FOR GLOBAL SUCCESS, JUST ADD WATER
Working to meet surging demand from around the globe, Ottawa maker of innovative waterpark technology says planned Ottawa park won’t open before 2015. VITO PILIECI reports.
ProSlide Technology Inc.’s cutting-edge waterslides are in demand all over the world, but the Ottawa company also has big plans closer to home, say founder Rick Hunter, right, and vice-president of business development Jeff Janovich.
ProSlide Technology Inc. says it can barely keep up with orders for its cutting-edge waterslide technologies, thanks to a rebounding global economy. The Ottawa company is a world leader in waterpark rides, including its newest HydroMagnetic slides that incorporate technology used on high-speed bullet trains in Japan and Europe to propel inflatable rafts through twists and turns. ProSlide recently installed two HydroMagnetic slides in Abu Dhabi, right next to the United Arab Emirates country’s new Formula One racetrack and $1.5-billion Ferrari museum.
Orders from other customers in China and the United States have also had the firm’s 90 employees working overtime, and the company now is being courted by waterparks in Vietnam, Russia and Sweden.
So big is the demand, in fact, it says its Alottawata park planned for Ottawa’s south end, originally scheduled to open in 2010, now will likely not open until 2015 or later.
However, “We remain 100 per cent committed to this project,” insists Jeff Janovich, ProSlide’s vice-president of business development.
“But we’ve been so busy. ProSlide has always been our main focus and continues to be our main focus, especially as the market increases and demand increases.”
Alottawata, when it opens, will join two other area waterparks: Calypso, in Limoges, 40 minutes east of Ottawa, and ProSlide’s own Mont Cascades park just north of Gatineau.
Work started in 2008 at the site at Bankfield/Brophy Road and Moodie Drive, near Highway 416. The property has been cleared and contoured for drainage, and some pools have been dug out.
“We think it’s in the right market, in the right location, in a growing part of the city near Manotick, Barrhaven and Kanata — we just think it’s the right place,” says Janovich.
But maintaining ProSlide’s momentum and filling the booming demand for waterslides, he adds, have to be the top priorities.
Leading the sales surge are the award-winning HydroMagnetic rides, referred to as water-coasters.
They use the technology that powers bullet trains to pull rafts with metal plates in their bases through a water ride at intense speeds. The technology was created by ProSlide and first installed in a waterpark in Australia in 2006.
Negatively charged magnets are installed on hills along the ride, creating a magnetic field that allows the raft to hover while ascending the hill at the same speed at which it will descend. Water passing under the raft reduces friction and smooths out the ride. As a bonus, the magnetic pull allows for more people to be carried in a raft.
“Because it’s so strong, we can go from four riders to six riders, which is unheard of with regards to a water ride,” said Janovich. “This creates a bigger ride and gets people to sit in a round raft where they are facing each other and it’s that interaction in a ride that’s always been very popular.”
The magnetic slides are mammoth in scale and can cost $3 million to $6 million. One of the slides installed at the $250-million Abu Dhabi park stretches for more than 350 metres. It’s called Falcon’s Falaj.
ProSlide was founded by Rick Hunter in 1986. A one-time member of the Canadian alpine ski team, Hunter turned his passion for sliding into a business that has sold water rides to customers in dozens of countries around the world.
The privately held firm reported annual sales of more than $40 million in 2008 but wouldn’t reveal more current financial data.
However, a spokeswoman said sales have been increasing by more than 50 per cent annually over the past two years, as the global economic recovery strengthened and businesses began investing in new ways to attract consumer dollars.
“Certainly as the economy has improved globally over the last year and half or so, we’ve seen a lot of pent-up demand from our big clients in the U.S. and overseas as those markets start to develop,” Janovich confirms.
“There’s big stuff going on in places like Dubai. We’ve been doing projects in the UAE, there’s been a number of huge projects in China, we continue to do a number of expansion projects in the U.S.”
The company bought the 3.2-hectare waterpark at Mont Cascades to showcase its waterslide designs to potential customers, and says the 40 ha Alottawata park will have a similar role.
The park was originally planned to have 10 rides covering a 20 ha area that includes parking and services, with the remainder of the site reserved for expansion. ProSlide has earmarked $20 million to $30 million to develop the park.
Alottawata is expected to draw more than 5,000 visitors daily and generate up to 120 seasonal jobs.
ProSlide has sold several slides to Calypso, which opened to daily crowds in 2010 and continues to expand, spending $1 million on new rides in 2012. The 40 ha park bills itself as Canada’s largest.
Janovich says ProSlide isn’t concerned about competing with Calypso because it is well outside Ottawa and part of its goal is to attract people from Montreal.
Alottawata will focus solely on attracting visitors from within the capital.
“They have been there for three years, they have a head start. They are there and we always knew they were going to be there,” he says.
“If you look at the city and you look at the population concentration … being in the west end and being located off the (Highway) 416, there is where all the families are.
“We are a company that focuses on ride innovation, we want to put the latest and greatest rides into our park. That is going to blow away any other waterpark, whether it’s in Ottawa or anywhere else.”
Demand for ProSlide products such as its new HydroMagnetic Tornado in Abu Dhabi means new Ottawa waterpark will be delayed.
ProSlide vice-president of business development Jeff Janovich, left, and founder Rick Hunter with waterslide models produced by a 3D printer.
Six people can ride facing one another on magnetically propelled rafts in ProSlide’s new HydroMagnetic Tornado slide