Editorials

Is this finally the end for Schlitterbahn water park in KCK? Let’s hope so

Verrückt waterslide down to the last pieces, two years after death of Caleb Schwab

More than two years after the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, workers are dismantling the last two sections of the 17-story Verrückt waterslide at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kan.
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More than two years after the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, workers are dismantling the last two sections of the 17-story Verrückt waterslide at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kan.

The Schlitterbahn era in the Kansas City region appears to be nearing an end.

It’s welcome and overdue news. The company’s operation of its water park in western Wyandotte County was disastrous — a case study in how not to serve the public’s interest and protect customers’ safety.

The park opened in 2009. Five years later, prompted in part by an insatiable thirst for publicity, Schlitterbahn built Verruckt, the tallest water slide in the world.

Ten-year-old Caleb Schwab died on the ride in 2016. The unspeakable tragedy provoked a flurry of lawsuits, investigations, prosecutions and accusations. It also compelled the Kansas Legislature to stiffen some requirements for amusement parks (although regulatory oversight of the industry remains substandard and unacceptable).

Incredibly, Schlitterbahn remained open here, even after the accident. The Verruckt slide never resumed operation, although the rusting tower loomed over the area for more than two years, a reminder of the company’s negligence and hubris.

The park did not open this year. On Thursday, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which is based in Ohio, said it had agreed to purchase two Schlitterbahn parks in Texas, and has an option to buy the closed Schlitterbahn park in Wyandotte County.

It isn’t clear what Cedar Fair, which also operates Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, wants to do with the property. It might open a new park under a different name, tear it down or not buy the property at all. But it seems clear Schlitterbahn will never open its doors here again.

An entertainment option in western Wyandotte County would be welcome. So would an operator committed to safety. Schlitterbahn was not.

No one should bemoan the end of the Schlitterbahn water park. We should mourn the life lost there, and remember that safety is more important than profits and publicity.

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