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  • Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark

    The Boeing on the roof is an interesting sight, but McMinnville's indoor water park has flaws
  • The Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark is an engineering marvel with a real Boeing 747 plane perched on its roof, but inefficiently run slides mean waits are long.
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  • The Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark is an engineering marvel with a real Boeing 747 plane perched on its roof, but inefficiently run slides mean waits are long.
    About one hour's drive southwest of Portland in the town of McMinnville, the water park is entirely indoors, which makes sense given northern Oregon's frequent rain.
    Southern Oregonians who flock to the Waterworks Park in Redding, Calif. will be out of luck after Monday, when that outdoor park closes following Labor Day Weekend.
    Since it's indoors, Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark stays open year-round, providing an option for water park enthusiasts.
    My family went on an August weekday when the park was moderately busy.
    It was our first trip to the water park, which opened in 2011.
    The most striking feature of the water park is the full-size Boeing 747 on the roof.
    After logging more than 58 million flight miles, the plane touched down in McMinnville in 2009. It was hoisted onto the skeletal frame of the building with a giant construction crane and plane recover sling, and then crews finished the rest of the building.
    Visitors to the park climb flights of stairs to four long slides that start in the interior of the plane, which was gutted to reduce its weight.
    The first time I went up with my daughter, we thought the line we were in wasn't that long — at least based on the number of people in front of us.
    However, it was like being stuck in a big-city traffic jam, with long periods of no movement interspersed with incremental steps forward.
    When we got to the top, we saw why.
    Most water parks send a person down a slide, wait for the person to exit at the bottom and then let the next person go. While one person is sliding down, the next is allowed to position his or her tube at the top of the slide and sit in the water — then shove off when a lifeguard gives the word.
    Positioning a tube in the water and getting in can be a lengthy process, especially when visitors are using a two-person tube and children are involved.
    Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark follows the sensible on-at-a-time rule for sliding.
    However, when one person is going down, the next is not allowed to get in position at the top of the slide. Instead, people wait far back behind lines painted on the floor, then have to be yelled at by lifeguards to come forward, position their tubes and go down the slide.
    That inefficient process doubles the wait time.
    My family waited 20 to 40 minutes for each ride down a slide, a somewhat frustrating experience considering the $32 per person entry fee we had paid.
    Three of the slides require tubes and people go down on their backs in the fourth. The seams connecting the sections of the fourth slide have sharp, painful edges, so I only went down that slide once.
    It was hard to understand how designers and engineers would spend months figuring out how to get a Boeing 747 on a roof, but then choose a badly made waterside that can put welts on users' backs.
    Problems aside, the water slides that require tubes are some of the longest and most enjoyable that I have ever been on.
    Evergreen does not charge extra for the tubes, and there were more than enough to go around while we were there.
    The water park is more than just slides. We enjoyed spending time in a wave pool, a regular pool and a large hot tub, then venturing out again to resume waiting in slide lines.
    The kids also played on a big jungle gym with a forest theme. A helicopter was hung above the play structure. A huge bucket would fill with water, then tip over, dousing children below.
    Water in the park is kept at 84 degrees and the air temperature inside is 85 degrees. I wasn't cold at the park despite the lack of sun.
    It was also nice to not worry about staying protected with sunblock, hats and sunglasses.
    Both kids and adults can use the hot tub, which is set at a comfortably warm 102 degrees.
    After school begins, the water park will likely have fewer visitors and shorter lines.
    I can only recommend going on weekdays and avoiding summers, weekends and holiday periods when school is out.
    The water park is next to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum and a theater that features flight and space-related 3-D movies.
    Picturesque downtown McMinnville is home to a host of restaurants that range from a family-friendly pizza place to upscale dining establishments. It also has several wine bars, a few coffee shops and many unique retail stores.
    For more information on hours, days of operation, prices and attractions at the Evergreen campus, visit http://www.evergreenmuseum.org.
    Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.
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