FORT SMITH – Summer activities such as swimming are becoming extremely popular to stay cool with area temperatures expected to be between 90 and 100 for the rest of the month.
Parrot Island Water Park in Fort Smith opened for the 2022 season on May 14, with operators expecting record attendance this year.
“It’s going well,” said Lauren Mathis, director of sales and advertising for the water park. “This has been one of our best seasons yet. All the guests love the new additions to the season schedule, live shows, weekend sirens, fire shows in dark waters.”
Parrot Island is jointly owned by the City of Fort Smith and Sebastian County, and operated by American Resort Management Inc. of Erie, Pennsylvania, which takes 5% of gross revenue as compensation. The park cost around $9.8 million to build and opened in 2015.
County Judge David Hudson told the county quorum court at a meeting in February that the park had a net gain of $285,070 in 2021. This is due to the park having recorded more than 1, $8 million in revenue versus over $1.5 million in expenses. Parrot Island ended 2021 with a balance of $429,253.
Mathis said Thursday that the park has yet to see an increase in attendance due to the weather, but employees are taking steps to ensure everyone is hydrated, wearing sunscreen and staying cool.
“I feel like that’s really a destination we have here in Fort Smith,” Mathis said. “We have our concession stand, we have ice cream, we have entertainment, we have a Flow Rider which is the only one in the area, we have something for everyone, basically. So it’s a fun place to all during the summer.”
The outdoor water park features the area’s only two-person tube slide; a wave pool and lazy river; as well as four twisting and turning slides; a pool of activities; and a themed water play area for children. It also has a variety of amenities including party pavilions, cabana rentals, food and beverage concessions, 800 lounge chairs and loungers, over 250 water tubes, and expansive lawns for relaxing. .
This year will also be the first full season for the O’Hana Highway tube slide. At nearly 40 feet high, the open-channel slide sends riders splashing high up the sides while being swung through three 360-degree turns. It can be mounted alone or in pairs.
“He was very popular,” Mathis said.
The water park’s location at Ben Geren Park means visitors are also close to mini-golf, go-karts, playground equipment, picnic areas and outdoor pavilions, softball and soccer fields, tennis courts, a 1.5 mile fitness and walking circuit, two 18 hole disc golf courses, over 8 miles of paved bike paths, 11 miles of mountain biking trails and a golf course of 27 hole county.
Returning participant Nicole McKinney said she tries to get to the water park at least once a summer and likes the paddling pool because it’s very kid-friendly.
New entrant Christina Nuckolls said she definitely wants to come back and enjoy the lazy river while the five kids she brought with her play.
Parrot Island manager Drew Peterson said in May the park’s first year drew around 95,000 attendees, with the 2021 season drawing 89,000 after having limited capacity in 2020 due to covid-19. He said pre-season passes this year have already surpassed 2021, with the water park expected to accommodate between 100,000 and 120,000 attendees.
Parrot Island is bringing back fan-favorite activities, plus some new ones, to help boost attendance.
Returning events include Military Day on July 23 and First Responders Day on Saturday, with active duty members receiving free admission and immediate family members receiving a 50% discount.
Educators are newly recognized this year with their own Appreciation Day on July 30, and there’s a final Boy Scout Day on Thursday with reduced park entry prices for girls and their families.
Dark Water Swim Nights have additional days this year, and there will also be several days designated as Back to School Splash.
“It’s been going really well so far this season, and I think the rest of the season is going to be great,” Mathis said.