May 16--Jeff Howlett spent his childhood summers riding the winding coasters and slides at the Ocean View Amusement Park. Decades after the park closed and the Norfolk beach lost some of its tourist appeal, Howlett felt an urge to bring back that same taste of summer for his 15 nieces and nephews.
His idea will take shape next week when a colossal water slide inflates on the sand.
Howlett spent the past year collaborating with the city and other businesses in Norfolk to erect the Ocean View Water Slide, which will tower nearly four stories and extend more than 170 feet at Community Beach Park.
"You don't have to leave Norfolk to have fun," said Christopher Hagan, a consultant on the project. "We're trying to bring back entertainment for families."
Howlett managed a slide in Virginia Beach and envisioned what summer in Norfolk would be like with a similar set-up. Single rides will cost $3 and a day pass $25. He'll also rent beach chairs and umbrellas, and free parking will be provided. The slide opens May 23.
Howlett's longtime friend, Don Rockwell, will station a food truck from his nearby barbecue restaurant, Mojo Bones, at the beach. Rockwell said the barbecue, hot dogs and snow cones will be affordable. "We don't want to exploit pricing since we'll be the only food venue near the attraction."
Hagan said the response from the community has been "unbelievable." Many residents expressed excitement, and the City Council approved the lease agreement unanimously Tuesday.
James Despres, who was visiting the beach Thursday from Suffolk, said he would rather go to Ocean View than Virginia Beach.
"There's a lot of things to do in Virginia Beach, but I don't want to pay $20 for parking and drive over there," Despres said. "(Ocean View) is a pretty great beach, especially if they clean it up a little bit. It'll be a perfect place for families."
His 3-year-old daughter, Lillian, plopped down on the beach and buried her toes in clumps of sand.
"She loves everything about the water," he said. "She'll be so excited about the slide."
Kara Driscoll, 757-446-2326, email@example.com
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