Ask Kodi Theilgaard his favorite part about his job, and it’s tough to pin him down.
As vice president of design for Paola-based Splashtacular, Theilgaard spends his days creating waterslides and aquatic attractions for a variety of clients across the country.
Splashtacular claims to be the largest producer of waterslides in the United States. With more than 50 to 75 projects annually, Splashtacular projects may include multiple slides, play units, tipping buckets, spray features and more. Even its 3,000-square-foot office includes water features.
“We like to tinker with stuff,” Theilgaard said. “Our first open room with a high-top bar has a water slide that is backlit so it shows what the inside of a waterslide looks like when you go through it.”
Splashtacular clients include municipalities, hotels, resorts and commercial waterparks. Local projects include water park elements for Blackbob Park and both the Olathe and Lenexa community centers.
President Alex Weidman leads the 24-year-old company. It includes 16 employees, 12 of whom live in and around the Kansas City metro area—the rest are scattered coast to coast. The Splashtacular team includes project managers, engineers and designers that turn stainless steel and fiberglass into twisting, turning and swirling waterworks of fun.
“We make the designs, do all the engineering, foundation details,” Theilgaard said. “It is designed using software called Splashworxs-—it is our proprietary software.”
After the design process, a 3D model is made, and the engineers get involved. The process may also include a site visit and usually takes four to six months. All materials used are U.S.-sourced.
While all of the design work is done locally, Splashtacular has elements of its projects manufactured elsewhere.
“We have over 400 molds that are ours that sit in Hastings, Neb., where the largest fiberglass company, A-1 Fiberglass, is located,” Theilgaard said. “We dictate the process … every inch of our products we are particular with.”
Steel comes from Zephyr Products Inc. in Leavenworth. Each piece goes through powder coating and galvanization.
After assembly comes the part that Theilgaard looks forward to—on-site testing.
“We show up with a clipboard, swim trunks and a hard hat, and we ride the slide. … It is really fun,” he said. “We try to abuse it so that anyone can go down safely.”
Repetition is key for waterslide designers, Theilgaard said.
“The No.1 thing you have to do is go ride water slides,” he said. “And you have to think about it, fail a lot and try new things.”
Theilgaard said there are a number of attributes that make SplashTacular stand out from its competitors.
“Quality above all,” Theilgaard said. “We use the same manufacturer for everything. It is all in the U.S. so we have more control over it and better standards.”
Splashtacular also insulates its waterslides in the factory so they are comfortable whether used inside or outside.
“We also do a lot of lights and sound in our units,” Theilgaard said. “Our sound guy has a Grammy. One of the coolest ones in the country is at the Liberty, Mo., Sleep Inn. It has lights all over it.”
Splashtacular has been recognized for its work as a winner of the World Waterpark Association’s Industry Innovation Award for Suppliers.
Although Splashtacular had no connection to Schlitterbahn’s Verruckt waterslide, “we did see the impact from it,” Theilgaard said. In 2016, a 10-year-old died in an accident riding the slide.
“Since this incident, we’ve been involved with Kansas legislation to help improve the inspection of existing rides. … A tragedy like this makes customers more educated on what to put in their parks and who to buy from, (but) it doesn’t necessarily steer them away from the business itself.”
Splashtacular has its sights set on international expansion. This year, the company has launched endeavors in the United Kingdom, China and Australia. Its Australia Zoo project will open in early spring. It includes a specialty splash pad complete with crocodiles equipped with motion
sensors and specialty lighting.
“It has frogs that ribbit and a crocodile where we amped the sound, and after he makes the crack sound of his jaws, his nostrils have water features out of them that snorts air,” Theilgaard said. “We get to do some amazing things.”