Slide Effects

Doug Fearing knows a lot more about water slides than he could have imagined he would have five years ago. "The rides keep getting bigger and bolder," he explained. His integration company, Fearing's Electronic Systems of Portage, WI, has worked on the two Kalahari Waterpark Resorts, safari-themed amusement parks with connected hotels, restaurants and convention centers. The first Kalahari opened in Wisconsin Dells, WI in 2000, and this Memorial Day was the grand opening of the water park and hotel at the Sandusky, OH branch, with a 300-unit condominium opened in July. Work on an adjacent convention center will begin next year.

Fearing was responsible for the AV planning across the venue, incorporating state-of-the-art sound and video with some existing and franchise-provided equipment. After planning and creating the design, he hired subcontractors Ohio Sound Engineering to handle part of the installation, including laying miles of cable throughout the 435,000 square-foot resort, with Fearing and his team travelling over 400 miles to be on hand for the completion of each project. The results provide guests with the ultimate in year-round entertainment.

The resort's audio needs, from ambient music in the park, stores and lobby to TV sound in the dining and bar areas, is largely controlled from a central sound system in the facility's basement which is only accessible by management. "The biggest thing we learned about music distribution in hotels is that you don't allow control by unauthorized personnel," Fearing said. "The sound system is not there to serve employees; it's there to serve the customer." A BSS Soundweb London BLU-80 processing system uses seven different sources, including four music receivers, paging, TV feed and a CD player, and can play in eight different zones. Additionally, there are 18 areas with volume individually-controlled from the rack. Several zones are on timers to change volume levels or turn music on or off at specific times during the day.

As a bar area with specific sound needs, the Ivory Coast Lounge has its own control of the system with a Soundweb SW9012 wall panel controller. It feeds back to the main processor along a Cat-5 cable and allows users to select source and volume. As part of ongoing upgrades to the resort, Fearing hopes to incorporate similar distance control to the entire system. "Eventually, there will be a web server as part of the Soundweb firmware upgrade," explains Fearing. "This will give control of the network over some zones, which employees can control with PDAs or laptops in different locations."

With various sound needs throughout the resort, Fearing had to determine what speakers would be best suited for each environment. Based on experience with the Wisconsin Dells' Kalahari, he knew JBL all-weather speakers would withstand tough outdoor use. JBL Control 25 speakers are placed around the perimeter of the park, with Control 28 speakers on columns inside. "These are the best value in an outdoor speaker, delivering good sound for the money," said Fearing. "They're small and compact in an unobtrusive package." The JBL speakers are also used in cabanas, where visitors can listen to music or watch TV in a shady relief.

Indoors, SoundTube speakers are used in several areas. RS800 speakers are mounted in the lobby and in the restaurant/nightclub Kahunaville, where they are currently used in conjunction with speakers the owners had from a previous project, which will soon be replaced to match the quality of the SoundTube speakers. "These are the best open-truss speakers on the market," Fearing said. Additionally, SM500 speakers are used in retail areas and the Ivory Coast Lounge.

A large chunk of the equipment budget was used for the surveillance system. Throughout the resort, 224 cameras are installed, in place to monitor employee productivity, theft by guests, for safety in parking lots and as a safeguard for insurance purposes. Fearing needed a simple system to manage the large number of cameras, so he chose the Integral First Line DVR system, one of few 32-camera digital recording systems currently available. "The interface is so easy to use," Fearing said in regard to new employees learning to manage and view the security recordings. Also, seven hand-held zoom cameras are in place with dedicated monitors which guards can view separately.

With several similar projects now complete, Fearing has been offering his expertise as a consultant, and sees the technology growing independent of amusement park needs. "While there's a larger selection of weatherproof products that weren't available when we first started, the material they're making speakers out of are inherently waterproof," Fearing noted. "For the little price difference it takes to make something weatherproof versus not, they just do it." One place he feels is left to develop is video screens. The Kalahari parks have had to buy new screens every year to replace ones that could not stand up to the elements outdoors in cabanas.

Mary Bakija is a writer and editor with more than 15 years of storytelling experience. Bakija is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Library and Information Science to help others find and tell important stories that might otherwise be lost, and to ensure those stories are preserved for future generations to see.