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A river runs through it: Canobie Lake Park expands water park

Union Leader Correspondent

May 24. 2018 10:08AM
Canobie Lake Park owner and attraction designer Ray Captell is overseeing construction of the water park. (Ryan Lessard/Union Leader Correspondent)

SALEM — Brett Parker of Hudson and his two kids can’t wait for the newly expanded water park to open at Canobie Lake Park.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Parker, who lives 15 minutes away from the park and brings his family every year.

“My kids have literally been going there since they could walk,” he said.

The park is nearing completion of its single largest off-season expansion in its 116-year history. Construction started earlier this year.

The multi-million dollar project, which adds a 563-foot tidal river ride, a new tube slide tower and other attractions to its Castaway Island water park, covers a two-acre area within the park’s 70 acres. It is due to open sometime this summer.

Canobie Lake brand manager Chris Nicoli said the park used much of the old train ride area to make room for the additions. The slides are built, as is about half of the river, which loops around them.

Nicoli said it looks and feels like a lazy river ride.

But owner and attraction designer Ray Captell said it’s not too lazy. The river will be constantly propelled by a giant vacuum system that sucks up the water and pushes it out.

“The kids get in there with the waves and they have a blast,” Captell said.

Construction of the tidal river is in progress. It will use 320,000 gallons of water. (Ryan Lessard/Union Leader Correspondent)

Captell drew up most of the plans for the expansion and has been overseeing the construction. 

Later this week, crews will be using a crane to install a giant foam Octopus to crown the top of the new 60-foot water slide canopy. Eventually, a food stand will be turned into a giant pineapple and the wave maker for the tidal river — which currently looks like a massive metal barrel — will look like a big tiki head.

Salem Town Planner Ross Moldoff said projects like these make his job more interesting.

“It’s kind of fun to be the planner in a town with an amusement park where the rides need approval from the Planning Board,” Moldoff said in an email.

In addition to the rides, there will be a “tot splash pad” for smaller children, a tropical-theme restaurant called the Outrigger Grill, a bar called the Monkey Bar and 12 private cabanas with concierge service that can be rented out for about $200 a day, Nicoli estimates. The price hasn’t been finalized. Each cabana can be used by up to nine people.

Castaway Island attendees will be set up with a cashless bracelet system for making purchases.

“The goal is to bring that resort-style vacation up here in New Hampshire,” Nicoli said.

Nicoli said park attendance traditionally drops in the hottest days of the summer, so expanding water park options and giving more shaded areas has long been on the drawing board. 

“Water is always something we wanted to increase,” Nicoli said.

The construction project also includes additional restroom facilities, a building to house the water pumps and a building for offices, first aid and employee training.

Nicoli would not comment on the cost of the project.

The tidal river will use 320,000 gallons of water. The slides and the run-out pool will use another 33,000 gallons.

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