Visitors to Darien Lake Resort's water park this summer will have nearly twice as much space to splash in and several new attractions to choose from.
The theme park on Tuesday announced a $7 million project that will expand its water park, renovate some hotel rooms and add cabins to the campground.
The project will add five acres to the 6.7-acre water park, to be known as SplashTown at Darien Lake.
"Have you ever been to our water park on a 90-degree day and kind of felt like you were in sardine land? Well, we listened to our guests and developed the larger space we needed," said Christopher Thorpe, Darien Lake's general manager.
The largest addition to the water park, called Swirl City Slide Complex, has four different water slides.
The Mister Twister track, which is 530 feet long, has "topsy-turvy" funnels that swirl riders around before plopping them through a hole in the bottom and onto another section of slide.
The Cannon Ball Run track, which is 298 feet long, boasts a high-speed plunge that sends riders swirling around a 40-foot-wide bowl before dropping them into a pool.
The Turbo Twins tracks, at 308 and 364 feet, are enclosed "dueling" slides that twist around the other tracks and have see-through sections.
The Flotation Station is a 16-foot-wide "lazy river" on which riders gently float along in single or double inflatable tubes.
Lazy Days Lagoon is a 44,500-gallon wave pool with a beachlike deck space.
In addition to the new expansion, the park's existing space will be revamped, opening it up and spreading it out for a roomier feel. The current lounge area behind Hook's Lagoon, for example, will expand to four times its current size.
"Water slides are as big a draw as roller coasters. It's something that's had big success in our industry," Thorpe said. "This will let the water park stand on its own against any water park in the country."
SplashTown admission is included in the $39.99 general theme park tickets, but separate tickets for just the water park can be purchased for $29.99.
Darien Lake will hire 50 to 60 seasonal workers to handle the additional space. It calculates those jobs will have the equivalent economic impact of 19 full-time positions.
The park also is making changes to its accommodations.
The park's Lodge on the Lake Hotel will transform 10 of its rooms to include log-cabinlike Forts-o-Fun bunkers for the kids, within the parents' room but with a privacy divide. The campgrounds will get 24 new Brown Bear Cabins, which look like log cabins on the outside but have a fireplace, wireless Internet, cable television and other upscale amenities inside.
The accommodations and cabins will be complete in time for the theme park's opening day May 8, while SplashTown will open on Memorial Day weekend, weather permitting.
Lynn Freeman, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, said attendance at the park was down last year due to a rainy summer. But he thinks Darien Lake will more than make up for it this year, estimating the expanded park could result in a 15 to 20 percent increase in business drawn from a roughly 300-mile radius.
The Genesee County Economic Development Center recently approved an incentive package that will give Darien Lake $383,200 in sales tax exemptions and another $48,746 in property tax exemptions over 10 years.