The playground

The playground is an island dedicated to fun, a theme park, water park, and more, from the underwater boating maze to the terror slide its fun, fun, fun.

Technically its quite an achievement, the water maze alone presented a nightmare to the designers.

It is difficult to know if I should explain how it was constructed first, what visitors see or try to do it at the same time, so here goes, not the best or most well organized of articles, but I hope you enjoy the experience.

The whole thing was constructed while it was floating about two floors higher than what you can see now and ballast was then added to make it sit down deeper. The ballast is heavy concrete, so the weight is very low.

When people arrive at the island the sea is not actually connected to the water inside the island although it appears to be, there is a thick glass panel that is connected to large floats and what appears to be floating, ropes etc. across. The water that you see on arrival has been pumped up from the floor below, and as you will see people get into a small boat and get washed down into a hole, which appears to go into the sea. 

Once you get down the slope and have had a splash you are into a maze, and although you appear to be able to float anywhere there are float balanced panels that lift and lower as you move about so in practice the water is not very deep and in many compartments, its just for a short period that some of these are connected together, and water that gets too deep in any compartments goes over an overflow to the area below which has a range of tanks from which the water is pumped back to the sea level. As a safety measure the sea level entrance can be closed water tight and all water in the maze dropped out to the tanks below.

In the half light of the maze you can explore where you like and see illuminated exhibits and animations. There are two sets of doors red ones down alleyways that don't go anywhere that go into cabins, where you can have a picnic or do whatever you like. They have basics to allow you to make a drink, a toilet and shower and very simple furniture, its not intended that you stay the night there. While you are in a cabin your boat stays outside. There is access to the cabins for staff to clean them, and they know which boat was tied up to it and when you leave. If it is being cleaned the door from the maze will not open. The green doors take you by stairs or lifts to different parts of the island. Once you leave your boat and enter a green door the boat recognizes the absence of any weight and will guide its own way back out of the maze to be used again.

Below the maze level is the point you reach from the terror slide, and we will explain that more later.

Everything else below water is to do with balancing the island or providing services and I wont bore you with that.

From the floor above arrivals to the top this is not like the majority of islands, there are no floors as such, its more like a stack of boxes with different things going on in each space and some things weaving through a number of other areas.

The effect of this is that you are very quickly disorientated and the island appears many times larger than it is and the rides therefore far more effective than if they were sitting on a flat piece of ground. By arranging for items to appear to be going to crash into each other or by adding lines or lights that slowly get closer together we give the impression of great speed. Other techniques like making the seat harder or softer as you progress through a ride and changing the angle of the car make the ride more dramatic.

I will explain the terror slide, but would ask that you don't tell all the details to others as the effect is far better if they do not know what to expect.  The terror slide starts with you being strapped into an inflated tube, you can see out the front but your arms are by your side. The first bit is quite gentle you are rolled down so that you are floating with the tube and then go into a larger tube, slowly floating forward, other than you tend to be unstable and swivel around this is quite nice, you go around a corner and pick up a little speed and then you see workmen's equipment ahead and a piece of the tube has been lifted out, you go nearly head first into a dark hole, in fact you are still within a downward track, you see water ahead and splash through coming back to the level, and slowing, you see more tubes ahead and you think the ride is finished, and you join the others and are rolled sideways going through a shutter, and into another float way forward again. You see a number of floats ahead and what appears to be the end of the ride, and slow down. 

