To read this article in Swedish, please click here.
This is a review of Kokpunkten, an aquapark in Västerås, Sweden. I would like to start by pointing out that I have no affiliation with Kokpunkten or with any of their competitors, and the review is not financially supported by anyone. Rather, it is based on my personal experience of the aquapark and will hopefully be of help to anybody who is wondering if the aquapark is worth a visit. The short version: it is fun, but I found the safety to be lacking. For the long version, keep reading on :-).
Kokpunkten (Swedish for “The boiling point”) opened in 2014. It is situated in an old steam power plant, which it shares with a hotel (called cleverly the Steam hotel). It is commendable that an old industrial building has been renovated and given a new life while preserving its outside appearance. The title photo shows Kokpunkten and The Steam hotel from the outside. I have not taken any photos of the interior of Kokpunkten due to the fact that my phone does not mix well with water :-).
I lived in Västerås while Kokpunkten was being constructed, but around the time it opened I became a dad, and suddenly a visit to an aquapark fell all the way to the bottom of my to-do list. Then in 2015 we moved to Stockholm and could visit Kokpunkten only during a holiday or a weekend, which I found very uninviting because I feared that it would be extremely crowded. In the end it took a few years but we tested it at the end of April 2018. The day we picked for our visit was technically a work day, a Monday, but as Tuesday was a holiday (International workers’ day) the risk was that even on Monday Kokpunkten would be packed. A small digression – a work day that falls between a weekend and a holiday is called “klämdag”, which is Swedish for “squeeze day” :-). Most people usually take a day off on a squeeze day and thus get a long weekend. On days when a lot of people are expected to visit, Kokpunkten is open in two shifts, the morning shift from 8.30 to 14 and the afternoon shift from 14.30 and 20. The official reason is so that the facility can be cleaned, but if that was the main reason, you would be allowed to enter back in the afternoon with the ticket you had bought for the morning. Since you are not, this of course means that the main reason for the two shifts is maximizing the profits (which is a suitable thing to point out on International workers’ day :-)). But anyway, my impression was that one shift is enough, as I was quite content and ready to leave after roughly three hours.
We entered the facility at 9.30, one hour after opening. There was no queue at the ticket counter, and in the changing room I saw that a lot of unused cabinets, which was a good sign. Indeed, throughout most of our visit we did not have any issues with the number of people present, contrary to my initial fears. I speculate that this was due to a combination of a (semi) work day and the morning shift (however, I have to say that back in September 2017 while having ice-cream in front of Kokpunkten, I did see a massive crowd waiting to enter for the afternoon shift). The entrance fee for two adults and a three year old was 485 SEK (45€ at today’s exchange rate), which is a fair price (or rather, it would be a fair price if safety was approached more seriously, which you can read about more further down in the text). The parking price is 15 SEK per hour (charged 24/7) or 150 SEK for a 24 hour period. Not cheap, but not too bad either. The parking lot is administered by a private company and not by the municipality of Västerås (which does manage a parking lot a 5 minute walk away, and that one is free on Sundays and holidays).
Even after three and a half years of use, the complex looks new and feels very clean (as much as places with a large number of visitors and high humidity can be clean, that is). The logistics work seamlessly, you get an electronic bracelet which you use to lock your cabinet and to register any purchases of food and beverages you might have done during your visit. The changing rooms are spacious (and other than the changing rooms for ladies and for gents, there are also private changing rooms available), the orientation is easy thanks to the signs, you can purchase food (whose quality I cannot comment on since I have not tried it) and drinks, there are plenty of toilets. The air temperature is a bit over 30 degrees Celsius, while the pools vary in temperature (all of them are above 30). If you need a breath of fresh air, there is a nice open air pool with a great view of lake Mälaren. The water slides are the main attraction (and I will get back to them later), but there is much more on offer. There is an area for small kids that offers a shallow pool, a small water slide and some water games like a water canon and water-splashing mushrooms. There is a nice view of lake Mälaren from the kids area also. It was a great place for my three year old daughter to start the visit and get comfortable, but we went on to the bigger pool relatively quickly. That one is 1.5 meters deep so I had to hold my daughter all the time as she cannot swim yet. This pool offers a 340 degree cinema, a turbine (a stream of water which makes you float around in a circle) and a climbing wall. Furthermore, there are several hot tubs for about five persons available. The far end of the aforementioned open air pool also has a hot tub. There is also a relax area (a spa) that I have not visited since the age limit is 18 (yes, I am aware that I am over 18 🙂 but I had a three year old with me).
Thanks to the light show and the music, the atmosphere in Kokpunkten is that of a disco. If you are older, don’t let that scare you, it is done with good measure and worked quite well. I would go as far as claiming that without the lights and music the facility would be poorer.
