WWA 2018 Leading Edge Award Winner: The Center of Recreational Excellence (CORE) Waterpark

You’re caught outdoors in southern New Mexico. Maybe it’s nearing sunset and the sounds of hawks and other wildlife echo in the distance. As the sun sets on the horizon, intense hues are vividly cast across the sky and reflect off the surrounding terrain. You’re surrounded by an arid landscape of eroded sandstone rock formations, ocotillo cacti and bountiful places for adventure.

A storm forms overhead and turns the bright colored sky into dark purple tones. A bright flash of lightning fractures the sky and you anticipate the low rumble of thunder that you feel in your bones. It’s a warning of the rain to come which begins with a trickle and turns into a downpour that soaks the ground and creates small waterfalls off the nearby rock formations.

Water bubbles up from the saturated ground, even as the rain starts to subside. Traces of oil in the ground mix with the bubbling water, creating a pearlescent swirl in the water running down the terrain. The clouds clear from the sky revealing a brilliant sunset once again. The bubbling water seeps back into the earth. Sounds of local wildlife re-emerge and soon the cycle will begin all over again.

This isn’t the wilderness.

This is the Center of Recreational Excellence (CORE) waterpark in Hobbs, New Mexico where a lazy river, body slides, beach-entry pool, rain-simulating water feature, raft slide, waterfalls, play features and show sequences synchronize to immerse guests in the area’s “story.”

This is a winner of the World Waterpark Association 2018 Leading Edge Award, which is presented to individuals or parks for creativity in the development of new themes, facilities, programs, services or operational concepts in the water attractions industry; and to suppliers who have developed new concepts, products or services to the benefit of park members, their customers and the water attractions industry.

Taking a Grand Vision from Idea to the Drawing Board

Hobbs city officials’ and community donors’ vision for The CORE waterpark was ten years in the making. It was finally time to take their vision from idea to the drawing board.

Splashtacular’s team, alongside aquatic designers, pool builders, architects and electrical engineers, poured every ounce of their creativity and problem-solving skills into the CORE to make the city’s and donors’ visions a reality. Together, we developed unique solutions, such as custom LED lights that transform into a ballet of color-changing dodecahedrons, not found anywhere else in the world.

Our collective goal was to create a stunning resemblance of the local arid terrain, complete with eroded sandstone rock formations, ocotillo cacti and bountiful scenery, for an adventure that thrills guests of all ages at first sight and welcomes them back time and again.

The Surrounding Landscape Acts as the Project’s Muse

The terrain surrounding Hobbs, New Mexico served as an excellent muse for developing the CORE’s overall aesthetic. The CORE’s environment had to tell a story without words or voices, which makes working in the waterpark industry so exciting.

An Immersive Experience to the “Core”

From the floor to the ceiling, a combination of lighting, sound, ride mix, interactive features and show sequences all work together to achieve the goal of creating an immersive environment. We tell the story of New Mexico and you feel it wherever you are in the park.

On the ground level, there stands a custom-designed eroded sandstone island with rockscapes and multiple waterfalls. The middle of the island features a long row of high-flow fountain jets with embedded LED lights. Several stylized ocotillo cacti art sculptures dot the island and serve as a dominant focal point for the eye. In addition to being an artistic mirror of the local landscape, the island anchors the lazy river that flows around it.

Unlike outdoor waterpark projects, indoor venues give us another dimension – the ceiling – in which to work in elements that playfully reflect the environment. Overhead is where much of the “magic” happens at the CORE.

The ceiling is home to three larger clusters of hanging erosion rings that are visual in nature and create an intimate ambience for the CORE’s guests. These rings are a stylized representation of the eroded sandstone so common in the caves and canyons in the Hobbs area.

In combination with the erosion rings, geo clouds appear as idyllic clusters of translucent dodecahedrons. Unwilling to settle for ordinary lighting, custom LED lights and lighting diffuser shades were created, adding to the unique experience guests enjoy at the CORE. The fact that no other waterpark in the world has these lights is a point of pride for the city, the donors and the community.

An organic water feature simulating rain, sprays water into the pool below. Completing the sky is a rain cloud, hanging nearly 20 feet from the pool’s surface. This rain cloud has high output circular LED show lighting, two rings of water that spray out from the bottom to the beach entry below it, and a pair of subwoofers mounted to the top that are controlled by 2,000 watts of power.

Thrills & Excitement for All Ages

While the overhead features and island work in tandem for a sensory experience, waterslides and aquatic play features make the CORE thrilling and exciting fun for all ages. For younger guests, there are depth charges with push buttons in the pool to explore, plus highly interactive ground bubblers and playful water features in the beach entry.

A body slide with a top-five timing system appeals to riders’ competitive sides as they race for first place. A raft waterslide winds through the CORE’s workout facility and features an additional 2000 watts of sound, a LED light show, translucent effects and even a laminar waterfall that cascades onto riders. Waterslide supports are inverted and hang from the ceiling to preserve the awe-inspiring open view from the waterpark’s entry, which makes for a spectacular, unforgettable first impression for guests.

The Logistics of a Desert Storm

Replicating the environment up to the city’s and donors’ vision required a very unique set of solutions.

All facets of the water effects, lighting and sound are controlled by a custom touch panel. The tailored LED lighting in the geo and rain cloud run a sequence of striking colors to resemble a sunset’s signature yellow, orange and pink hues. A multi-thousand-watt sound system cues the distant coyote and hawk sounds through strategically placed speakers and subwoofers. A few minutes later, the LED light show grows darker with purple, blue and green hues. The animal sounds subside and the whistling winds pick up.

LED lighting produces a sudden bright white flash, and the sound system takes it from there with a powerful thunder clap. The water features go from a trickle to a downpour to the pools below. Five minutes later, the sandstone island overflows on both sides of the island, spilling over into the lazy river and ten gusher jets in the middle of the island bubble a few feet high, lit up in rainbow colors from below the surface. The island continues to bubble over for five more minutes. Eventually, the waterfalls and gusher jets die down and once again the sounds of coyotes and hawks re-emerge.

Sight, sound and water are perfectly timed and executed, from the hanging ceiling water features and the sound and light controls to the lazy river, so regardless of where guests are in the waterpark, they are fully engaged in the sensory experience. Rather than focus on illuminating specific features, the lighting is tied in to the building as a whole to create ambiance throughout the CORE.

The CORE waterpark serves as inspiration for everyone involved in the waterpark industry, offering a vision of what’s possible when unique approaches to using light, sound and immersive effects are taken.

Even more inspirational is having the opportunity to provide a narrative that encourages waterpark guests to create their own stories. We set out to design an immersive environment so close to the real thing that guests can suspend their disbelief and lose themselves in the natural beauty of the Hobbs wilderness that is recreated in the CORE’s waterpark. On opening day, the CORE’s guests experienced a waterpark unlike any other in the world.