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Old September 10th, 2014 #79
Alex Linder
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 45,342
Blog Entries: 34
Alex Linder

great article on water parks, their founders and history

Henry never finished high school and never formally learned to draw. All his knowledge came from his work along the river.

“The river was free,” Henry said. “I decided to build something that competed with it. That’s a scary thought: competing with a real river. It’s like building a surf ride and competing with a real wave.

“Well, you can’t compete with a river and you can’t compete with a wave,” he continued. “You can’t. Now, if there are no waves or the river’s dirty or polluted or flooded, you can get a lot of people coming to see you.” This pointed out the most profound difference between Henry and Millay. Millay sold us artificiality — a bigger, badder swimming pool; Henry was selling a slightly improved version of the natural world.

Henry often sleeps only a few hours a night. Ideas come to him in a waking dream state — that “weird space between his subconscious and what he’s seeing around him,” his assistant Steven Tyson explained. Recently, Tyson had talked to Henry about using some recycled telephone poles to make a shade structure. At Schlitterbahn, a “normal” shade structure consists of an old boat, rescued from salvage, that has been turned upside down and placed atop the poles. Henry stared at the poles, Tyson recalled, and suddenly announced a new idea: They would become the structural base of a tree house.

Henry doesn’t have Millay’s penchant for tantrums, but he can be a difficult boss. He likes to test his staff by introducing phony, off-the-wall ideas and gauging their reactions. “It’s amazing that people work with Jeff, because he’s so hard to work with,” Lochtefeld said. “But then again, that shows he’s got real charisma. He’s a real visionary, so people are willing to get through the rough spots to participate in the shining moments.”
In 1985, Henry went global. He opened a company called NBGS (New Braunfels General Store) and peddled his slides and tube rides to water parks around the world. Master Blasters now sit atop Disney cruise ships. But in 2006, Henry stopped selling slides and began to build more Schlitterbahn parks, claiming blank spots on the map as Millay had once attempted.

“I got bored,” Henry said. “You make money by building the same thing over and over and over again. I don’t like that. I don’t like building the same thing twice.”

He reflected on his boredom and said, “I guess that’s why I’ve been divorced so many times.”
Leaving the ride-selling business had a kind of moral component, too. Since Millay sold Wet ’n Wild, it has become increasingly rare — and expensive — for a park owner to sketch out a bitchin’ idea for a new ride and build it himself. Far more often, the owners turn to two Canadian firms, ProSlide and WhiteWater West, and ask what slides they know how to build. It’s like shopping for your water park in the Ikea catalogue. Henry thought the practice brought homogeneity to the industry, even if, as the designer of the best-selling Master Blaster, he had once been the guy hawking the catalogue.

“Rick Hunter, who owns ProSlide, is an egomaniac,” Henry told me. “And Geoff Chutter, who owns WhiteWater, is an egomaniac. Those guys, they’re not trying to create good parks. They’re just trying to outdo each other. And they need to quit doing that.

“They’re both friends of mine,” Henry added. “But I’m tired of it. I wish that they would stop. I wish they would work together and work with everybody and not be so competitive. You don’t have to have it all. Good lord.”
Verrückt is a very un-Henry idea. It’s a fiberglass monument — a George Millay kind of idea. It came to Henry at a trade show. “Some Travel Channel guys walked up to me,” he recalled, “and they said, ‘Hey, Jeff, we’re going to be doing this new show and we want to know what you’re doing new.’

“I said, ‘What is it that would get me to like no. 1 on your show?’

“They said, ‘Well, if it was the biggest, tallest, and fastest, that would do it.’

“I said, ‘I’m building the biggest, tallest, fastest.’

“And they said, ‘What?’

“I said, ‘It’s a speed blaster.’ Well, it didn’t exist. The concept didn’t exist. I just made it up on the spot. And then I came back and told my brother and sister. I said, ‘Mmmm, I just announced this major new ride.’”
notice similarity to matt groening (german NOT jew)'s simpsons, which was conceived in waiting room before meeting with executives

Last edited by Alex Linder; September 10th, 2014 at 10:43 PM.