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Site visit: Wild Wadi Waterpark

Chris Perry explains how his team maintains a 13-year-old water park

The Jumeirah Sceirah ride which was recently opened in Wild Wadi.
The Jumeirah Sceirah ride which was recently opened in Wild Wadi.
Changed lighting systems to save energy.
Changed lighting systems to save energy.
Perry shows off one of the ride?s pump room.
Perry shows off one of the ride?s pump room.

Chris Perry tells fmME how his team maintains a 13-year-old water park, for 365 days a year

Thirteen years after Wild Wadi Waterpark opened its gates to the public, it unveiled its revamped ride, the Jumeirah Sceirah, on September 4, 2012. While the leisure destination reinvented its offerings, the facilities management of the site also developed hand-in-hand.

Chris Perry, general manager, Wild Wadi, has been with the project since before its launch in 1999. His original job was being in charge of the lifeguards at the water park and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, and later on those at the Burj Al Arab and the Madinat Jumeirah.

He was then made general manager, and now oversees the entire business unit with all department heads falling under him. He takes fmME on a tour of the site, and explains how the FM is carried out on a project that has been operating for well over a decade.

“I think as things age, there is more demand in [maintaining] them; it takes more time and there are more things to look at. There is a lot of effort that goes into making sure we’re keeping it [the park] to the standard that it was when we opened.

And people are now expecting more each time they come. From that aspect, there is a lot that goes on behind-the-scenes that people don’t see,” he says.

The backstage operations are carried out by in-house staff, as Perry explains that Wild Wadi has not sub-contracted its FM to an external firm. He is assisted by Gary Pogharian, director of engineering, whose team of 45 works in tandem with other departments like operations to make sure the park continues running as smoothly as possible.

Perry says: “Gary’s team is committed to understanding the operational demands of the park. As much as they are their own department, they work very closely with the operations team to recognise that if something happens to a ride, they will be able to quickly allocate people to it and work 24 hours to be able to get that right up and running again.”

Perry explains that both he and Pogharian come from an aquatic background, but in spite of that there are always new situations to deal with depending on every site.

“Any time we go to a new place, there are always going to be some unique challenges. Coming here, guests probably don’t recognise that all the slides are tied to one water system. So if I want to do work on one slide or if we have an issue with one area, I can’t just stop it and work on it, because to drain one ride, I have to drain all of them. So there is a very unique combination of how the slides and water systems are put together,” explains Perry.

Wild Wadi runs 365-days a year, so maintenance is carried out at nights. “Double our crew in the day time works at night because that’s when we have to do a lot of the work. So the moment we shut down, they are in there, starting all the work,” says Perry. Every task that needs to be completed is set out in such a way so as for it to be finished in the eight or nine hours available to the night team.

He adds that the team shut down the venue for three weeks last year in order to carry out some major maintenance work.

“Moving forward, if there’s major work that we need to do, the company’s starting to recognise that a 365-day operation is quite challenging for us. Safety is of the highest priority to the company, so if we absolutely have to, they will let us do what we need to in order to keep the park safe.”

Maintaining such a project also implies taking extra care of the chemicals used to keep the water safe, not only for the equipment, but for the guests too.

The FM team treats the water chemically and physically — the former is meant to keep guests safe, and the latter is to actually remove any debris that might be lodged in the ride. “We try to keep the water safe for the people but also safe for the equipment. Somtimes, while we can make it perfect for the equipment, it may not be safe for the people, and vice versa. So we’ve come up with a nice balance,” explains Perry.

The constant movement of water in the park is a challenge in that it affects the temperature of the pools and the rides. In the summer, it heats up faster, which results in loss of chemicals and energy used to run the rides. In the winter, more energy is used in order to generate heat.

“That’s probably our biggest challenge — the water can cool down quick in the winter, and it’s a real challenge to keep the temperature comfortable for our guests,” says Perry.

The Middle East offers up specific challenges to the team when it comes to maintaining the leisure destination. The intensity of the sun, and added to that, is the fine sand in the air, which affects the exposed equipment.

“Believe it or not, the salt water and the salt in the air give us a lot of difficulty as it corrodes things. So the maintenance is hard. We can take a piece of metal and put some oil on there to protect it from the salt, but then that’s going to attract all the dust that will stick to it.”

Perry says this is why it’s important to order the right materials that will survive all the obstacles the environment throws its way. If the team is unable to get, for whatever reason, any particular piece of equipment they want, they concentrate on how to make the best of what they’ve got.

He says the park uses a Building Management System (BMS) and its sensors inform the team if any problems are anticipated.

A central Planned Preventive Maintenance (PPM) system has also been put into place which generates a list of recommendations on new pieces of equipment and how they should be maintained. Any system that has a big requirement in terms of maintaining it is fed through the system.

Perry says the leisure park has 21 plant rooms on-site, including one massive room. Even though all the slides are tied up in one system, each ride has its own set of jets powering them.

For example, there are eight master blasters (uphill roller coasters) with multiple jets. Each one has a pump and a motor that runs to that individual jet.

This makes it easier to maintain because it’s designed to simplify and reduce the number of spare parts needed.

“So we have one slide that has 12 pumps, all of those would sit in a plant room right underneath the slides. We’re currently looking at the technology available to help us reduce the energy consumption on those particular pieces of equipment,” he says.

In spite of the amount of energy and water that is required to run the park, Perry explains the organisation is committed to saving resources and has put many initiatives into place for the same.

When the park was originally built, everything was designed to be able to flow centrally into the water body so as not to lose any resources. For example, after the water travels up in the master blaster, it loses velocity and slides back down into a dewatering system that creates all the waterfalls around the park.

“Our flash flood goes live every hour and we drop 90,000 litres of water — all of that is falling and then travelling into a body which would then be returned and recycled back through our system. In 2008, we invested in a filter system that would really be recognised as being state-of-the-art,” says Perry, with evident pride.

He continues: “Because of the technologically modern filter systems, in one year we threw away as much water as a golf course uses in one day. That’s a significantly large drop.”

It now throws 330,000 imperial gallons compared to before it used the filter systems, during which time it threw away 10.3 million gallons annually.

“We have to [throw the water away] to clean the filters — it’s called backwashing, so we can’t reuse it. From 10.3 million down to 330,000 — a nice, significant savings; this turns into reduction in chemicals used. The energy that was spent in heating or cooling...we’re saving that. A very, very nice chunk of savings there.”

The lighting system was one of the first things to be looked at when it came to efficient usage of resources. The FM team changed all the incandescent light bulbs to 16W compact fluorescents, and lowered consumption by 25%. LED lights have been used around the outside, which used to be 1,000W halogens.

Around 220 250W halogen lights from inside the pool have been converted to 100W recyclable lights, which are used to make broomstick handles and other items once they’ve reached the end of their lifespan.

“We’ve gone into recycling things we’ve not recycled before. We have reduced energy to 50% inside the pool and 10% outside the park, and then inside the park to 25% of what it used to be,” says Perry.

The team’s major focus now is to lower the energy used for the pumps and motors which is currently the most significant piece of resource usage.

Perry says: “We’re working on that now. It’s going to be a significant investment, so we’re in the process of enabling to bring in some VFDs — variable frequency drives — to test them to see what the actual savings will be before we make the big investment.”

He explains that he has to look at what he is able to do overall to be able to bring the energy down, and these considerations are not based on the number of guests in the park.

Perry adds with a smile: “Unlike a hotel, which we often get compared to within the company, when people aren’t in rooms there are things you can do from an FM standpoint, like not have much air-conditioning based on occupancy. For us, whether I have one person in the park or 3,000, I still have to have the rides running.”

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