Facility Profile - October 2004
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Waterbound in Wisconsin

Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center
Sheboygan, Wis.

By Jenny E. Beeh

Part of Breaker Bay's appeal is its thorough nautical theming from stem to stern.

Like Hollywood artists, KoalaPlay Group's designers use storyboards to create a theme for a site, says James Zazenski, president and COO of Koala Corporation. Theming is not just about decorating a facility but rather about developing a detailed story and background for that facility, giving it character.

With a theme in place, individual modular elements like pools, slides and play structures are selected according to the budget, and the floor plan is mapped out.

Although some of the components are massive, sightlines through the structures are crucial for supervision, Zazenski says. Breaker Bay has a staff of more than 60 lifeguards.

Another important key is to make sure that the theming is multidimensional—and sometimes multifunctional.

"We pay particular attention to how things look underneath and on the side," Zazenski says. For example, some theming elements even pop up in seemingly out of the way places—like the seaweed surrounds under and around the body slides. Not only do they add to the overall watery look, but they do double-duty as fences of sorts by keeping kids from running under the slides. Some things may look like just art and add to the ambiance, but meanwhile they can be a good way to disguise and perform vital safety functions.

A great waterpark also must have logic to its layout.

For example, multiple entry and exit points throughout the components can encourage fresh exploring and adventures, compared to a linear layout that allows for no variations or choices, which can get old quickly.

Likewise, it's not a mere coincidence that the more relaxing and mellow activities, like the Molly's Moat lazy river and Turtle Tub whirlpool, are strategically located together and slightly away from the "high-energy" slide and play areas. It's just good waterpark sense.

Another aspect that planners wanted to pay particular attention to involved the smallest patrons. While some waterparks treat the tiniest of tots almost as afterthoughts—perhaps giving them a token wading area—Breaker Bay offers the S.S. Minnow, a shipwreck pool just for babies and toddlers, with zero-depth entry (of course), slides, 15 squirting floor geysers and spray features. All adding up to a fun, colorful and safe harbor for little ones.

"It really serves small children; I hear a lot of positive comments about that," says Josef Haas, Blue Harbor's general manager. "It's a delicate balance between theme and safety."

A universal truth, for sure.

For more information
Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center: 866-701-BLUE
or www.blueharborresort.com