Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - Updated: 10:16 AM
On Friday, Venture River opened for its 24th season, welcoming guests to the park and a new feature.
A grand opening was held Friday morning just a few feet from Wipeout, Venture River's newest attraction. Jim DeBerry, senior manager for North America of Arihant Water Park Equipment, said Wipe Out marks the company's first feature in the state.
"It's been a long road for us to get into Kentucky," DeBerry said. "We're excited to have great partners in the Jent and the York families. We wouldn't think of a better team to be doing this attraction for."
DeBerry said Wipe Out has six different water slide features and two tipping buckets. The feature rises about three stories tall, with slides curving in different directions.
"It's been a blessing to see members of the community have a vision, take that vision and build a water park," DeBerry said. "I have a lot of parks all over North America. It's not common to see a lot of park presidents [or] owners out there sweating with the team. Manager Andrea [York] is out here busting it, working hard with [employees]. The first day I came out here, I saw Ben [Jent] on a front-end loader."
Jent spoke to guests during the grand opening, recalling how the park has grown. Jent said after he and his family built the Eddyville Outlet Mall, they decided families coming into Eddyville needed something else to keep them here.
"[Shoppers] would leave within 10 stores, but we needed [them] for about 40 more," Jent said. "So we started researching the water park industry nation wide. My wife and I went to Japan and checked out a park there. We researched the industry and decided it was a good fit for the need that we had.
"We developed [the park] because of a need. They were already here, we just had to build it for them. We built it in phases. We built phase one; we would have built more but we couldn't borrow any more money. Bankers thought we had lost our minds."
Jent said it took work to convince investors that a community of about 9,000 could support a water park thanks to two million or more visitors each summer. Jent and his family -- daughter Andrea York and son Troy Jent -- continue to operate the park more than two decades later.
They've also just opened an RV park adjacent to Venture River.
Venture River RV Park opened this month, with the Jents and Yorks working with Rick and Kelly Bowles. The park features 40 spots for motor homes and additional camp sites.