Note: This is one of three “amazing builds” highlighted in the September 2021 issue of Business Alabama magazine.
There are hundreds of water parks around the U.S., but only a handful of them — two others to be exact — will be like the Montgomery Whitewater Rafting Park, scheduled to open in 2023.
While others have slides and pools, the Montgomery park will feature kayaking and rafting on a man-made whitewater river.
“There is one in Charlotte and one in Oklahoma, and we’ll have this one here,” says Brian Slaughter, senior project manager for Jesco Construction.
The 120-acre site will be adjacent to Maxwell Air Force Base, near the Alabama River. The 25-acre central park will feature the whitewater river, while the rest of the site will include zip lines, mountain biking, rope courses and more.
“Some people, when they think about whitewater rafting and see where the site is and the proximity to the river, they think obviously we’re using the river to create this park,” Slaughter says.
Not so fast.
Slaughter and his team will be building the river that will be part of the new park, which is designed and developed by Southern Whitewater Development, which designed the other two parks.
“We will be cutting into the ground the whitewater rafting channel,” he says. “There will actually be two rivers — a whitewater rafting competition channel and a recreational family-type channel. Both those channels run down the hill into a big pool area, and this water that collects in this big pool area goes back to the pump house with five pumps in it and pumps it back into the top pool that feeds the channels on both sides.”
The whitewater rafting competition channel will be of a caliber that it could draw athletes training for the Olympics and other competitions, Slaughter says.
“It’s interesting how you make something man-made to make a true whitewater rafting experience, and I’ve learned it’s not uncommon,” Slaughter says. “When you have the summer Olympics, they have to actually build a whitewater rafting facility for the whitewater kayaking.”
In addition, families will be able to come to the park to raft down the river, much like they might do at Georgia’s Ocoee River, Slaughter says. “That opportunity will be here, too,” he says.
But first, the river must be built, and it’s no easy task.
“The weather is a big challenge, because we’re outdoors and trying to keep the site dry,” Slaughter says. “But so far, so good. We’re running a little ahead of schedule and hope to start pouring concrete for the channels by the end of September.”
The $50 million whitewater park project is projected to revitalize a neglected area of Montgomery, much like the Riverwalk and ballpark project did for the downtown area.
“We actually built the Riverwalk baseball stadium here in Montgomery,” Slaughter says of Jesco. “We looked at it as an opportunity to build something unique in the community. We’re all hometown people, from Montgomery and the surrounding area. I’ve been in Montgomery close to 40 years. This particular project is the same, although it could be challenging. They’re trying to revitalize this part of town out near Maxwell Air Force Base.”
Like the baseball park, the whitewater park brings a particular sense of accomplishment to all of the Montgomery-area folks involved.
“When you take your family to a place you’ve been involved in — and now I’m taking my grandkids — there really is a sense of pride,” Slaughter says.
And he won’t be there just to gawk. Slaughter is a whitewater rafter himself, who has gone down the Ocoee and other rivers.
“I told the team yesterday, we’re going to be in the first raft going down,” Slaughter says of the Montgomery park. “So y’all get ready.”
For another of the Amazing Builds from the September issue, click here.