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Crowds pack Wild Waves and back up traffic near I-5 exit
Crowds descended upon Wild Waves Theme Park this weekend for cheap tickets and relief from the scorching summer heat.
Several people who tried to cool off at the park's water rides and wave pool, however, were left feeling hotheaded.
The theme park, which is located off Enchanted Parkway South, was offering $14.99 tickets through June 30. As temperatures hovered in the high 80s and low 90s, hundreds of people took advantage of the Wild Waves ticket deal.
The Department of Transportation even issued a traffic alert Sunday for backups in both directions at Interstate 5 and Highway 18.
The park's management anticipated the onslaught and received traffic assistance from Federal Way police. Wild Waves employees parked their cars at nearby Todd Beamer High School - and were shuttled into the park - to free up more customer parking.
Wild Waves CEO Jeff Stock and general manager Todd Suchan told The Mirror that last weekend was a record-setter for attendance. The company does not disclose attendance numbers.
"This was a perfect storm," Stock said, noting this weekend's hot weather and the ticket promotion. "We want our customers leaving with a good experience. We just had to bear it and do the best we could."
The crowded attractions at the park led to several posts on the Wild Waves Facebook page from frustrated customers who complained about the traffic, lack of parking, long lines and dirty bathrooms.
Residents also reported that parking spilled over into neighborhoods, and at one point, parking stretched up S. 360th Street almost to 28th Avenue S.
"I got stuck in that madness yesterday just trying to get to Costco," wrote Kara Kelliher on The Mirror's Facebook page in response to this weekend's traffic alert. "What is usually a 10 minute drive turned into an hour. I have lived in Federal Way for many years and I have never seen it cause this big of a problem before. Hope this does not become a regular occurrence all summer."
The park management apologized to nearby residents as well as businesses for any inconvenience, saying it was a one-off day. There would be a different story to tell had the weather been 65 degrees and raining.
"We apologize to the homeowners," Suchan said.
Located on 70 acres in Federal Way, Wild Waves is the state's largest theme park as well as the largest seasonal employer in the region. The park features 20 waterslides, a 24,000-square-foot wave pool and the state’s biggest wooden roller coaster, TimberHawk.