Feature Article - September 2006
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Refreshing Strategies

Cool Tips for Waterparks and Splash Play Areas

By Stacy St. Clair

Theme it up

A waterpark, however, cannot live on zero-depth entries and zooming drop slides alone. The best and most entertaining facilities are more than just a collection of fun water features. In a move taken from the private sector, many public facilities have been transformed into well-planned fantasy lands with central themes carried out.

Slides, cannons and sprayers come in a variety of characters, with everything from sea life to pop-culture icons to swashbuckling pirates. Splash play areas are now being marketed with safari, western, nautical and fire-station themes, to name just a few.

The theme, however, should extend beyond the water features. It should be used to decide names of the concession stands, cabana areas, locker rooms and souvenir shops.

This technique—a.k.a. branding—helps meet the expectations of today's savvy consumers. The current generation of waterpark-goers has grown up amid corporate branding and clever marketing.

At Hawaiian Falls, located in suburban Dallas, the owners bring their fondness for the 50th state to an entirely new level. They have decorated the park with thatched umbrellas and shading areas, complete with Hawaiian totem poles and a tiki bar.

"When you think of Hawaii, you think of bright colors," says Clint Hill, general manager. "We have five cabanas along our wave pool that are all painted in a variety of bright colors. Each of our cabanas also comes with your private waiter or cabana boy."

The facility has given its features fun names such as Waikiki Wipeout and Keiki Kove. It also requires children to be taller than a tiki measuring stick to be eligible to go on certain rides. But it's the little things that really help make the theme work. For example, employees greet visitors with a cheery "aloha" and bid them farewell with a hearty "mahalo."

"The company as a whole definitely goes with the name," Hill says.

When rethinking your facility, complacency, of course, is always an option. There's no law that requires facilities to add splash play areas, racing slides or a catchy theme. You don't have to install shade structures to give your facility pizzazz or an additional revenue stream, either.

Yarger, whose work in Bridgeton revitalized a community pool, acknowledges the park board could have left the pool as it is. He knows officials could have opted for the status quo and kept treading water. It's a choice all aquatic centers have.

"You don't have to change," Yarger says. "Survival is not mandatory."

But it sure beats the alternative.