Visiting a theme park is a staple of the summer months for many Americans. But this year, the sweltering heat waves gripping the nation are taking some of the fun out of “fun in the sun.”
According to the National Weather Service, much of the US has been battling triple-digit temperatures all summer. This is much more intense than traditional summer heat, and theme-park operators are trying to come up with creative ways to keep visitors cool and comfortable — and keep rides safe and operational.
Keeping Customers Cool
Many theme parks have expanded their hours into the evening, allowing guests to enjoy the park after the sun has gone down. Other common strategies include adding more mist machines throughout the park and lining pathways with trees to add more shade.
Meanwhile, some theme parks are getting even more creative to take the heat off their attendees. For example, Missouri’s Silver Dollar City now hosts daily water balloon battles in a fight to keep guests cool.
While a water balloon to the face might be a fun way to stave off the heat, it’s likely not a feasible long-term solution. And unfortunately, according to the World Meteorological Organization, these heat waves aren’t a short-term event.
For park operators, this data is forcing them to rethink the way they design and build parks and rides. The heat is spurring more investment in indoor rides and water parks, which are less likely to be impacted by hot temperatures. On top of that, it’s forcing park operators to design heat-resistant rides. For example, modern roller coasters usually need to be built with more steel — with some even using aerospace-level materials — in order to handle heat-induced expansion of the metal.
Extreme heat events have increased sixfold since the 1980s, mainly thanks to human-induced climate change. With summers expected to continue to reach new extremes, operators and guests alike are in for a rollercoaster ride.
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