Outdoor snow park plans NLR opening

Wild River Country to freeze over

Posted: August 31, 2013 at 2:47 a.m.

Wild River Country, an outdoor water park in North Little Rock, will open in November as a snow park.

The snow park will be called Wild Winter Country and will feature a snow-play area, a snowball target area, a children’s sliding area, a fire pit and four-to-six snow-tubing lanes, said Chris Shillcutt, vice president of operations.

“We thought this would be great, because nowhere in central Arkansas do you have snow-tubing,” he said. “We’re trying to make [Wild Winter Country] a family-type event - that’s what our motto is at the park.”

The snow park is tentatively scheduled to be open Nov. 22 through April 1.

Shillcutt said the company has been consulting Stone Mountain - a winter park in Atlanta - about how to implement a winter park in Arkansas. He said they will build about a 2½ -foot compact snow base on top of their paved roads starting the first week of November. The snow base should work like “an ice machine,” Shillcutt said.

He said he doesn’t know exactly how much it will cost to convert the water park into a snow park, but he estimated it should cost about $500,000.

For its first season, the park will not include an ice skating rink or a ski slope.

“I know Little Rock has [an ice-skating rink] by the River Market area, but we don’t plan on putting one in this year,” Shillcutt said. “[We’re] not against it in the future.”

Shillcutt said he anticipates the park to be closed on Mondays, open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for group events, and open 5-9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights. For the weekend, the park should be open all day from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 or 7 p.m. Sunday.

Choirs may sing and high school bands may play during the first inaugural season of the winter park, but Shillcutt said nothing has been set in stone. When it’s close to Christmas, the park will have holiday lights on the trees and Santa Claus decorations throughout the park, Shillcutt said.

“We’re going to make it a whole kind of festival thing - not just snow-tubing,” he said.

Wild Winter Country employees will be chosen from the pool of the best summer employees to be trained as snow guards, Shillcutt said. He estimates the park will hire between 30 and 60 part-time employees and three or four full-time employees.

“We hope [the winter park] is a hit,” Shillcutt said. “Sure, it’s going to be a learning curve for us, but we hope people in Arkansas come out and enjoy it.”

An all-day admission pass, which does not include snow tubing, will cost $5.43 plus tax per person, he said. For those who also would like to tube in the snow, it will be $16.29 plus tax for a 90-minute session. No age restrictions will be set at the winter park, Shillcutt said.

Business, Pages 29 on 08/31/2013