As you reach the beginning of the landing stage, the channel you are in tips you out through the wall and you are in a vertical free fall after falling several floors the float is tipped from the back and is again in a channel, which ends up going into a tube, still going very fast. At that point the tube comes out of the side of the island and you see the ocean level below, the tube ahead appears to be full of water and there is what appears to be a hole at sea level with water spirting in. Remember all this is being experienced in a very short time.  The illusion is created by projecting an image onto water mist, so that then you hit it you get wet and see a flash of light from the projector, you drop to two floors below ocean level and then come back within the island and are braked very quickly to see workmen working on the ride, they tell you the bit ahead is broken and that you have to get out here, they get you out and you have to walk back out up some scaffolding and steps. The float is returned up a vertical shaft that you do not see for use by others. Once you have left the area where the workmen are you are going along the ramps and the island appears to be in a bad way, water appears to be leaking in, there are large cracks and pumps pumping the water out. You go through a water tight door that is most defiantly badly broke and the next section is the same, but when you get around half way along, the wall gives way and water appears to come rushing in washing the ramp you are on to one side in slow motion, at that point someone says quick get out of here and you do, I guarantee move very quickly.  You get to a place where you go up through a stairway and as you do there are side windows and the water appears to be moving up faster than you are, you hear the noise of water rushing in behind you. You then come though a doorway and into the area where people are all stood around watching what you have experienced on monitors, and you calm down, see video monitors showing the mechanism and how it was not really the wall of the island at all, but a thin tank, and the stairwell likewise holds only a few gallons of water.

You see digital stills of your face at different points and can buy copies if you like, and are sworn to secrecy, before leaving for the next experience. 

There are many rides, some slow, some frightening, some just restful experiences, some individual experiences some group screams. In addition there are refreshments areas and both shops and slot machines.

I would not want to tell you the detail of all the rides it is far better that you experience them.

The venture was put together by a consortium, we started by visiting showmen's winter quarters when they were not earning and getting aggravation from locals, to talk about how the types of rides they had could be built within an island. This was very much a soft sell, we asked their opinion, and where we could get the ride kit, and they basically were begging to be able to get involved. 

The great advantage was that they knew all about this type of equipment the safety side, maintenance  and  how it could be folded up to get it into place. Once the first few got involved others wanted to join in, and we moved very rapidly forwards. As we wanted to have a single entry fee and unlimited rides we had to bring them all in as shareholders of a trust we set up to run the rides. 

The profit for me organizing the project was that I was to get a % royalty on every person who entered and have the refreshment space that I could let out as I wish.

Under the rules of the floating kingdom you have to provide a second island of equal specification,, and clearly the state did not want an island like the one we were building so we did a deal to provide them with an island that would house a fitted out secondary school.

This island is next to ours and we allow the members of the school to have cut price season tickets, which has so far produced more revenue than the cost of fitting out the school, although we will need a few more years to recover the cost of the island we gave them.

We managed to use some of the rides our partners had, a number of these can be seen sticking out the top and sides of the island. Some of the others decided to operate their existing rides in the summer and funded new specially built ones here, and just have holiday homes in effect here.  The cost of the islands was covered equally between them. 

Since it has been running they have been delighted with the returns, and we as a consortium have also invested now in several other island developments.

All the staff, and partners have homes within the island at present, but some of these will be pulled out next year when some new rides are added. We have another development being built which is a water slide and pool complex with  a large glass domed pool complex. We have  a collection of  larger homes for many of the partners on that island, as well as a resort hotel. We are planning to make passes available for different time periods that will allow the use of our existing and the new pool island.

I haven't told you much about the way the island was constructed, the existing one is Ferrocement, that's cement and chicken wire to you and me with some  supporting metal frame work inside. The Ferrocement box structures make it very strong. 

The pool island is being constructed of seacrete and is basically growing out of the sea. It started as a series of Ferrocement floats and a wire frame, and passing electricity through this has caused the material to grow. Areas have been sealed and then largely flooded and new areas added and extra floats attached, soon the sections underwater will be pumped out and the island will rise. Seacrete is like sea shell, so a very nice finish. We are having some extra strengthening added with Ferrocement, where the structures could not be easily grown and there are a lot of fittings necessary, while the layers were growing some dies were added so there are colored designs or streaks within the shell, all in all its rather spectacular. On top of this we will be adding a light weight see through dome, and pods will be dropped in to form the hotel rooms and a light weight aluminum outside added to finish the hotel off. A number of us are also having homes built on the island.


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Last updated: October 09, 2002.