South Bay Shores Preview
An exclusive tour of the not yet open water park!
I have quite a treat for you today! Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to be treated to an exclusive tour of California's Great America's new waterpark: South Bay Shores. We've been watching the construction for nearly two years and now it's finally almost time for the park to open! If you don't read any further than this, then this is what you should take away from this post: South Bay Shores is a huge upgrade over Boomerang Bay and gets a fresh and local feel with a backstory that shows the care that went into the upgrade.
I went around the park with Danny Messinger, the Area Manager of Digital Marketing at CGA. We went all over the site and I'm excited to share these updates with you, including (I believe) some angles that haven't been seen before! So without any further ado: let's get into it! We'll go around counter-clockwise starting with Breakers Bay and working around to the new Pacific Surge complex.
So strap on your hardhats and let's get started!
Every good water park needs a wave pool and at South Bay Shores that wave pool is named Breakers Bay (maybe a nod to the famous Bay to Breakers race up in the city?). This is the former Great Barrier Reef wave pool with a couple of exciting additions:
First and most exciting is the addition of a new food & drink location: the Sand Bar!
Sand Bar will serve a variety of alcoholic drinks including specialty cocktails and punches, plenty of great non-alcoholic drinks and other bar food like sliders. It should be a great place to grab a drink and I look forward to seeing what interesting drinks the CGA staff think up!
Secondly, we have the addition of new premium cabanas along the right side of Breakers Bay
These cabanas have more space than regular cabanas, come with TVs inside and even have waiter service for the nearby Sand Bar.
One final piece I want to look at before we move on: one thing Danny pointed out as we were walking in Breakers Bay was the detail that went into the renovation. Instead of just painting the facades at the front of the wavepool, the SBS team weathered the facade to better match what an authentic seaside town would look like. This attention to detail is carried throughout this park and is one of the reasons I'm so high on this addition to CGA.
The Castaway Creek lazy river is being transformed into Rushin' River (named after the Russian River that flows in Northern California).
There weren't a ton of details available about what this transformation will look like but Danny assures me that the crocodile signs and Fish Aussie themeing currently in the attraction will not survive!
Where Boomerang Bay featured a small wading lagoon for kids named Boomerang Lagoon, SBS has added 8(!) new kids slides and renamed it to Tide Pool. The 8 slides offer families a great area for kids to experience their first slides. The slides are roughly arranged to increase in size and intensity as you go from right to left, working up to maybe the best looking slide I've ever seen.
Seriously, take a look at this thing! I'm an adult and I want to go on that slide!
In front of the pool, you'll find some shady structures and lounge chairs to relax on while kids play.
Overall Tide Pool fills a huge hole in the SBS lineup and gives the smallest kids the ability to work their way up to bigger slides!
The former Ripsnort Ridge and Screamin' Wombat slides have been rethemed and repainted into Reef Racer. Also worth noting here the old Crocodile Canteen snack stand that is near the slide is being renamed to Shark Bites.
The old metal signs on the backside of the slide also are being replaced too. These were among the most recognizable pieces of the waterpark from the outside of the park and I hope they're just being replaced with more appropriate signs!
I like to eat, I'm not hiding that. And so I am really excited to see the addition of a new food service location being added to the park: Pier 76 Cafe. Taking its name from the plethora of famous piers in the Bay Area, this stand will serve a mix of standard theme park food like chicken fingers but also more fitting food like fried shrimp and fish tacos.
The cafe is laid out in a cafeteria style. You get your food at the glass and then take it to the cashiers who will check you out. There are two counters. It actually reminds me a ton of BackbeatQue at Cedar Point if you've ever eaten there.
Two things to note here: the Coca Cola Refresh stand that was at Outback Shack was moved to the left of Pier 76 Cafe. Also, looks to me like that Pier 76 Cafe sign is neon. Can't wait to come back in the evening and get some shots of the pretty neon!
I love, love, love these murals. They didn't have to paint these but they really do go a long way to tie the theme together. I also think the Yankee Canning Co name is great since it's clearly a reference to the old Yankee Clipper ride that used to run through the area!
I think my current favorite place to eat at CGA (Maggie's) might get a run for its money! It's probably worth mentioning here that there are a handful of gates inside of SBS that can be closed to block access to the slides. This is exciting because it means that even when the water park isn't open for the season, guests can still access some of the amenities (including Pier 76 Cafe). You better bet that this is where I'll be eating on opening day!
So I think there's enough changes around the entrance of the waterpark to warrant its own little section in the update. First: SBS is getting a new entrance sign. It wasn't done when I toured but the portion that was done looks good (and kinda reminiscent of the merch that the park showed off and I really liked at last year's preview event). Also worth noting is the retheme of the former Outback Shack restaurant into the much more appropriately themed South Bay Burrito. As I mentioned above, the Coca Cola stand that used to be here was moved to Pier 76 Cafe.
The Australian themeing still stands here but I'm sure it doesn't have much longer
The Kookaburra Cay splash pad got an overhaul to become Otter Trotter. In addition to some new paint and graphics (which are great, you'll see in a sec), Matilda's Beachwear (the stand selling bathing suits and other gear) was renamed to Guppy Gear. Seaside Supplies (which technically lies in the main park) was also slightly renamed to Surfside Supplies.
Seriously, are these little otter spinning water buckets not the cutest things ever??
The Jackaroo Landing water play structure is being refreshed to become Pup's Pier. It features all new paint and themeing elements while retaining the same fun play elements.
The old Australian themeing elements are being removed
Like this koala!
