Whiting's much-anticipated floating water park in Lake Michigan, the Whoa Zone at Whihala Beach, is slated to open June 24.
Workers have started installation of a 1-acre Wibit sports park that will include slides, monkey bars, action towers, jumping platforms, traversing walls and wiggle bridges in five- to 12-foot-deep water about 100 feet off shore. A one-hour session will cost $20 and should be booked in advance online, at least during busy weekends, said Ron Romens, president of Commercial Recreation Specialists, which is installing the facility.
Visitors also will be able to spend $20 to rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, round boats known as corcls or — starting in August — beach cabanas.
Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura said the $300,000 attraction — which will be located halfway between the main swimming area and Hammond's Horseshoe Casino — is part of an ongoing effort to draw more visitors to Whiting's lakefront. People would be able to access the park by parking in metered spaces at the beach or the neighboring lakefront park, which costs $3 per hour or $15 per day.
On hot weekends, as many as 10,000 to 15,000 people already flock to the Lake Michigan beach. Parking was sold out by noon Saturday, Romens said.
The Whoa Zone at Whihala Beach aims to capture some of that traffic, and also draw visitors from within a 50-mile radius. The German company Wibit places its brightly colored floating aquatic playgrounds all over the world, and they have drawn out-of-towners from as far as 100 miles away who will come to make a day of it.
"It's like an aquatic ninja course," Romens said. "It's a wipeout on the water for the whole family."
Whiting's Whoa Zone will feature 61 different floating play elements anchored onto the lake floor and spread out over a 200-foot by 250-foot area. Half pipes, roundabouts and bounce domes are meant for all abilities and ages 7 and up, including adults. Play features are grouped into four different but interconnected levels of challenge.
"Mom could go one way, dad could go another with young kids, and teenagers could go to the most challenging part," he said. "It's self-guided. You can run and jump, or just kick back and relax."
Visitors will be in and out of the water, for instance sliding into the lake and clambering back up a ladder onto the next play feature.
Everyone gets a 10- to 15-minute safety orientation, life jacket and a wristband. Lifeguards always monitor the play area, which can hold up to 120 people at a time and is cleared every hour to make way for the next group.
Walk-ins are accepted, but people should try to book in advance online, especially on weekends, Romens said.
Visitors can also rent one or more of 16 paddleboards, eight kayaks, four corcls and two dozen beach cabanas that will arrive later in the season. There will be package deals for people who want to paddleboard or kayak and visit the water park on the same day, as well as early-bird and weekday specials.
"Whiting has been a natural beach, and we're going to bring some whoa to it," Romens said. "We're bringing water-based family entertainment."
For more information, visit whoazonewhihala.com.