Alabama thrill park nears start

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TRAVEL - BRADY MAC­DON­ALD

A new theme park com­ing to Alabama’s Gulf Coast hopes to fill a void left by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina’s de­struc­tion of Six Flags New Or­leans more than a decade ago.

The Owa theme park, about 45 min­utes south­east of Mo­bile, is set to open May 17. It will fea­ture 20 rides as part of a $500 mil­lion com­plex built by a lo­cal Amer­i­can In­dian tribe.

The 14-acre site will be the big­gest amuse­ment park in Alabama and the only nearby op­tion for se­ri­ous thrill seek­ers in a four-state area.

Oper­a­tors hope res­i­dents in Louisiana, Ar­kan­sas, Mis­sis­sippi and Alabama will view Owa as an al­ter­na­tive to big­ger theme parks in the re­gion: Dixie Landin’ in Ba­ton Rouge; Wild Ad­ven­tures in Val­dosta, Ga.; and Six Flags Over Ge­or­gia out­side At­lanta.

Owa is also po­si­tion­ing it­self as an al­ter­na­tive to the pricier Dis­ney and Uni­ver­sal parks in Or­lando, Fla.

Since the loss of Six Flags New Or­leans in 2005, theme park buffs in the re­gion have been left with tiny beach-side amuse­ment and wa­ter parks along the Gulf of Mex­ico.

Italy-based Zam­perla will pro­vide all the rides for Owa park, in­clud­ing three roller coast­ers.

The mar­que Rollin’ Thun­der coaster will be a clone of the Thun­der­bolt at New York’s Coney Is­land. The 125-foot-tall loop­ing steel coaster will fea­ture a 110-foot ver­ti­cal lift and four in­ver­sions, in­clud­ing a dive loop, a corkscrew and a heart-line roll.

The other two coast­ers: A wild mouse ride with spin­ning cars and an oval kid­die one with a mid­course he­lix.

The thrill rides are: Disk’O half-pipe ride;

Air Race air­plane ride, which sim­u­lates an acro­batic air show;

Dis­cov­ery pen­du­lum swing, with out­ward-fac­ing seats and a ro­tat­ing gon­dola;

En­ter­prise-style ride at­tached to a tilt­ing arm with swing­ing gon­dola seats;

A 125-foot-tall swing tower. More fam­ily ori­ented rides are:

40-foot-tall hot air bal­loon tower ride;

Wave Swing carousel; Rockin’ Tug half-pipe ride; Kid­die drop tower; Teacups; Au­topia-style big-rig truck driv­ing course;

5 Dumbo-style spin­ning flat rides (Aero­zoom, Magic Bikes, Fly­ing Tigers, Jump Around and Mini Jet).

Zam­perla is a com­pany that cre­ates most of the rides at parks in Italy, Ger­many, Guatemala, Iraq and North Korea as well as at Luna Park at New York’s Coney Is­land. Un­like Luna Park, Zam­perla will not use Owa as a prov­ing ground for new rides.

Owa will be lo­cated about 10 miles from the gulf in Fo­ley. The prop­erty was orig­i­nally de­vel­oped as the Blue Col­lar Coun­try theme park by the com­edy team of Bill Eng­vall, Jeff Fox­wor­thy and Larry the Cable Guy.

When the $200 mil­lion project fell through, the Poarch Band of Creek In­di­ans stepped in to take over the de­vel­op­ment. The 520-acre com­plex will in­clude a shop­ping cen­ter, ho­tels and a youth sports com­plex. Fu­ture ex­pan­sion also calls for a wa­ter park, con­do­mini­ums and an RV park.

Owa will be built around a lake and themed to a small South­ern town with a down­town area and ware­house dis­trict. Owa means “big wa­ter” in the tribal lan­guage.

Hand­out photo

Alabama’s pop­u­lar Gulf Coast is get­ting a new theme park — Owa — in May. The park is ex­pected to of­fer a long list of rides and a less-ex­pen­sive al­ter­na­tive to Dis­ney and Uni­ver­sal parks.

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