Waterpark still making a splash 30-years-on
Take a step back 30 years...
Wham! topped the charts with The Edge of Heaven, David Bowie was a box office hit in Labyrinth and a young lifeguard began his job at Blackpool’s newest tourist attraction.
What a difference a few decades makes.
These days John Childs very rarely spends his days poolside.
He’s been with Blackpool’s Sandcastle Waterpark every step of the way - working his way up from the water to the boardroom
So it’s no surprise Blackpool’s slide supremo was on hand to lead the birthday celebrations as one of Blackpool’s best-loved attractions turned 30.
The big day was yesterday - but the celebration has been month-long with community groups, charities and record breakers all involved.
“I came here, I thought I’d stay for a couple of years,” said John, who admits he wasn’t entirely truthful when he joined the Sandcastle team.
“I did my degree in geology but I’d worked in tourism as a student - at the Warwick Hotel and at the Pleasure Beach.
“I did some swimming teaching.
“I speculated that I might do alright here.
“I started at the bottom.
“I only revealed I had a pool lifeguard qualification.
“I won the Preston and Ribble Lifeguard championship and all my information was in the paper.
“My bosses said ‘you never told us any of this at interview’.
“I asked if they would have given me the job as a lifeguard had they known I had a degree and the answer was ‘probably not’.
A degree in rocks might not be the most obvious qualification for a man who has made his life’s work of water, but John is proof that with talent, anyone can work their way to the top.
He said: “I started from the bottom and just went from strength to strength.
“I was lifeguarding and supervising until 1987 when I went to supervising.
“In 1988 I became water park manager, operations manager in 1990.
“It wasn’t until 1997 I became a director and took the helm.”
The Sandcastle replaced South Shore’s Open Air Baths - a landmark it its own right.
The venue was revolutionary when it opened, with a wave pool and two thrilling slides.
But John admits things could have been even bigger and better.
He said: “Back in the day, when it opened as a open air pool it was the biggest in the world.
“Blackpool likes to do things big, bigger and better.
“In 1986 it was another massive change.
“I think it would have been nice if it could all have been waterpark, without the showbar side.
“We struggle for space.
“We need to be a lot bigger, so many people want to use our attraction.
“It’s been such a great success.
With John at the helm, the Sandcastle has developed beyond recognition with the addition of a series of world class slides, building on the tradition of bigger and better, set by the original outdoor pool.
John said: “I’ve been a long time at the helm.
“A lot has changed over those years.
“The pool hall, the water park as we call it now, contains so much more.
“It’s not the same business any more.
“We have so many more slides, attractions.
“It’s a world class waterpark.”
One thing long gone, but not forgotten, are the pink flamingos which used to hang above the wave pool.
And they might yet take flight again.
“The flamingos are not quite gone,” John joked.
“They are still downstairs in our store, waiting for the time we can get them out.”
Flamingos or not, the Sancastle boss is happy for the council-owned attraction to stand still.
“There are more slides out there, more we’d like to purchase,” he said.
“It’s something we’re constantly looking at.
“I’m fortunate to be a director of the World Waterpark Association.
“I get to travel quite a bit.
“I see various parks and what they are doing.”
And with thrills catered for, John believes a big family attraction might be the next thing on the horizon.
He said: “Top of the pile I’d love to see a four or six person raft ride so a whole group can go on.
“It’d be more disabled friendly too, which is very important to us.”
“Slide technology has moved on.
“There’s lots we don’t have.
“We’re working on plans to expand sideways or upwards.
“That’s what we’re thinking about.”
The former lifeguard, turned managing director, might have one of the most prized jobs in Blackpool.
And he’s only to happy to get out and check everything is working as it should.
But which of the Sandcastle’s rides is his number one pick
“It’s between two,” he said.
“The Masterblaster has that high thrill factor and the last drop is amazing.
“On the other side there’s the Ushy Gushy Action River where you can just go round and round with no cares in the world.
“It’s just relaxing.”
There’s still a chance to join in the Sandcastle party this weekend when the water park hosting a world record attempt.
The water park, on Blackpool South Promenade, will be attempting to break the world record for the most people going down a water slide in one hour.
The current record of 396 people was achieved by Netherlands water park Beerze Bulten in July 2014.
The free event will take place between 6pm and 7pm on Sunday on the Duelling Dragons slide.
Participants must be six-years-old or older must be good-standard swimmers.
People can sign up at www.wave965.com/spi/sandcastle-waterpark-world-record-attempt