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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Wonder Oasis Waterpark


Slip slidin’ away at Wonder Oasis Waterpark.

Prepare to be WOWed

When it opened in the 1980s, Water Town USA—just off Interstate 20 and not far from the Louisiana-Texas state line – was the place to be cool and get cool.

Parents brought their kids for hours, and often an entire day, of slippin’ and slidin’.

As time passed and the park changed ownership and names, those parents became grandparents, and those kids became parents. But one thing stayed the same – summer trips to the water park.

“The one thing I’ve noticed in talking to people is they still call it Water Town,” says new owner Lee Hovis. “Even though the name has changed now twice (it most recently was Splash Kingdom), that’s its identity. Everybody talks about, ‘Oh, yeah, I used to go there as a kid, and now I’m bringing my grandkids there.’ That’s a tradition, and that’s not something you can build new. You can’t build a tradition. There’s a community sense that I really love, and that I think is pretty special.”

This past January, Hovis, a 59-year-old veteran of the water park industry, entered into a two-year lease agreement with the park’s previous owner. The facility is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend. Its new name is Wonder Oasis Waterpark, or WOW for short.

“We want to create want to create WOW experiences. We want to create everybody leaving, going, ‘WOW, really cool!”

Hovis worked at several parks during his career and had just last year settled into his role as general manager of Big Rivers Water Parks and Adventures, some 30 miles north of Houston. But the Shreveport opportunity was too good to ignore.

“It was the perfect storm. (The owner of Splash Kingdom) invited me up to see the park. I came in and just saw all this potential. …It just reminded me of some of these other parks I’ve been involved with.”

Hovis has short-term, short/medium-term and long-term plans for Wonder Oasis.

In the short term, he says, “We want to get everything working. …We’re going to make sure everything is operational and safe. That’s the number one priority. The second thing is to clean it up. There was a lot of concern (from past guests) that bathrooms were dirty, and the place looks like it’s aged a little bit. The third part is we need to fix some of the concrete. We’re going to do some patching, but for the most part, we’re going to rip concrete out and put in new concrete.”

In the short/medium term, Hovis aspires to “continue to dress up the place. Add a lot of landscaping, make it more inviting, update the food service buildings, to where we can handle getting the right items so it’s not quick-serve type of stuff. We also want to add some smaller slides.”

In the long-term, he plans to “add in some new attractions – some major attractions. Something that is comparable to the slide towers which are already here … another slide tower with multiple slides coming off of it. Preferably multiple-rider slides, so people can do things together, as opposed to one at a time.”

Hovis could have stayed in Texas and hired someone to manage the park, but he prefers to be a hands-on operator. So, with little time to spare, he and his wife, Cindy, moved to Shreveport-Bossier City, where they are leasing a home until they get the lay of the land.

“It’s gotta be part of my heart and soul, just as it is to the people coming here. If something’s not exactly right, they should be able to tell the owner. It shouldn’t be that I have to send an email to corporate, and maybe they will get back to me. That’s just not the way I’ve ever felt it should be. Even when I’ve been with organizations which are bigger, I’ve always put myself out there as that contact. You don’t have to go to corporate. You know who’s in charge. Feel free to call me anytime. That’s my type of mentality.”

In high school and college, Hovis worked as a seasonal employee at a water park. He loved it so much that he gave up his dream of working behind the scenes in television as a director or editor. Hovis majored in broadcasting and was accepted to graduate school. Before enrolling, he worked one last summer at the park. He never left.

“You felt like you were really making someone happy. People are going to remember (their trip to the park) for the rest of their lives.”

Hovis knows that Wonder Oasis will never compete with the big parks at Disney World and Six Flags. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a nice, clean, fun attraction for people living in Shreveport-Bossier and the surrounding area.

“We can still grow. We can still add attractions, but just on a different scale. I’m very intrigued about being able to build this back up to where it was.”

To learn more about Wonder Oasis Waterpark, visit wonderoasiswaterpark.com.


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