Back to the slides. There are four of them (in addition to the the small one in the kids area): Double racer, Black river, InsideOut and Boomerang. The queues for the rides were three minutes maximum, which again was a pleasant surprise. I imagine that they could be considerably longer when there is a bigger crowd present. Be prepared for quite a bit of climbing up stairs, since most of the rides start at the seventh and finish at the fourth floor.
Double racer is a ride with two identical parallel slides where you can race against a friend. Since my wife and me needed to watch over our daughter, we did not get a chance to race against each other :-).
Black river is a slide which you partly ride in complete darkness, which was cool. If you do not like the darkness, every 15 minutes the lights are turned on, and there is a sign at the start of the ride which will tell you the current state. Be prepared to get water in your face during a large part of the ride.
InsideOut owes its name to the fact that it partly goes outside of the walls of the former steam power plant (not visible in the title photo, because it is on the opposite side of the building). Which, strangely enough, you have no way of noticing during the ride, because the sides of the slide are opaque. It would have been cool if they were transparent instead – just imagine that at one point you “exit” the building and realize that you are seven floors above ground. That is what I call a missed opportunity. As a ride, InsideOut is quite peaceful, but still fun. That is the only ride among these four which is suitable for smaller kids (they have to ride with an adult, of course). The recommended minimum age is seven, but I saw kids as young as two riding it. My three year old daughter liked the ride. A small disclaimer, at the end of the ride it is quite difficult to get up from the rubber ring if you are holding a kid in your lap, so make sure there is somebody there who can help you. Or ride down in a double ring – in that case one adult can get up first and then hold the kid while the other adult gets up.
And lastly we have the notorious Boomerang, the most adrenalin-packed slide. First there is a sharp drop, then a large climb and then another drop. Extremely much fun. But at the same time insanely dangerous, because while sliding down from the climb, you pick up a lot of speed and can crash into the wall dividing the incoming and outgoing channel. The wall is padded, but hitting it with high speed cannot be pleasant. When I took the ride the first time, I had no idea about the wall so I became scared only after I realized how close I was to hitting it. The second time I took the ride (I like to face my fears, but in retrospect, it was not the smartest thing to do) I tried to steer my way away from the wall, which turned out to be impossible, and my feet were heading straight for it. Luckily, the wall was low enough and I remained sufficiently composed to manage to lift my feet over it. There was no third ride on the Boomerang for me. For the life of me, I cannot understand how they keep this ride open. There are news articles about people getting injured there, for instance this one (in Swedish). And at first, there was even no padding! Johan Björkman, the director of the facility claims that the ride is safe because it was certified by two institutions and that they have not found any fault with the ride?! A hint to the director: crashing into the divider-wall at high speed may be the said fault. He also states that “some have been riding the slide wrongly”, which is ridiculous, as there is no way to influence your path. This is not skiing where you learn how to control your direction and speed and gradually increase the difficulty of the slope you ski down.
While the divider wall at Boomerang is the most blatant safety issue at Kokpunkten, it is not the only one. Here are a few more examples. The minimum weight to ride the Boomerang is 55 kilograms. One member of staff respected this and did not let my wife ride it. However, a bit later, there was another one and he let several boys who could not have weighed more than 40 kilograms take the ride. Furthermore, staff was not present at the start of all of the rides, and no staff was present at the end of any ride. The staff in general was very young and some of them did not seem to care much for what they were doing. Moving on, three rides had a traffic light which showed you when it was safe to start. But Black river was missing this for some reason, and eager teenagers were setting off too soon after each other. To be fair, some adults were not any better – I saw people ignoring the traffic light and starting a ride while it was still red.
I consider that both the people running the facility and its visitors need to take their share of responsibility when it comes to safety, and this time both sides were deeply flawed. However, I think that the larger share of this responsibility lies with the former – had they put a larger number of engaged staff members in place, the latter would have also behaved better. Finally, an issue that should be obvious in an aquapark, but I will list it regardless – the floors are slippery. I had no problems with this, but my daughter did, so a note to all parents – hold your kids by the hand at all times, you don’t want their head to hit the hard tiled floors.
So what is the conclusion? Kokpunkten is an interesting concept that offers a lot of fun for the whole family, but it is difficult to recommend with a clear conscience a visit to a facility that seems to care little about the safety of those whose money it clearly cares for. It is surprising, since generally safety in Sweden is taken quite seriously. What I can recommend on the other hand is a visit to Västerås. The city’s industrial history has given it a relatively bad reputation in Sweden, but the recent development makes the once ugly duckling look more and more like the swans that you might see while strolling along the shores of lake Mälaren.