x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The Wadi to grow a bit Wilder

The Jumeirah Sceirah has been thrilling excitement-seekers from all over the world for more than 12 years. But although visitors can hurtle down the Wild Wadi slide at 80kph, time has caught up with it and a bigger and better ride is to replace it in the summer.

A visitor slides down the Jumeirah Sceirah in Dubai's Wild Wadi Water Park. The tallest and fastest free fall water slide outside North America is being taken down to be replaced by an equally 'thrilling' attraction.
A visitor slides down the Jumeirah Sceirah in Dubai's Wild Wadi Water Park. The tallest and fastest free fall water slide outside North America is being taken down to be replaced by an equally 'thrilling' attraction.
After 12 years of terrifying people brave enough to hurl themselves down its 33-metre-long slide, the Jumeirah Sceirah at Dubai's Wild Wadi Water Park has finally run dry.

The park has closed its doors so workers can begin taking down the famous slide, along with the rest of the structure. When the tourist attraction reopens on February 1, only the slide's tower will be left.

The Jumeirah Sceirah may have had the wow factor for more than a decade, but today's thrill-seekers are looking for something more breathtaking, according to Chris Perry, the park's general manager, who revealed the decision to take down the popular ride was based on comments from visitors calling for more "high-throw attractions".

"People want the type of rides that take your breath away and really get the adrenaline going," he said. "Rides you don't see at your typical water park."

Mr Perry said visitors can now look forward to a bigger and better ride, which is expected to be ready for operation by the end of the summer.

"This slide has done us very well over the years, but the way technology has developed there are just so many other new things out there."

The attraction that will replace the Jumeirah Sceirah, the tallest slide outside North America up until three days ago, will be "just as exciting and thrilling", according to Mr Perry, although details are not ready to be revealed just yet.

"It's being tendered right now, we're just finalising things for the demolition package and the main contractor and designer."

Hayden Holmes, the water park's manager, said the demolition marks the "end of an era".

"It's a very sad state of affairs for us. The tower and the slide has become as much a part of the Dubai landscape as any of the buildings around it," said Mr Holmes, who has worked at Wild Wadi since it opened in 1999.

The decision to remove the slide may have come as a surprise to fans of Wild Wadi but bosses said plans had been pending for a while, although they were not officially approved until after the park closed for maintenance on January 11.

Mr Perry said the management, Jumeirah Hotel Group, decided to take advantage of the closure to make things "more convenient for guests".

"We would have liked to have told people about the plans to take it down in advance so that they could have come in for a last ride before we started demolishing, but it all happened very quickly," he said.

The Jumeirah Sceirah, which hurtled visitors down an almost vertical water slide at speeds of up to 80kph, has seen 30 seasons of use since the park opened in August 1999.

Rumours about someone falling from the slide began circulating this week after the park closed, but Mr Perry said these were false, sparked by a campaign on Wild Wadi's Facebook page.

The park's employees had uploaded photos of the team dressed all in black, looking sad with their heads hanging over the edge of the slide, mourning its departure.

"We were putting on a kind of parody about the death of the Jumeirah Sceirah, but then we suddenly had tonnes of comments and people started thinking someone had died," said Mr Perry. "We posted a comment saying it was only a teaser of more to come and that we'd never had a death inside the park".

This was not the only rumour circulating about the park recently. Last week Wild Wadi became caught up in an international online "design" scam.

Mr Perry revealed he was contacted by Steven Harris, a Yale University architecture professor, enquiring about a design competition he had found online to create a new waterslide for Wild Wadi.

Prof Harris wanted to bring his students to Dubai to take part in the competition.

"Someone set up a design competition without our knowledge. We had no idea about it until Yale approached us for more information," said Mr Perry.

The phony competition asked for a US$50 (Dh183) fee to enter and promised the winning team US$10,000 and the chance to design a new slide at the park.

Mr Perry said he tried to contact the person who advertised the competition but without any luck.

"He didn't respond, so it looks like a scam. It's amazing what some people will do to make money." The website was removed a few days later.

This is the second time the park has undergone changes to its rides in recent months. Last year two new attractions - the Tamtrum Alley and the Burj Surj - were added, bringing the number of rides to 30.