Neptune Island’s first season drawing to close

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

As Hartsville’s Neptune Island Water Park concludes its first season at the end of September, city staffers and park employees are reflecting on a wildly successful debut – with over 60,000 park guests this summer – and planning ways to make next year even better.

Building on the success of the Piratesville Splashpad, which opened in 2013, the city announced plans for a full-scale water park in spring of 2017. In short order, the project was moving full speed ahead, and Hartsville City Council approved a bond referendum financing the $8.5 million park expansion.

Karen Caulder, City of Hartsville finance director and Neptune Island department head and Jordan Braddock, City of Hartsville and Neptune Island marketing and events coordinator, took lead on the project. They attended a water park conference last fall to learn the A to Z of planning and operations, and Caulder did extensive research to find the right vendors and construction company to pull everything together. She feels fortunate that the city teamed with Trident Construction of Charleston, because the company’s hard work got the park finished a mere 217 days after the November 3 groundbreaking, despite several weeks of heavy spring rains.

“It was just days and days of pumping out water (from the site) to continue moving forward with the water park,” Caulder recalls.
Despite the wet weather delays, the park was completed in time for its June 18 opening day, and the crowds showed up in unexpectedly high numbers. With a capacity of 1,300 people, the park filled up faster than anyone anticipated.

“We were all in shock that we got to a one-in, one-out situation on the first Saturday,” says Caulder.

She notes that the park was soon seeing over 2,000 people on an average Saturday, with many visiting from out of town or even out of state. Guests were asked for their zip codes to confirm how far they traveled to visit Neptune Island.

Season passes went like hotcakes, with over 4,000 sold for the first season. These unlimited visit plans sell for $54.99 (with discounts for Hartsville residents) and include three free ‘bring a friend’ passes.

Daily admissions are $17.99 for those over 48 inches tall (no height restrictions, anyone can use all park attractions), and $15.99 for those shorter than 48 inches. Kids age 2 and under are admitted free with a one-time purchase of a swim diaper cover for $9.99.

Guests enjoyed several fun and exciting park features, like the quarter mile-long lazy river, a zero entry pool, a wave pool, a speed body slide, a pair of tubular water slides and three mat racing slides.

Braddock says she heard from many water park guests who had a blast on the slides and floated the day away on the lazy river. Caulder says kids particularly loved the mat racer slide, where three friends could race each other to the splashdown pool.

“Personally, my favorite thing is the little buzzer that goes off at the wave pool before the waves start. The kids just squeal when they hear that buzzer… when I sit there and watch those faces light up, I love it,” says Caulder.

“We do have a ‘no running’ rule, but when the kids hear that buzzer they just take off,” adds Braddock.
Caulder says that she and Braddock and the water park team have learned a lot in the first season, ranging from proper maintenance of equipment to guest relations to the impact of good social media campaigns. They plan to take all of these lessons to heart and use that information to make next season even more fun for park guests – whether that entails offering more umbrellas and fountain drink stations or providing more opportunities for group outings.

“I want to add more events at the park, because we saw such great turnout for events such as the Mermaid Mondays, the specials like Twilight Hours, so I’d like to focus on more events and special weeks and capitalize on groups like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts,” says Braddock.
“Another area that we’re learning more about is food and beverage, and I’m interested to see how we can improve that. We take feedback extremely serious, so we review all the comments we receive online, both good and bad, and we take it to heart,” says Caulder.

Neptune Island Water Park is located at 1109 S. 14th Street in Hartsville. To learn more about the park’s attractions, prices, and schedule, visit them online at or call 843-951-9400.

Author: Rachel Howell

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