I love these signs pointing to other locations in the park
I'm grouping a couple of slides together into one. Makes sense to me since they're all at the tower complex in the center of the water park! The slides formerly known as Didgeridoo Falls, Tasmanian Typhoon and Down Under Thunder have become Coastal Cruz (like Santa Cruz), NorCal Wipeout and Mission Falls (maybe referring to Mission Bay). Similarly, expect new paint and themeing here. When the park opens, you'll see a new scrim on the backside of the slide replacing the old worn-out gray one.
My favorite piece of themeing in the entire park can be found in the queue for these slides. There you can find some amazing travel themed posters for the rides at SBS. Please sell these, CGA, I would definitely buy one!
Of particular interest to coaster enthusiasts will be some changes to the former Stealth station! Whereas it was used in the waterpark previously, this year CGA added an extra section to the bottom which will hold lockers. It's cool that a piece of CGA history lives on almost 20 years later!
Another interesting tidbit is that the changing rooms that currently sit next to Mission Falls are being replaced by more seating for Pier 76 Cafe. Expect to see these changing rooms relocated elsewhere
One last cool piece I have to share about this area: near the former changing rooms, there are some plants staged for addition to the park and as we were walking by, we saw a hummingbird in the plants! I was lucky enough to get a shot of the little guy. That's a good sign for SBS I think!
The under the radar pick for my favorite part of SBS is Grassy Gardens, the grassy picnic area next to Otter Trotter and the new Pacific Surge slide complex. It's pretty simple: a grassy area with a couple of trees where guests can sit to relax and eat. As you can see, it's not quite ready yet but should be ready to go when the park opens! Why am I so excited about this? So many water parks (like the former Boomerang Bay) are almost totally concrete and get really hot on summer days. This Grassy Gardens area should add a nice green space to the area!
The gardens (and Pacific Surge) also lie on a new path connecting Breakers Bay to the front of the park. Breakers Bay is a dead end no more!
Also, take note of one of the coolest little details about SBS that shows just how much thought went into the retheme: the concrete itself. If you look closely at the edges of the concrete in the above picture, you'll see that they're slightly tan colored. This is meant to simulate the blowing sand that would undoubtedly get on the paths of a seaside amusement park. Similarly, you can expect to see dune-like landscaping features along the paths. Such a cool little detail!
The biggest addition to the waterpark is without a doubt the Pacific Surge slide complex. This complex towers over the rest of the park and houses 6 brand new slides: Feeding Frenzy is a tube slide featuring a really fun looking bowl, Barracuda is another tube slide with an open drop towards the end pool and finally, the top dog of SBS, Shark Reef Plunge, a series of 4 different drop pod slides. I'm really excited (and even a little nervous) for these slides the most! If you've never done a drop pod slide before, do yourself a favor and ride one, they're so much fun and Shark Reef Plunge looks great! Each slide is different so you'll need to try them all to get the full experience!
In case you're curious about the safety requirements
I absolutely love these murals next to Pacific Surge. Such awesome color!
The pods are intimidating up close. When we were on top of the tower, they were running water through them!
It's a long way down from up here!
I think this looks like an egg yolk!
I really like the criss-cross of the slides. Should be a great way to amp up the excitement as you wait in line and see the riders plummet ahead of you.
I'll put a couple of little assorted tidbits that I wasn't able to fit into another section here! As far as logistical details about SBS goes, a formal opening day has not been announced but Danny said to keep an eye out for it over the next few weeks (which makes sense considering the unofficial start of summer is less than 2 months away). Rules regarding masks or other COVID restrictions are still up in the air pending state guidelines. Of course, you can expect social distancing enforced in lines but more details around mask usage will come at a later date.
If you're wondering about the state of the (water) park and how close it is to opening based on the state of these pictures: it's close but not quite ready to open yet! As you could see, there was some signage and graphics that need to be completed. There was a piece of midway at the entrance to SBS that needed to be poured still. Then as you could see, landscaping pieces were being staged for installation so the park should look much more green soon. But it'll definitely be ready to go when it opens this summer!
The extended downtime of the park hasn't only brought us a new waterpark but it's also given CGA time to give its rides even more TLC than a normal offseason. We've already heard a little about painting Orbit (one of the last handful of Schwarzkopf Enterprises in the US) and sprucing up All-American Corners but a recent development has been the painting of Psycho Mouse!
Gone is the neon colors, in is a muted brown and green palette
Danny wouldn't give me any more information about what the future would hold for Action Zone (which already had Drop Tower repainted) but it's not hard to guess that something is being planned
Regardless of what happens, I'm glad that the ride got a facelift!
The Action Zones in the former Paramount parks were always my least favorite parts: full of concrete and lacking character (and shade). With the repainting of Drop Tower and Psycho Mouse to more natural colors and the addition of Railblazer in the nearby area, I don't think it would be that far fetched to speculate that the area would get some sort of California theme. It would be a relatively easy change, rename Drop Tower to something referencing the massive trees we have in CA, rename Psycho Mouse, Tiki Twirl and Thunder Raceway to something more fitting and add some themeing pieces in the area. All of a sudden you have a great new themed area at the back of the park! But that's just my speculation!
In addition to Psycho Mouse, Woodstock Express and some of the rides in the Planet Snoopy area got some fresh paint.
Woodstock Express went from yellow to brown
So there you have it, an exclusive look at South Bay Shores, the new water park replacing Boomerang Bay at CGA. Thanks so much to Danny and the CGA team for having me out, I enjoyed the tour! If you couldn't tell by the writing, I'm really excited for it. I personally love an area with a cohesive design and plenty of little details and SBS has that in spades. They could've pleased me with just the repaints and rethemes but they also went and added an awesome new restaurant and slide complex. This water park is going to be awesome and will definitely eat into the amount of time I spend at the dry park vs waterpark. Make sure to check out the park when it opens this summer!