Lake WinnepeSoakYa: Water park off to damp start with groundbreaking in rain

Lake WinnepeSoakYa: Water park off to damp start with groundbreaking in rain

January 10th, 2013 by Ellis Smith in Local Regional News

Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park.

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Adrienne White Rhodes, Kevin Langston, Tom Lampron and Catoosa County Commisioner Jim Cutler, from left, get their shovels ready during a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for the SoakYa waterpark expansion at Lake Winnepesaukah.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Get ready for SoakYa.

That's the name Lake Winnepesaukah officials have given their new Rossville water park, which is scheduled to open in early May. A handful of state and local officials broke ground Wednesday as construction equipment roared to life around them in the morning drizzle.

Though symbolic, the act marks the start of the first major expansion for the 88-year-old park since the addition in the 1960s of the Cannon Ball Roller Coaster, said Talley Green, one of the trio of women who run the park.

"It's a spirited play on our name," she said of the new SoakYa brand. "It's really whimsical. We took the end of Lake Winnie and made it SoakYa."

The five-acre water park will include an adventure river, beach lagoon, seven slides and three swimming pool areas, officials said. The new rides, like the rest of the park, will include a mix of thrills and gentle excitement, in keeping with the company's family focus.

General admission will rise to $31.95 for adults and $15.95 for kids and seniors, from $26 for adults and $10 for kids and senior citizens. The higher price includes admission to both parks.

"We obviously had to do an increase, but we didn't want to price ourselves out of the family market," Green said.

In addition to the rides, construction crews next week will start building a landscaped outdoor area with a 1,200-square-foot snack bar and 800-square-foot gift shop.

Other crews will begin to transform the flat employee parking lot into hills that will mark the top of each water slide.

"The next time you see this, it's going to be a world of difference," said architect Chris Jones, who has designed water parks around the world.

Owners wouldn't reveal attendance numbers or the total cost of the project, but said the park's number crunchers expected a 30 to 40 percent increase in foot traffic come summer.

Kevin Langston, deputy commissioner for tourism at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said the project comes at the "right time."

Regional tourism is expected to increase in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the region's Civil War battles, he said, and the national economy is mounting a minor rally.

"This is a terrific attraction that will ensure the long-term viability of Lake Winnepesaukah," Langston said.

Tourism is a $49 billion industry in Georgia that employs about 400,000 workers, he said, or just over 10 percent of the state's work force. Out-of-state income at venues such as Lake Winnie -- and now SoakYa -- shave about $744 off the average Georgian's tax bill, Langston said.

"I'm thrilled not to have to write that $744 check every year," he said.