By Evan Wood
Out of habit, drivers traveling on I-70 near Kansas City are probably used to looking south at mile marker 9, right next to the I-70 and I-470 interchange. Kansas City’s major league stadiums—Kauffman and Arrowhead—sit directly south of the eastbound lanes. However, perceptive drivers may have also noticed something to the north: a giant series of dark red tubes winding in and out of the Holiday Inn that’s located just off the exit ramp.
These are CoCo Key’s three biggest water slides, and going down any one of them is exhilarating if a little nerve-racking. Anyone with a fear of heights will probably be hesistant to try; riders must climb four stories of stairs before entering. At the top are three holes in the wall. Two of these are large and have shallow pools leading up to them, where riders can set their rafts before climbing in. These two slides are called Barracuda Blast, both over 350 feet long. The smaller entrance on the left side is Shark Slam, a body slide that ends in a water-lined runway at the bottom.
What gives all three slides their sense of excitement is also what makes their eye-catching exterior design work for an indoor, temperature-controlled water park.
“The tubes are encased in fiberglass,” says Greg Madden, director of group sales and marketing for the water park and the hotel.
Courtesy of CoCo Key
The fiberglass not only ensures that the water being pumped through the slide stays temperature controlled, but it also makes the slides completely dark inside.
“I think it would be boring if there were a light in there,” Greg says. “Every time I go down is a new experience. You’re not going to remember every turn.”
Going into the slide, you know that, at some point, you’re going to experience turns, but nothing can prepare you for how quickly they seem to appear or how rapidly they shift from right to left.
Just as the water slides don’t freeze despite traveling out of the building during winter months, part of the allure of CoCo Key—and indoor water parks in general—is the fact that you don’t have to worry about the weather. Obviously, indoor water parks like CoCo Key can stay open all year, but they compete with outdoor parks in other ways, too.
CoCo Key keeps out summertime pests like wasps, and people walking between attractions don’t burn their feet on the pavement. So, an indoor water park makes for a great summer outing.
“When you’re outside, you have to worry about sunscreen,” Greg says. And while people looking to get a tan may find that aspect appealing, Greg says that at CoCo Key families don’t have to hover over their children and reapply sunscreen every hour on the hour.
Additionally, you don’t have to worry about your day being spoiled by rain, or by one of Missouri’s inordinately cool early summer days. Parkgoers at CoCo Key, and other water parks like it, don’t have to worry about inclement weather, either, unless it’s severe. And even during thunderstorms, the park doesn’t have to be totally shut down.
Courtesy of CoCo Key
Aside from keeping up with its outdoor counterparts, CoCo Key also stands apart from other indoor parks. Michael Alonzo, water resort director at CoCo Key, says that the park is one of the safest in the country.
“We’re in the top thirty percent,” he says. “We’re real proud of that.”
CoCo Key’s lifeguards are trained by Ellis and Associates, an international aquatic safety consulting firm. The firm also audits CoCo Key’s safety every three months, which ensures the park stays compliant with its safety guidelines.
“That’s unique for indoor parks,” Greg says.
Ellis and Associates gave CoCo Key a Golden Guard award this year. According to Michael, the firm allows its auditors to give out one to two of these awards each year, making it a high honor. Michael also says that getting the award requires going “above and beyond.”
CoCo Key has something for everyone. From the big slides, which will satisfy thrill-seekers, to the classic water park amenities like the lazy river and aquatic jungle-gym, there’s no shortage of things to do. CoCo Key also offers a hot tub for adults and a special pool designed for young children who are not yet able to swim or walk. There’s also a bar and grill where you can order food from the hotel restaurant, as well as private cabanas for families and groups.
CoCo Key is also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“If you have someone who has physical challenges,” says Greg, “they are not being left out.”
Greg says that because CoCo Key is a newer resort, it was designed with ADA-compliance in mind.