North Padre Island welcomes Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi, the latest tourist attraction in the Coastal Bend.
By: Stephanie Kusy
Photos by: Paul Marshall
Crowds made their way to North Padre Island this summer to check out the latest tourist attraction: Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi Riverpark & Resort. Thousands recently packed the park for free during an employee appreciation day. The waterpark made an effort to recognize groups including teachers, city workers, county workers, military personnel, health care workers and more in an attempt to lure families from across the Coastal Bend to see what Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi has to offer. The park operated with about 65 percent of its rides and attractions completed, but that will change soon.
While crowds have subsided since the 2015 season officially wrapped on Sept. 20, construction crews and park staff continue to prepare for the 2016 season when all rides and attractions will be completed. The park will boast the largest river system out of all five Schlitterbahn waterparks.
“When it is fully opened and operational, it will take you two hours to navigate through the Krystal River,” says Amy Gazin, marketing and public relations director. “This is going to be one of our signature trademarks.”
The lazy river system will operate almost like a highway where guests tube down the main Krystal River until they want to exit for a change of pace – say, the Torrent River, which picks up speed and splashes guests with rapids and descends underneath a waterfall. Or perhaps guests would rather venture down the Deluge, an exhilarating tube chute. Whatever their choice, waterpark guests will not be disappointed.
The options are endless, and that’s exactly what Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi strives to provide in hopes of becoming a first-class resort. By next year, 92 rooms will be available for overnight lodging. Some rooms will be able to accommodate up to 13 people, making sure no family is too large to stay onsite. In addition, multiple levels of meeting and convention space will be available.
“There aren’t many places for groups to come out and meet on the Island,” Gazin says. “So Jeff Henry, owner and developer of Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi, is tapping into a market that has largely been ignored. The sky’s the limit as to what we’re going to be able to do when this resort is finished.”
Gazin says the riverpark resort will capture a specific convention market and attendees will bring their families to play down below at the waterpark while mom or dad attends convention sessions upstairs. The park makes sure there is a little something for everyone, including two play areas specifically designed for Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi’s youngest guests: Little Skipper’s Cove and Buccaneer Bay, both of which provide age-appropriate slides and entertainment.
Spring Break 2016 promises to be an exciting time, but we couldn’t get Gazin to spill the beans just who will be performing on Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi’s famed Freedom Stage. “We will utilize the Freedom Stage for concerts during Spring Break and beyond,” she says. “The water in front and around the Freedom Stage can be drained in about 20 minutes, leaving plenty of room for concert-goers.
A full-service spa, exercise room and other amenities will be open to resort guests once construction is complete. The park may appear quiet now, but the Veranda Restaurant & Bar remains open. Built mostly with reclaimed wood from the Bastrop, Texas, wildfires from 2011, the Veranda Restaurant & Bar brings its own unique elegance for visitors to enjoy. Those trying to catch a sneak peek at the waterpark can come in to dine and enjoy weekly chef specials, weekday happy hours and a Sunday breakfast buffet. Live music takes place inside the restaurant on the weekends.
Jeff Henry is the creative genius behind this masterpiece. At the tender age of 15, he helped his father build the original Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels. He is world-renowned for his out-of the-box ideas when it comes to designing water rides, and he has helped with the creation of waterparks as a far away as Dubai. For Henry, Schlitterbahn is a lifestyle, and he remains dedicated to the success of the park.
“Sometimes our city as a whole is not viewed as the most business friendly,” Gazin says. “I think it’s a testament that [Henry] has stayed the course and worked through some major construction hiccups, and look what’s now here because of that kind of dedication. It’s just a beautiful opportunity to make memories with your family that will last a lifetime.”
Gazin says Corpus Christi once claimed the name, “Sparkling City by the Sea,” but she has gained a whole new perspective since she began working for the waterpark earlier this summer. “I like the description ‘Jewel by the Sea’ because once this riverpark and resort is up and running, it’s just going to sparkle and shine,” she says. “It will be like nothing else we have in this area.”
Gazin believes tourism will increase as a result of Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi. “As a long-time resident, I think we have needed something like this to jump start and attract people here from all over the state,” Gazin says. “Then they get to see the Texas State Aquarium, the USS Lexington Museum and go to a Corpus Christi Hooks baseball game. It’s just a positive win-win domino effect.”
Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort is located at 14353 Commodores Drive. For more information, visit www.schlitterbahn.com/corpus-christi.