Zoombezi Bay -- the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's newest attraction -- opened Monday with a splash.

Zoombezi Bay -- the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's newest attraction -- opened Monday with a splash.

The 23-acre water park and dry amusement area looks nothing like the old Wyandot Lake, which closed two years ago.

Out with the old and in with the zoo was the theme for designing a park that can grow through the years, said Peter Fingerhut, associate zoo director.

"Zoombezi Bay is meant to look like an island where a family was marooned and that they used parts of the ship to make the buildings," Fingerhut said during a tour of the $45-million project. "We wanted to bring in everything brand new so it can be here for years to come."

Aside from Ohio's first head-first water slide, the "Dolphin Dash," Zoombezi Bay is also distinctive in its partnership with the zoo, Fingerhut said.

Zoombezi Bay will be run by a private company and its profits will benefit programs at the zoo.

"The neat thing about it is that all the profits generated go to the zoo to enhance the conservation and education efforts," Fingerhut said. "Other zoos around the country will be watching this."

During the inaugural season, about 400,000 visitors are expected to come to Zoombezi and the dry side, known as Jack Hanna's Landing, with about 30,000 season passes expected to be sold.

Jack Hanna's Landing features more than a dozen rides and attractions. Ride tickets or wristbands are purchased separately from Zoombezi tickets.

It will take about 1-million gallons of water and 250 employees to run the park.

About 90 percent of the water will be recycled, Fingerhut said.

The "Cyclone" has potential to become the parks' most recognizable icon; a blue and yellow megaphone-shaped slide looms above Zoombezi Bay amid a dozen brightly colored slides and tubes snaking throughout the park.

Fingerhut said the "Cyclone" will "have four or five people in a raft and you start at the top, go through the slide area, and when you come out, the raft climbs up the side of that funnel and then right before it feels like you're going to tip over, the water pushes you back to the other side and you go back and forth several times before you come out the bottom.

"This is the one you see off (state Route 750) that everybody talks about."

Complaints from the old Wyandot Lake were considered when designing Zoombezi.

"One unique thing that you won't find at most water parks is the water is actually heated to 80 degrees. It feels like bath water," Fingerhut said. "Some of the things we've heard from guests in the past was the water was too cold, and a lack of seating."

Additional seating around the new wave pool and private cabanas, which can be rented daily, are among the upgrades.

Although 90 percent of the park is new, the infamous white roller coaster -- the Sea Dragon -- remained as did Christopher's Island, a children's area that was renamed Barracuda Bay.

"We kept the Sea Dragon, which is 52 years old, because it was an icon for Columbus so we felt we had to keep that," Fingerhut said.

The zoo bought the 23-year-old Wyandot Lake in October 2006 and closed it last summer for the renovation.

Season passes are $79.99 per person for ages 2 and up and $24.99-$29.99 for a single day ticket.

Hours will be 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. through mid-June. The park will stay open until 8 p.m. during the week and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

For more information visit, www.columbuszoo.org.