...no, wait, that’s not it at all. It all started with an undeveloped chunk of land at
the far end of a public airstrip in Northern Idaho situated next to a booming regional
theme park. Got it? It was on this chunk of land that Silverwood Theme Park decided to
bite the bullet and jump into the waters (ha-ha) of the world of water parks.
turn back the clock a few years, shall we? It is 2000. The turn of the century
is upon us. Silverwood has seen unprecedented numbers in terms of attendance and revenue
due to the 1999 opening of a little roller coaster gem called Tremors. What to do next?
Of course, to this point, the public knows Silverwood only as a theme park. Rumors and
thoughts were that perhaps another coaster was on its way in a year or two. Then
Silverwood shocked us all. In January 2001, the announcement was made: way up here in
the mountains of Northern Idaho, Silverwood would build a 12-acre waterpark called
As our story continues, keep in mind that at this point there are already several water
park options in the greater Spokane / Couer d’Alene area. Silverwood knows the risks of
such an investment. Would a water park really work? Would the theme park suffer? Would
people come to ride both coasters and bring their bathing suits? Silverwood knew that
in order for Boulder Beach to truly work, it had to set itself apart from the other
offerings. Why drive even further out into the isolated Athol territory for a few more
So what would separate Silverwood from the pack? Well, of course the answer was clear:
offer water attractions not found at those other parks. A wave pool. A lazy river. A
large interactive kiddie area. And four massive tube slides. Theme the thing to the
extreme. Large, wide walkways. Food, lockers and gift shops. Then, best of all, give
guests to Silverwood entrance to Boulder Beach for no extra charge. Forget the Six Flags
model: pay once price, get into two parks. Why? Nancy DiGiammarco, Silverwood’s
Marketing Director, said it best, "We think [guests will] spend all day in the water
park, and say `Oh, it's 7 o'clock. We haven't been on the roller coaster yet...they'll
come back the next day, and that means more room nights in hotels, and more visitors
for the region." Yep, it was time to make Silverwood Theme Park a multi-day
destination. The investment was huge, risky, and exciting all at once. Time for Silverwood
to put a shovel in the ground and keep their fingers crossed that all would go as planned.
Unfortunately from this point, Boulder Beach was anything but smooth sailing. First, the
water park was delayed an entire year. Originally scheduled to open in 2002, there were
several factors that threw this obstacle in the face of park management. First up: the
public airstrip that sits parallel to the theme park. Long a unique gem of Silverwood,
either end of the airstrip was where Boulder Beach was planned to be located. The
decision was made: in order for the park to be built, this would no longer be a public
airstrip. No longer would guests be able to fly personal aircraft into Silverwood. And
the airstrip was not the only reason for the delay. Further decisions arose surrounding
zoning, location, traffic flow, and other logistics. They wanted to make sure they got it
right, and that they didn’t jump into something they weren’t ready for.
Finally in the Winter of 2002-2003, groundbreaking began. The park spent a chilly winter
assembling slides, and spring saw the landscaping the ground and putting the finishing
touches on the much anticipated addition. When the Summer of 2003 hit, Silverwood was
ready to open the gates to its new, massive investment, and hope that it paid off with a
massive group of satisfied guests.
The public reception was incredible. The $5.5 million dollar first phase of Boulder Beach
water park saw attendance rise over 46 percent from the previous season, and the single-day
attendance record for Silverwood was shattered. Guests flocked to Big Moose Bay, a giant
wave pool with the pump building painted to a wilderness theme. They floated along the
850-foot Elkhorn Creek lazy river, stopping occasionally at the floating bar for a drink to
take on their next trip around the course. Kids and parents both splashed and slid in
Polliwog Park – a "kiddie" area that resembled a giant shower with water guns,
water slides, spouts, and puddles, topped off with a giant 580-gallon bucket that dumps on
the entire structure about every five minutes. Finally, guests grabbed single or double
tubes and headed for one of the four tube slides at Rumble Falls – two completely dark
enclosed slides, one that is ½ exposed, ½ enclosed, and one fully exposed. Beach Boys and
other surf-happy music blasted throughout the park. Poorly tanned Northwest bodies had
found an Oasis in the mountains. The response was overwhelming.
Perhaps too overwhelming? As the summer went on, Silverwood noticed one unanticipated
item: Boulder Beach was almost too popular, if that were possible. Plans for a 2005
expansion were bumped up to 2004, and immediately during the fall of 2003, the Velocity Peak
speed slide tower was built. Built to accommodate another 1,000 guests per hour, the three
slide tower would include one 55-mph 62 vertical-foot "giant drop", one three-bump
slide, and a twisting, enclosed blackened tube slide. All three would be body slides,
something that could not be experienced outside of the Polliwog Park complex to that point.
The teen and adult crowd now had a part of Boulder Beach to really get their thrills
fixed – something that would allow the water park to challenge even the mighty Tremors
coaster next door.
Of course, Velocity Peak was again a success. How could it not be? Silverwood had truly
reached a whole new status with this massive expansion taking place in only two short
years. It was clear that the park was going to do whatever it took to be the theme park
destination of not only the Spokane metropolitan area, but the entire Northwest of the
United States. Once again in 2004, records were broken, and Silverwood management itself
was surprised at just how well the expansion was received. So what next? Another
expansion? This would be too soon, right?
Well, right. The powers that be decided to give Boulder Beach some much needed R&R in
2005 and 2006, focusing on giving the Theme Park – remember that little place? – a chance
to add some much needed new thrills and a little bit of TLC. But despite a two year
break, Boulder Beach increased in popularity to the point that "Silverwood" and
"water park" were becoming almost as synonymous as "Silverwood" and
"roller coasters". Silverwood knew that with as crowded as Boulder Beach had
become each year, and due to the fact that the water park is only open during the summer
– about half the time of the theme park’s operating season – capacity was at a maximum
and Boulder Beach would need to grow. Again.
2006 was the year of yet another major announcement during the offseason – it was time
to grow Boulder Beach again. However, unlike the 2004 expansion of a three-slide tower,
the 2007 addition would cost $5 million – almost as much as Boulder Beach when it opened
– and almost double the size of the park with a second wave pool (identical to the first),
a private "island" called Cabana Island situated on a narrow strip of land
between the two wave pools that was available to guests for rent, a new kids area called
Toddler Springs – with water spouting everywhere – and, best of all, a giant new 650-foot
family raft slide dubbed Avalanche Mountain – Silverwood’s longest, biggest slide ever
where 6 person rafts would careen down a giant mountain through themed woods and around
giant curves before splashing down in a pool at the bottom of a canyon.
Again in 2007, Silverwood saw guests flock to Boulder Beach and the feedback was
overwhelmingly positive. Records were broken – AGAIN – and Silverwood’s Boulder Beach
was now large enough to consume an entire day (or more), making Silverwood’s quest to
be a multi-day destination even more secure. A day or two in the theme park, and a
day or two at Boulder Beach. Who needs Disneyland, right? ;)
As our story ends it is clear that Boulder Beach has done exactly – well maybe a bit
more – than it originally set out to do. The water park clearly shows Silverwood’s
commitment to guest experience. Large open spaces, plenty of places to get wet, and
tons of offerings for everyone from first-time toddlers to seasoned thrill seekers.
And speaking of Disney, the theming at Boulder Beach deserves special attention.
Silverwood has chosen to make this water park a true "experience" rather
than simply taking off-the-shelf water attractions and dumping them onto a slab of
concrete. It’s all what makes Boulder Beach a world-class – yep, you read that
correctly – experience, and an investment the park will never regret.