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Opening of world’s tallest water slide delayed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — With nearly half of its season already in the books, a water park in Kansas has been forced to delay the opening of the world’s tallest water slide for the third time and hasn’t set a new date for its debut.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City announced Thursday that Verruckt, a 17-story, 168-foot-tall water slide, would not open on Sunday as scheduled. The park’s news release did not give a reason for the latest delay, although earlier this week two media sneak preview days were canceled because of problems with a conveyor system that hauls 100-pound rafts to the top of the slide.

A November 2013 photo shows Schlitterbahn’s new Verrückt speed slide/water coaster in Kansas City, Kan. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Jill Toyoshiba)

Verruckt, which means “insane” in German, was certified as the world’s tallest water slide in April by Guinness World Records. The slide sends riders on four-person rafts plummeting at 60 mph to 70 mph.

The ride’s initial opening date was moved from May 23 to June 5 to allow for more testing, then pushed back again to June 29. Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said earlier this week that park officials would not hesitate to delay operation again for however long it takes to make sure the slide is safe.

“We’ll take embarrassment before putting someone in the slide when it is not ready,” she said.

In a news article linked to the news release announcing the latest delay, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry told USA Today that he and senior designer John Schooley had based their calculations when designing the slide on roller coasters, but that didn’t translate well to a water slide like Verruckt.

In early tests, rafts carrying sandbags flew off the slide, prompting engineers to tear down half of the ride and reconfigure some angles at a cost of $1 million, Henry said.

He said testing of the slide was conducted after dark to avoid media helicopters that had been buzzing over the park after hours.

The Associated Press reached out Friday morning through Prosapio for an interview with Henry, but he had not responded to that request several hours later.

Sunday’s opening had been scheduled to coincide with a one-hour special on the Travel Channel titled “Xtreme Waterparks” documenting the designing and building of Verruckt.

A promotional video for the show includes footage of two men riding a raft down a half-size test model of the slide and going slightly airborne as it crests the top of the first big hill.

Henry told USA Today that while Schlitterbahn is a family water park, Verruckt isn’t a family ride.

“It’s for the thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure,” he said.

Schlitterbahn’s season started May 23, and the park will be open daily through Aug. 17, after which it will be open two more weekends before the season ends, according to the park’s website.

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