Glitch prompts cancellation of media preview of world's tallest water slide, threatens opening

Bill Draper / The Associated Press
June 25, 2014 08:05 PM

A Nov. 2013 photo shows Schlitterbahn's new Verrückt speed slide/water coaster in Kansas City, Kan. A spokeswoman for the waterpark in Kansas says crews are still trying to fix a mechanical problem with the world's tallest water slide. Unless it can be fixed by Sunday, the ride's official opening may be delayed for a third time.. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Jill Toyoshiba)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Problems with a conveyor system designed to haul rafts to the top of the world's tallest water slide have forced officials to cancel two scheduled media sneak preview days and could delay the ride's official opening for the third time.

National and local media members were scheduled to take rides Thursday and Friday on the 17-story, 168-foot-tall Verruckt water slide, but Schlitterbahn Waterpark spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said glitches last weekend with the conveyor hadn't been resolved in time for that to happen.

There's a chance the Kansas City, Kansas, attraction will be ready for operation on Sunday — more than a month after it had been slated to open May 23 — as long as the issues have been ironed out, she said.

"When we had problems this weekend, we flew in parts, flew in people, flew in all kinds of stuff," Prosapio said Wednesday. "Crews are still working toward Sunday. That's still our goal."

Verruckt, which means "insane" in German, was certified as the world's tallest water slide in April by Guinness World Records. The slide sends riders on four-person rafts plummeting at 60 to 70 mph.

The ride's official opening date was moved from the May date to June 5 to allow for more testing, then pushed back again to June 29. Prosapio said park officials would not hesitate to delay operation for however long it takes to make sure the slide is safe.

"We'll take embarrassment before putting someone in the slide when it is not ready," she said.

Sunday's opening would coincide with a one-hour special on the Travel Channel titled "Xtreme Waterparks" documenting the designing and building of Verruckt. A promotional video for the show includes footage of two men riding a raft down a half-size test model of the slide and going slightly airborne as it crests the top of the first big hill.

The conveyor system hauls the 100-pound rafts to the top of the slide because "that's not something you can have guests carry up 264 steps," Prosapio said.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, inspected the ride to make sure it was structurally sound but is not responsible for the safety of riders, Unified Government spokesman Edwin Birch said.

"There are very few, if any, rules in the state of Kansas regulating amusement parks and rider safety," Birch said.

Prosapio said the water slide is still in the manufacturing phase and "hasn't been handed over as a completed project."

Park owners have high hopes for the ride, which they anticipate becoming a destination attraction.

The opening of a second highly anticipated ride in the area, SteelHawk at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri, also has been delayed.

The ride, which spins people around a 301-foot tower, was supposed to open last month. In announcing the delay in the scheduled May 24 opening, a park spokesman attributed the setback to bad weather and said the ride would open within a few days.

A Worlds of Fun spokeswoman didn't immediately return a call Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.


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