walks into a water park. It might sound like the beginning of a bad joke with an even worse punchline, but hang on a second. If you’ve ever been to a water park, you’ve probably marveled at the amount of H20 required to keep the place running, from the Lazy River to the Wave Pool and all the slides in between. But have you ever considered how much power it takes to pump all that water?

We sure hadn’t—at least, not until we sat down with electrical designer Richard Nelson to chat about the work he did for Kings Dominion, a nearby amusement park, earlier this year.

So, tell me about the project. What work did we do?
Kings Dominion came to us and said that they were planning to make some changes—to add new slides and upgrade a few of the other water park attractions—and they needed us to go in and upgrade the electrical components. For starters, they needed a new electrical line to power the new slides. They also needed work done on the pumps that keep the Lazy River moving. We were running electric wires all over the place, helping them get these attractions ready for the summer crowds.


Electricity and water don’t mix—especially not at a waterpark. How do you ensure that the attractions have the power they need while keeping all the guests at the park safe?
There’s certainly a separation that has to happen there. For the most part, we kept everything underground so that it’s not easy to access the wires. We also used conduit to keep any water from coming into contact with them.


What do you think that people would be surprised to know about the project?
When I say wires, you’re probably thinking small. But these are big wires, because they’re powering huge water pumps. For the wave pool, we’re talking about pumps the size of a small car! You would never know it, though, because the park does a really good job of either camouflaging pump houses and making them look like part of the scenery, or tucking them out of the way.


Did you discover anything interesting during your time behind the scenes at Kings Dominion?
A lot of things happen in the off-season to ensure that guests at the park really enjoy themselves during the busy summer months. It’s amazing how much work contractors do when the park is shut down between the late fall and early spring—that’s a short span of time. For the new slide tower that they added this year, the contractors had to dig and build the tower and get all the different winding slides supported properly. It’s a big job!


If you visited the waterpark tomorrow, which attraction would you head toward first?
The Tornado. It looks like a big funnel; you jump on a raft and swirl around and into the pool below. It’s a ride that will get your heart rate up.


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