Schlitterbahn has been a uniquely Texan enterprise since its inception over 40 years ago.
In 1966, Bob and Billye Henry took over a resort in New Braunfels. In the following decades, the Henry family built an iconic Texas brand: Schlitterbahn—the name paying homage to the cultural roots of the town by combining the German words for “slippery” and “road.”
The resort quickly grew from a hotel with a few slides to a bustling waterpark covering over 60 acres. By the 1990s, the Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort was recognized as one of the world’s best waterparks.
In 2001, the Henry family began expanding their operations by opening waterparks and resorts in South Padre Island, Galveston, Corpus Christi, and Kansas City.
Along with the new parks, they also introduced its “Transportainment” river system. This innovation allowed them to connect all of the attractions together through a single innertube ride so that guests can remain in the water and still get the full experience of the park.
Sadly, in 2016 and 2017 respectively, Bob and Billye passed away.
Another tragedy occurred in 2016 when 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed while riding the world’s tallest waterslide at the park in Kansas City, a slide known as the “Verruckt”—German for insane.
The next few years were challenging for Schlitterbahn. Jeff Henry, one of Bob and Billye’s sons, had designed the Verruckt and was charged with second-degree murder. Earlier this year, a Kansas judge dropped the charges against Jeff because of improper use of evidence in the grand jury trial.
Meanwhile, with financial difficulties surrounding the Corpus Christi resort, ownership of that property eventually went to IBC Bank via Diamond Beach Holdings.
“While it’s a difficult decision,” the Henry family stated recently, “after several challenging years, we believe that our team, communities, guests, and fans are going to enjoy what lies ahead.”
What lies ahead is a change in ownership of the Schlitterbahn brand.
Richard Zimmerman, CEO of Cedar Fair, released a statement expressing his enthusiasm to add the two award-winning parks to his company’s portfolio of resorts. “Schlitterbahn employees are known throughout the industry for their innovation and dedication to the quality of the guest experience,” he said.
According to the press relase from the Henry family, the other two parks will remain under their current ownership: “Our South Padre waterpark and resort will be owned by one of the Henry families and in time will be re-branded. Corpus Christi will remain a Diamond Beach property.”
Despite all of the hardships faced in the past few years, Schlitterbahn remains optimistic, stating that its future is, “as bright as a July day in Texas.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.