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Video: Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds launches new £4m water ride at Center Parcs in Elveden

PUBLISHED: 09:43 22 November 2012

Paralympic Gold Medalist Ellie Simmonds launches the Tropical Cyclone ride at Centre Parcs, Elvedon with the help of the Thetford Dolphins Swimming Club. Photograph Simon Parker

Paralympic Gold Medalist Ellie Simmonds launches the Tropical Cyclone ride at Centre Parcs, Elvedon with the help of the Thetford Dolphins Swimming Club. Photograph Simon Parker

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A new £4m water ride at a tourist attraction in the heart of Thetford Forest will open to families today (Thursday).

Center Parcs at Elveden will unveil the “world-first” Tropical Cyclone, which takes inspiration from water across three continents, alongside a new child-friendly family lagoon pool.

And Paralaympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds was on hand to try out the attraction for the first time yesterday alongside local swimming group the Thetford Dolphins.

The ride, which is 18m tall - the height of an English oak tree - will carry up to 720 rafters per hour, or 12 per minute, and propel them at speeds of up to 30mph on a specially designed clover-shaped raft.

The opening date of the ride was kept top-secret, even from the thousands of guests at the Elveden site who will wake up to find the ride open for business.

Center Parcs CEO Martin Dalby said: “Center Parcs has been trading in the UK for 25 years and I think one of the reasons it’s been so successful has been the continuous improvement in what we’ve got - this is a new iconic ride for the guests.

“Two years ago we were able to invest in our accommodation and we wanted to add to that and give our guests something special.

“We looked around the world, at the US and the Middle East, and looked at various water parks and came back and agreed on some designs - it’s a world first.”

The Tropical Cyclone incorporates two water rides joined together for the first time - the Tornado and the BehemothBowl.

It aims to give swimmers the feeling of white-water rafting at speeds similar to those experienced along the Zambezi River, will take them along a vortex similar to Japan’s Naruto whirlpool and through a fast-flowing slide similar to the drop of the South American Iguazu Falls.

Eighteen-year-old Ellie, who has Achondroplasia dwarfism and took home two gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the London Paralympic Games, learnt to swim at Center Parcs when she was just a toddler and now visits one of the four sites at least once a year.

She added: “To come back is really special. You get to have so much fun at places like this with the rapids and have a really good time in the water.

“I went in with the kids and they were all really excited because they didn’t know I was coming - I think it’s important to have a life skill and be safe in the water and with this they can learn that.”

Mr Dalby, who intended to try the 200-metre-long ride out yesterday afternoon, added: “This is a £4m investment so it’s a huge amount of money and it demonstrates our commitment to our guests - the thrills and the excitement will be worth it.

“We employ 1,500 people [at the Elveden site] and engage many local businesses and trade with many small companies and this cements that commitment to the community.

“We have 90pc occupancy at our sites and 35pc repeat business annually and I think what this might do is increase people’s desire to come back even sooner.

“Everything here is in great condition and we continue to improve our accommodation and upgrade our shops - we invest a lot of importance in our facilities and we will continue to do so.”

The investment is the first part of a major upgrade to all four Center Parcs sites.

General manager of the Elveden site, James Barrett, said: “It’s such a boost for all the staff and I’m really pleased with how we’ve been able to contain the excitement and keep the secret of when it was due to open. It’s created an almost electric excitement in the Center Parcs community.”

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