Feature Article - September 2004
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Water 101

Tips for squeezing every last drop of success out of your waterpark and splash play area

By Stacy St. Clair

Water Country USA (Williamsburg, Va.)

Water Country is the largest family waterpark in mid-Atlantic America. Set to a colorful 1950s surfing theme, all pools are heated to an inviting 82 degrees to encourage patronage on cool days. There are more than 1,500 lounge chairs for parents to sit on while their children ride attractions like Hubba Hubba Highway, the Lemon Drop and Peppermint Twist.

COOL TIP: Branch out to special populations. Water Country USA offers free admission to Iraq War veterans on designated Military Appreciation Days throughout the summer.

Splish Splash (Long Island, N.Y.)

A 96-acre park kept things fresh this summer by adding a new ride, the Dragon's Den. Like the Raging Waters ride, it's 50 feet tall and descends 45 feet into a misty bowl. A two-person raft spirals into the eerie den before finally escaping through a dark crevice to safety. The park, however, does not succeed with major thrill rides alone. It was voted No. 1 in hospitality by Business LI Magazine.

COOL TIP: Helping your patrons get to your park is just as important as getting them through the gate. Splish Splash offers ticket packages that include public transportation.

Soak City USA (Buena Park, Calif.)

A part of Knott's Berry Farm amusement park, Soak City packs 22 attractions onto a 32-acre facility. It pays tribute to the area's history with a 1950s California Surfing theme, where the rides are designed to be surfed by the woodies and long boards of the San Diego coast a half-century ago.

COOL TIP: Sometimes it pays to re-evaluate your pricing. Soak City USA recently lowered its child admission price for children between ages 3 and 11.

Hyland Hills Water Park (Denver)

As one of America's largest waterparks, Hyland Hills sets the bar high. It boasts more features—42—than any other park in America. Though giant thrill rides are the top attraction, the park does not neglect small children and easily frightened adults. Hyland Hills has the most family tube rides of any American park. It also has Wally World, a tot-sized park filled with slides, waterfalls and tire swings in very shallow water.

COOL TIP: Give any expansion plans plenty of thought—and make sure to include your employees' input. Hyland Hills park officials spend a lot of time brainstorming with staff before picking a theme for new attractions.

  Got Attractions?

No matter how great the parking or how wild the rides, a facility just won't float without all the right components. A competitive waterpark—regardless of size or operator—rely on the following "essential" components to succeed:

Zero-depth entry: The beach-type sloped entry is loved by parents who worry about their small children falling into the water.

Fountains and sprays: A fun feature, especially on hot summer days when the water slide lines are long. Also a favorite of patrons who aren't thrilled with thrill rides.

Lazy river: A slow river ride that allows patrons to float along in an inner tube

Splash play areas: Home to sprayers and water cannons, the hippest splash play areas now have themes, of course. Besides, what's more fun than squirting a friend?

Slides: Your slides are often the crown jewels of your facility. You better have a good one. Consider features that will make your facility unique such as vertical drops and racing slides.

Climbing walls: Walls offer a relatively inexpensive way to add another attraction to your facility. If patrons fall from the walls, the water cushions their landing, making it a safe feature.

Dry fun: Many patrons enjoy activities that are, well, a little less wet. While most parks offer miniature golf or go-carts as their dry alternative, Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., opened a completely dry ride in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

Lounge chairs: If mom and dad don't intend on getting wet, make sure they have a place to sit. Be sure to have chairs placed throughout the park—both in the sun and shade—so parents can keep an eye on their children. Consider selling books and magazines at the gift shop to keep loungers busy. Content and comfortable patrons are likely to make return visits.