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Houston's Theme Park Wars

Houston's theme park wars heat up: New competition spurs an old standby to up its game

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Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown rendering January 2014
By April, SplashTown will have three new attractions as a host of other major improvements. Rendering courtesy of Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown

The former Six Flags CEO on duty during AstroWorld's 2005 closure has returned Houston market with plans to reinvent one of the area's most popular water parks.

Kieran Burke and his Premier Attractions Management company revealed major goals for SplashTown in Spring, starting with newly-built attractions, a revamped dining area and a redesigned entry plaza. The 53-acre park also will get a fresh logo and website to match its rebranded name, Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown.

News of the overhaul comes as the upcoming Grand Texas Theme Park in nearby New Caney moves ahead with plans to build its own Lone Star-themed water park, which is scheduled to open in spring 2015.

To maintain its A-game, SplashTown will introduce a trio of memorable new rides this April. FlowRider creates a surfing experience with man-made waves moving as fast at 35 miles an hour. Big Kahuna blasts five-person rafts through unpredictable twisting tunnels. Wet 'n' Wild Jr. gives kids the VIP treatment with smaller rides designed specifically for children.

"Our goal here is to take an already great park and improve it even more." 

"It feels great to be working in Houston again," says Burke, who coincidentally purchased the water park as CEO of Six Flags in 1999. Not long after his departure from the corporation in late 2005, Six Flags sold the park only to watch Burke's newly-founded Premier Attractions take the reigns again in 2010.

While he wouldn't disclose the amount of money his company will inject into renovations, Burke tells CulutreMap that the improvements mark the beginning of a long-term commitment to the park. Additional undeveloped land around SplashTown, he says, could mean more opportunities in the coming years.

As for his Houston reputation as the man who closed AstroWorld, Burke stresses just how hard the decision was to make at the time.

"AstroWorld had been there for a long time and it made me incredibly sad to close it," he says. "But I had a responsibility to Six Flag and to its shareholders. Given its condition and location and the costs to modernize, we just couldn't get the numbers to work. We had big offers pouring in for the land at the time and it just made more sense to close it."

With SplashTown, he hopes to once again "add something special" to the Houston entertainment community.

"Our goal here is to take an already great park and improve it even more . . . ," Burke says. "We're in this for the long haul and are focused on doing it the right way."

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