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Lost Island Theme Park Opened Briefly in 2022; Plans for Longer, Smoother Season in 2023
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Long planned and eagerly awaited, Lost Island nonetheless had challenges during its first season in summer of 2022. Opened in June, it closed early for the season August 28th. But the park appears set to have an easier time getting things rolling for 2023. During its short inaugural season, the park saw on average approximately 250 to 700 guests each day and had been projecting higher numbers. Along with less-than-expected attendance, staffing shortages were also problematic last year.

Yet another problem was that two of the park's most anticipated rides were delayed until 2023. The log flume ride, Super Flume Yuta Falls, is listed as having a planned opening for this year's season and the park's launch coaster is ready to roll.

Located in Waterloo, Iowa, the park had first begun construction in 2019. It's owned by the Bertch Family, who also operate the successful, vibrantly South Pacific Island-themed Lost Island Water Park close by. That park opened in 2001 and remains a popular destination for land-locked Iowans.

Lost Island theme park cost the Bertch family over $100 million to construct. It offers a highly themed experience. It's divided into five separate areas or realms, representing earth, air, water, fire, and spirit.

The park has been busy using their off season period to evaluate the feedback they received, expand staffing, and smoothing front gate admissions as well as restaurant service times, according to park owners. Applications are already being taken to fill the approximately 300 seasonal positions needed for the summer, with hiring set to begin in February. This year, the park is planning to stay open later, with evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Park general manager Eric Bertch says the park is trying to bring “world-class entertainment to the area, and he believes the park can “stand up close to many of the big players in the industry.”

Lost Island is currently offering attendance bargains for both the family-run waterpark and theme park. Day tickets to the theme park run $46-49; a season pass to both parks is $375. The park is just part of an ambitious amusement area run by the Bertch family. It joins the waterpark and a Golf & Go-Karts venue.

Opening the theme park was first considered as early as 2011, according to Eric Bertch. Originally, the idea to continue the tropical theme of the waterpark was considered, but was soon replaced by a more ambitious and fantastical series of realms across the 1590-acre property in order to create a park that had a “history of its own.”

The Tamariki or Spirit realm focuses on an experience for children. The other realms offer a mix of family and thrill attractions. Each has an extensive amount of detail and a cohesive story behind it and includes secret “Easter eggs” in each area. Details includes stamped images of palm leaves and feathers on the cement walkways. Many of these small touches were added by the park owners themselves to create an immersive experience. Music themed to each realm adds to the atmosphere at the park. The park's varied realms each feature color palettes that reflect the theming as well, for example, blues, purples, and pastel shades color the air realm; blue colors theme the water realm; and appropriately, red and orange decorate the fire realm.

The park also has mascots: the Tamariki, protecting the four elements of nature represented by the different realms. One character, Aoka, the Tamariki of Friendship, greets guests entering the park, while twelve different sculptures of these spirit mascots appear throughout the park.  

The park's 25 rides are designed to appeal to a wide range of guests. Cincinatti-based BDR Design Group partnered on the park project with Weber Group the general contractor. Five of the park's rides were provided by Zamperla. Theming creativity was intricately melded with the design for the rides.

Michael Coleman, Zamperla's North American sales manager, says that “The ride action and theming all tie into the area in which they are located.” Zamperla collaborated on ride development throughout the park, including rides that in the end were provided by other ride manufacturers. Zamperla's rides include Midi Family Swinger, Magic Bikes, Jump Around, Disk'O Coaster 24, and Samba Tower. The Disk O'Coaster is a family thrill experience sized for guests 48 inches and up, while the other four accommodate smaller riders.

Throughout the park, rides are themed for the different areas in terms of operation, with attractions such as Gerstlauer's Sky Fly located in the air realm, a ride that lets guest's legs hang free. In the water realm, there's a splash battle attraction from Interlink, as well as a ship swing ride with a pirate theme, designed to look as if it floats in water. To create this pirate ship look, ride purveyor Rides 4 U placed the ride at ground level creating a “zero-grade” entry with the ride's legs cut down to create the watery illusion.

Rides 4-U brought several different manufacturers' rides to the park, fulfilling theming needs while providing a Ferris Wheel, a fish-themed teacup ride located in the water area, the water realm's swinging ship, and a drop tower ride, among others.

And what about the rides that didn't open last year as planned? The flume ride appears on track to debut in time for this season, and the Intamin launch coaster dubbed Matugani, which did not launch at the start of the 2022 season, due to a scarcity of parts, is already in place. The coaster was moved from Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden, where it was dubbed the Kanonen. The steel coaster is now rethemed for the earth realm in which it is located. It includes a hydraulic launch and two inversions, and is limited to those 56” in height and up.

Bumper cars however, are a big family hit. Provided by Spin Zone, Bertch reports that they are a fan favorite. The dark ride thriller from Sally Dark Rides, Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol, is also a favorite, one entirely unique to Lost Island, created specifically for the park.

Lost Island is looking forward to truly being “found” in 2023.
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