Carrie Rengers

Splash Aqua Park to join Camping World, Gander Outdoors in south Wichita this summer

Developer Jeff Lange already made a splash by landing Camping World and Gander Outdoors stores for his new Steeple Bay mixed-use development at I-235 and Seneca.

Now, he’s making a literal splash with a deal for the new Splash Aqua Park that will open on the 14-acre lake on the north side of the 80-acre development.

“It’s a big playground . . . of inflatables that we anchor on the bottom of the lake,” said Cole Kalkbrenner, who is opening Splash with his wife, Erin.

There will be swings, slides, trampolines, jumps, bridges and other inflatable fun, all connected by inflatable walkways over the size of a football field.

“It’s very large and spread out,” Cole Kalkbrenner said.

The Kalkbrenners are professional water skiers who helped develop a similar park in Australia.

“This is a very new concept to America,” Kalkbrenner said. “We don’t have that many in the country let alone the Midwest.”

The park will draw an estimated 30,000 visitors in its first season this summer.

“Splash Aqua Park will be a regional draw just like Camping World and Gander Outdoors,” says Jeff Lowrance, property development manager for Lange Real Estate.

“Family-friendly fun has kind of always been at the top of our list of activities to create here in the CrossGate District,” Lowrance says.

Lange and his teams at Lange Real Estate and Triple Crown Realty Trust have branded 13 square miles – from I-235 on the north, I-35 on the east and the Big Ditch on the west and south – as the CrossGate District and plan a $200 million to $300 million investment there in the next three decades.

Splash is significant because it likely will drive traffic to a part of Wichita that people from elsewhere in the city and region don’t normally go, although Lowrance noted that a lot of families are already traveling there for sports and are likely to take advantage of Splash while they’re there.

“It’s going to drive traffic to Steeple Bay,” he said.

Lowrance said that in turn will help further develop the area.

“Anything that drives traffic to your location is going to have an impact on bringing in other retailers and restaurants.”

Splash will debut May 4 and be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Labor Day.

At its peak capacity, the park will be able to hold almost 200 people, though initially only 125 will be allowed in every hour.

“We’ll grow as we put more obstacles out there,” Kalkbrenner said.

He said it’s also a matter of getting enough lifeguards trained. He wants one guard per 25 people.

“Then we’ll start upping numbers.”

The park is for children and adults of all ages starting at what most likely will be age 5, which includes adult supervision.

Visitors have to sign a waiver, wear a park-provided life jacket that is fitted by a park employee and attend a safety briefing.

There will be discounted daily and season passes. Those prices haven’t been set yet.

Rates start at $15 for 50 minutes, which includes life jackets. It will be $10 for the second hour.

There eventually also will be boot camps and circuit training on the shore in addition to water activities.

Kalkbrenner said even just playing in the park is a workout.

“It gets all the muscles working.”

He said some areas of Splash will be more of a challenge than others.

“There are parts of the park that are more extreme, if you will.”

That could include a cliff jump or an inflatable rock wall.

“We need to be able to appeal to everyone,” he said. “What’s so exciting about this is it’s a destination for the whole family for the whole day.”

There will be a concession stand and an area to sit and watch what’s happening on the water.

Lowrance said part of the appeal of the park is that Kalkbrenner is a seasoned operator.

“He’s got safety at the forefront of how he does things.”

Lowrance said Gander Outdoors, which is under construction and will open this summer along with Splash and Camping World, still will have an open water area just outside of its store to demonstrate products to customers if it chooses.

“We’ve got plenty of water for everybody there at Steeple Bay.”

Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for almost three decades, including 16 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.