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Engineering and design for Universal Studios’ rapids ride

About this project

client
Universal Orlando Resort
location
Florida
cost
$30 million (est.)

When Universal Studios wanted to develop the world’s biggest, fastest whitewater raft ride for its Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Barr was selected to provide hydraulic, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering services. The concept called for abrupt changes in water velocity, surprise river turns, large rapids, and steep water drops, so maintaining rider safety presented challenges.

An almost 2,000-horsepower river-recirculation submersible-axial-flow pump station provides the water flow required to move boats about 16 feet per second and create six major rapids and three vertical drops of approximately 3 feet along the 2,000-foot river. The ride system includes special gates that stop boats to keep them safely separated and avoid too many boats in any river reach. It also includes a boat loading-and-unloading system comprising a high-capacity rotation turntable.

The finished ride features twisting channels, spinning 12-person rafts, deep plunges and ascents—even a waterfall that the rafts go over. It continues to be a riders’ favorite and was nominated for 2010’s Best Theme Park Ride – Best Themed Ride by Theme Park Insider.

Key team members

Al Fandrey

Vice President
Senior Civil Engineer

Paul Schiller

Vice President
Senior Structural Engineer

John Quist

Vice President
Senior Civil Engineer

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