This is a follow-up to a post I wrote in June 2019, shortly after Cedar Fair purchased Schlitterbahn, which happens to be our favorite water park. At the time, I was worried that becoming part of a theme park conglomerate would lead to the park losing all of the things which made us fall in love with it. In summary, I was afraid they were going to ruin Schlitterbahn.
I ended my post with a request to the CEO and the people running the park.
Sure, it would be nice if the chipped plaster was fixed in some of the tunnels, or if the lazy river didn’t have as many leaves and dead bugs, or even if the rooms were more modern and you could buy something to eat something besides a burger, hot dog or barbecue, but that’s not what matters to people. If it was, they would have stopped going a long time ago. You’ve just purchased the memories of an entire generation of Texans, not just a bunch of swimming pools, water slides and tube chutes.
If you remember that, I think you’ll be OK.
During our trips in June and August of 2019, we didn’t notice any changes but we didn’t expect any; it was too soon. In fact, the park was stressing to people buying annual passes that the policies of free parking and being able to bring your own food wouldn’t change.
We didn’t visit Schlitterbahn in 2020 so it’s been almost 2 years since our last trip. We wanted to see what changed and what stayed the same. I’m relieved to say that the park is the same as we remembered, with some noticeable improvements.
The thing you immediately notice is a new security process to screen guests. Coolers are inspected and guests go through a scanner before getting to the admission booths, instead of the previous process of a manual bag check after entering the park.
In an ‘Amusement Today’ article from August 2020, the park’s marketing managers shed some light on Cedar Fair’s plans and went over many improvements made since the purchase.
We noticed these changes once inside the park, as it looks the same but fresher. Cedar Fair spent much of the first year doing basic maintenance, including repainting many of the slides and resurfacing the “beach” area of the wave river called The Torrent.
It feels better on the feet and it looks more cohesive,” said Flournoy. “It’s like we have started from scratch to make them look really pretty, really professional. Cedar Fair has a reputation of being very high quality. This is one of the areas that really comes through.
There was also another area where we noticed a massive change – the bathrooms. Frankly, the bathrooms and shower changing areas had the design sense of an 80s campground comfort station. Plenty of yellow tiles with moldy grout and metal stall dividers that, being surrounded by water over the years, had rusted away long ago. I never wanted to shower there and only went in to take care of business and left as quickly as possible.
That’s no longer the case because the bathrooms have all gone through a total makeover. I’m 100% on board with these types of changes 🙂 The Schlitterbahn people are also proud of their work.
It’s not really sexy to talk about bathrooms, but our bathrooms have been completely redone,” said Flournoy. “Any of our guests who have been coming for a long time will notice it. I do! It’s a really cool change to have these beautiful ‘Chip and Joanna Gaines’ re-dos.
During our visit, we noticed that many of the gift shops have also been redone. I don’t go to a water park for a gift shop but they no longer look like an afterthought.
As for the food, they did have more options than before, including the new brisket cheesesteak. They still have theme park favorites like hot dogs and pizza along with one of our favorites, Frito pie. We don’t get to try all of the options because we bring a cooler with lunches and healthier snacks.
Enough about the bathrooms, security checks and food. What about the park? How were the rides and did they change anything?
There were some things we noticed but they were all cosmetic. The chipped plaster has been repaired and the moldy slime from the walls is gone. Ceilings and tunnels looked like they had been repainted. They’re also in the process of replacing plants that didn’t make it through the deep freeze that hit the area this past winter.
For the rides we got to go on, they were just as fun as before.
One bummer was that the original section of the park and The Falls section were closed for most of our trip and park hours were much shorter. This is a COVID issue because the park is not fully staffed with lifeguards and we were also going right before Texas schools opened, which meant fewer guests and even fewer workers than usual (a lot of their employees are local high school students).
On our final day, those sections did partially open and we were able to ride most of our favorites with the help of purchasing a Blast Pass (which is their version of a paid ride reservation system.) I’m hoping that some of the operational challenges beyond the park’s control will start to normalize by next year.
I’m thrilled to see in person that Cedar Fair isn’t making wholesale changes to Schlitterbahn. Here’s what they said in the Amusement Today article:
Things that people love about Schlitterbahn are still intact. We still have free parking; coolers are still welcome. That feel of Schlitterbahn and originality of the park being nestled up against the [Comal] River are still the same,” said Martinez. “One thing we have appreciated about Cedar Fair is that when they’ve taken on parks to be a part of the Cedar Fair family, they have allowed the individuality of those parks to remain intact. One of the things they fell in love with was the feel of Schlitterbahn. That’s what made them want it to be a part of their ‘house of brands.’”
“Some people were a little worried we were going to lose that Schlitterbahn feel. Not at all,” said Flournoy. “This is the best version of Schlitterbahn.”
Cedar Fair recently announced its capital spending plans for 2022 and part of that money is going to Schlitterbahn.
Cedar Fair continues to invest millions of dollars into its two Schlitterbahn Waterpark properties in New Braunfels and Galveston, Texas. The enhancements for the 2022 season will focus on infrastructure and aesthetics throughout the park, including upgraded food locations and attractions. The planned projects will continue to improve the overall guest experience, while maintaining the unique character and iconic Schlitterbahn tradition that guests have treasured for more than 40 years.
I’m looking forward to our trips planned for 2022 and wonder what else Cedar Fair will do to make our favorite water park even better. (Hint: If they’d fix and update the on-site lodge rooms, we’d consider staying there.)
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary