Adrienne White Rhodes broke ground today on SoakYa, the newest addition to Lake Winnepesaukah. (Photo: Staff)

The weather took its cue from Lake Winnepesaukah this morning, and were it not for a huddle of tents, the rain might have soaked the crowd gathered to celebrate the latest development at the South’s favorite family amusement park.

The Rossville attraction broke ground today on its five-acre water park, which is set to open this summer. Officials also unveiled the name of what will be the first major expansion since the 1960s: SoakYa.

Lake Winnepesaukah first announced its plans for the water park on Oct. 24, 2012.

“What would a water park be without a little water?” joked Talley Green, a fourth-generation member of the amusement park’s founding family, who manages it today with her mother, Adrienne White Rhodes, and her sister, Tennyson Dickinson.

Green continued, “Lake Winnepesaukah is a hard-to-say and even harder-to-spell name, but through the years, that name has become synonymous with family fun in our region. That’s why we chose SoakYa, a spirited play on our name, for the water park that is a perfect complement to our amusement complex.”

CapitalMark is financing the multimillion dollar project. 

Chris Jones of Christopher M. Jones Architects and Planners gave the mix of politicians, press and others a visual tour of what will be involved in the five-month construction period. 

The entrance will be located behind the Cannon Ball Roller Coaster, which will be added as a stop on the amusement park’s train ride.

The new Lake Winnie water park is set to open in summer 2013. (Screenshot: Staff)

A snack area and gift shop will be right off the entrance. Nearby bathrooms and changing facilities will provide guests with locker storage. An 800-foot lazy river with waves, fountains, spray mist and bubbles will encircle the water park. 

Lake Winnepesaukah is also creating an 18-foot hill for two towers featuring flume body slides and enclosed tubes. Toward the back of the park, a crossing pool will allow children and adults to balance and maneuver on a trail of floatables while holding onto an overhead net. 

The far end of the park will also be home to a beach lagoon area with beach chairs and a gentle slope into a pool area connected to the lazy river.

With an eye to providing entertainment for all ages, the water park will include a shallow splash pool for toddlers.

“The new year and new beginnings—it’s an exciting time,” Jones said. “The next time you see this, it’s going to be a world of difference.”

Construction will begin next week under the direction of Aquatic Builders Ltd. The project will create 100 temporary jobs for construction, electrical, plumbing and excavation contractors. Once complete, SoakYa will create 50 to 60 seasonal jobs.

More bang for the buck
Among those to speak at the press conference was Kevin Langston, deputy commissioner for tourism in the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Langston shared a few key statistics about the impact that tourism revenue like the kind generated at Lake Winnepesaukah has on the state. The $49 billion industry employs 400,000 Georgians and contributes $2.6 billion annually to the state’s tax revenue.

In fact, each resident pays $744 less in taxes every year because of the tourism industry.

Langston praised Lake Winnepesaukah officials and supporters for the timing of the water park’s opening, which will coincide with the events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in the Northwest Georgia corridor.

Construction on the five-acre park will officially begin next week. (Photo: Staff)

The amusement park will have a new advantage in attracting the coveted demographic of family tourists.

“I’m already sold on the importance of this project,” Langston said. Explaining that his family had visited Lake Winnepesaukah when his now-teenage sons were younger, he said, “I’m looking forward to many more families making memories here.”

The ticket price for general admission from the April 13 opening day to Memorial Day weekend will remain at $26 for adults and $10 for children 2 years old and younger and seniors.

With the opening of SoakYa, ticket prices Memorial Day through Labor Day will be $31.95 for adults and $15.95 for children 2 years old and younger and seniors. This price includes admission to both parks. 

As a group of Lake Winnepesaukah officials and those involved in the design and construction of the water park lined up for the groundbreaking, shovels in hand, the older generation of the founding family gave her blessing.

“The ground being turned here today is a sign to our construction crew to start their engines,” she said.

And with that, two construction loaders cranked their engines and began their work.