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.

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

JAMES PARK/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN

De­mand for ProSlide prod­ucts such as its new Hy­droMag­netic Tor­nado in Abu Dhabi means new Ot­tawa wa­ter­park will be de­layed.

JAMES PARK/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN

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

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