The latest tourist attraction in Corpus Christi – Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort – is officially open for business.
By: Stephanie Kusy
Photos by: Mark Joseph/Darklab Photography
The Deluge, an exhilarating tube chute at Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort, might just be Terri Adams’ favorite ride. As the chief operating officer (COO) of all five waterparks, she fully embraces the “work hard, play hard” mentality. She has been spending significant time in Corpus Christi overseeing the waterpark, as it opened its doors for the summer. The park features 13 attractions in total, including three new rides this season.
However, she makes sure she gets to enjoy some fun in the sun. “There’s something about putting your head back with your bottom and your feet in the water, looking up at the beautiful Corpus Christi blue sky that just lets your mind get lost – and in a good way.” She hopes residents and tourists alike will take advantage of this state of mind.
Adams enjoys getting lost on the interconnected river system, the largest of all the parks, yet she remains focused on the waterpark’s success. Several leaders in the waterpark industry around the world began their career with the Henry family-owned Schlitterbahn, and Adams is no different.
She joined the company as a teenager, selling T-shirts during the summer and lifeguarding at the original park in New Braunfels. She returned during her college days at Texas State and was soon offered a fulltime position. She worked hard, gained additional responsibilities and eventually began managing the main park. As the company grew and added new locations, she took on a more global role. Now she oversees all five parks:
1. New Braunfels
2. South Padre
4. Kansas City
5. Corpus Christi
“Now I live in five cities,” she said, laughing. “At least I feel like that some days. I tell people I have five favorite children. There is never a dull moment.”
A variety of attractions and activities set Corpus Christi apart from the other parks. For starters, Schlitterbahn has transformed from a small summertime waterpark into a year-round riverpark and resort destination with a plethora of things to do. A nine-hole golf course, a full-service restaurant, meeting space and a concert venue space known as Freedom Stage will attract all types of guests. Not to mention a 90-room resort right next to the park will encourage travelers to stay a while, and groups to have year-round events, providing an expected boost to the Coastal Bend’s economy.
“There’s so much more of an impact than people can see,” Adams said. “There’s the direct impact where people come overnight or extend their stays. Maybe somebody comes to go to the beautiful beaches and visits the Texas State Aquarium or the Lexington, but now they’ll stay another day to go to Schlitterbahn. Then there are people that will come now just because we are here and learn all that the area has to offer. Corpus Christi’s travel and entertainment package is amazing and getting better.”
Schlitterbahn continues to succeed because of its unique ride designs and family-oriented focus. Driving down South Padre Island Drive, there is not much to see of the park from afar. The excitement exists in the ground where a wide variety of rivers offer fun and adventure for guests as they travel to the different chutes and slides.
The Henry family – recognizing that tubing in a river is a big part of the fun, as opposed to waiting in line for rides – designs parks so guests can enjoy their trip downstream in an inner tube. “The best part of tubing is the whole time you are in a river, you are with your family,” Adams said. “You get to look at their faces. You get to splash them. Part of the fun in being with your family and friends is you get to experience it together.”
The waterpark continues the laidback “island time” notion by offering complimentary perks like free parking, tubes and life jackets. Families can even bring in their own food and drinks from home. The park aims to provide affordable family fun, and believes once guests experience the magic of their park, they’ll return again and again.
The Henry family originally opened a resort in the 1960s as a classic mom-and-pop business with only a handful of slides among resort rooms. In 1979, the family launched Schlitterbahn with the iconic castle fans have come to love. The Henry family now holds more than 60 patents on ride designs and waterpark technology. The company currently employs more than 500 fulltime staff and 4,500 seasonal workers.
In the early days, Adams was one of the only women in operations in the waterpark industry. She said that’s no longer the case, but it is still difficult to wear so many hats. “It’s hard to raise a family, be a mom and a wife, a general manager and a COO the way we work at Schlitterbahn,” Adams said.
So, how does she do it all? “You can’t do it all,” said Adams emphatically. “You do the best you can, and frankly, I have an amazing God, an amazing husband, great support from the Henry family, and I work with great people. I expect a lot from myself. I expect a lot from my teammates, but I’ll give a lot, too. You do the best you can. You set priorities and do the things that are important.”
In 2015, Adams received the prestigious Tall in Texas award by the Texas Travel Industry Association for her outstanding contributions to the travel and tourism industry. Adams humbly proclaims she thrives on helping others in the industry succeed. “My biggest accomplishment is creating other leaders that have gone on to run this business or other businesses and have impact and influence on the world,” she said. “I’m pretty smokin’ proud of that!”
Even when she’s not working, Adams finds it difficult to stay away from the water. A self-proclaimed water bug, she enjoys paddle boarding and swimming with friends and family. As she celebrates more than 37 years with the nation’s most well-known waterpark, she intends to grow the number of people visiting each park annually.
“Every community we’re in is growing,” Adams said. “Every community is a great travel destination. We’re proud to be a part of what encourages people to travel together and make new memories year after year. And we know they’ll make great memories at Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi.”
The company’s first riverpark promises a unique experience with a complete family entertainment destination. “Every Schlitterbahn is a little different,” Adams said. “They’re all like ice cream. They’re all wonderful – just a different flavor.” Then Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort surely won’t disappoint.
Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort is located at 14353 Commodores Drive. For more information, visit www.schlitterbahn.com/corpus-christi.
Photos courtesy of Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort