It's time to rethink "rec center."
Friday, the city of Grand Prairie will open Epic Waters -- an 80,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor water park -- owned by, well, the people of Grand Prairie. It definitely isn't your ma and pa's old-school public swimming pool.
Epic Waters is the second phase of a massive project in a 700-acre area off of the George Bush Turnpike in Grand Prairie that the city has dubbed EpicCentral. When complete, the multiple-facility complex will include fitness, educational, social and entertainment venues.
The water park, covered by a UV-protected retractable roof, will be open year-round. Climate control technology will keep the water and indoor temperature at a balmy 85 degrees.
Attractions include the Rio Grand --the "e" has been dropped as a reference to Grand Prairie, get it? -- a 600-foot lazy river with periodic wave surges to simulate a real river; a FlowRider surfing simulator; and an area for children under 48 inches tall called Rascal's Roundup.
For those over 48 inches tall, Epic Waters is home to rides like the Lassoloop -- the largest slide of its type in the country, according to a press statement. Upon reaching the top of 163-step staircase, riders can take in a view of downtown Dallas before climbing into a capsule reminiscent of a spaceship.
Then, whoosh, the capsule's bottom falls out, sending the rider on a free fall down the slide. Centripetal force then catapults the rider uphill and upside down through a full loop. Fun fact: Riders must weigh at least 98 pounds for the physics to work properly; you might even be asked to step on a scale to be sure.
The Lassoloop is one of three "first-in-the-industry" types of slides that offer off-the-wall experiences. But not everyone will go to Epic Waters to get or stay wet. The facility also has an arcade, concession stand, picnic areas and a full bar. Its creative inception has been likened to "a cruise ship on land," the statement says.
One way in which Epic Waters is similar to a traditional rec center is in cost.
Daily admission at ranges from $5 to $29, depending on age. And, as with a traditional rec center, Grand Prairie residents get a discount. There are also options for season and yearly passes, and unlike water parks at Great Wolf Lodge, the Hilton Anatole and other hotels, Epic Waters doesn't require the additional expense of an overnight stay.
Parking is free, in an ample lot with a golf cart shuttle service, as are life vests and inner tubes. Lockers are available for rent, and no outside food or drinks are allowed.
Mayor Ron Jensen says he has wanted to open a water park for years.
In the mid-80s, Grand Prairie's former water amusement park White Water was purchased by Wet 'n Wild, Inc. It was then closed to reduce competition with that company's newly installed park in Arlington, now known as Hurricane Harbor, according to The Dallas Morning News reports from 1986.
It was an unpopular move, one the Grand Prairie City Council protested in court, the reports add. Epic Waters will finally correct that loss, Jensen says, as his ambitious vision for the area continues to take shape.
Over the next year, Grand Prairie will have what he calls a "big honking fitness center" in The Epic, a multi-use facility that features a professional recording studio, a test kitchen for culinary arts and a "listening room" style venue modeled after Dallas' Kessler Theater. As with Epic Waters and other traditional recreation centers, admission for classes, performances, room reservations and facility use will vary, depending on membership and other variables.
The Epic is set to open in May, following the opening of the Grand Lawn Amphitheater, an outdoor performing arts venue that will seat up to 10,000 people. The amphitheater is set to open during a festival called The Big Event on March 24. In the fall, the city plans to open Texas' largest all-abilities playground called PlayGrand Adventures, which will also be within EpicCentral and will be free to the public.
When funds allow, Jensen also hopes to open Epic X, an extreme sports facility, but that one remains more dream than reality at this point.
However, the mayor seems to have a knack for causing such lofty plans to materialize.
When he noted that the city was close to paying off baseball fields and the Summit rec center, he saw an opportunity to combine and redirect sales taxes that were no longer needed for those projects toward Epic Waters -- a proposal, he says, that residents enthusiastically approved.
When indoor-outdoor water park Epic Waters opens on Friday, Jan. 12 at 5 p.m., the first 50 guests will receive a free year pass. The next 50 will receive a $100 Epic Waters gift card. Lines may form as early as 8 a.m. on Friday; there will be a parking lot party vibe during the wait, according to director of sales Eric Arthur. Epic Waters is located at 2970 Epic Place in Grand Prairie.
Scroll through for more photos of wild slides and epic splashes: