Feature Article - September 2010
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Fun For The Whole Family

Waterpark Options for All Ages

By Dawn Klingensmith

Bottoms Up

Generally, when a waterpark obtains a liquor license, it's in response to adult patrons repeatedly asking for alcohol. The thinking seems to be that some people equate alcohol with fun and relaxation, which waterparks are in the business of providing. And though they can increase revenues, alcohol sales generally are not a big profit area but are seen instead as a guest convenience and therefore good for business.

But not everyone thinks water and alcohol mix. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that alcohol use is involved in a significant number of water-recreation deaths among teens and adults, though the same perhaps is not true of waterpark fatalities in particular. The CDC also advises against consuming alcohol while supervising children in a pool. Moreover, American Red Cross safety guidelines state swimmers should not drink alcohol because it impairs balance, coordination and judgment.

The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram last year reported that Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, Texas, would begin selling beer at certain restaurants and drink carts within the facility, except on days specifically set aside for school field trippers. Drinkers must remain in designated locations and are not allowed to roam around with beer. Signs throughout the park remind errant imbibers that alcohol must be consumed where it was purchased, and fences and railings at points of sale make it easier to monitor who's coming and going. For further ease of enforcement, beer is sold in clear plastic cups instead of the Coke-branded cups used elsewhere for soft drinks.

Many additional control measures and precautions are commonly employed by waterparks that serve alcohol, including relatively steep pricing; the cost of alcoholic beverages is intended to dissuade people from drinking to the point of intoxication. At some parks, guests can purchase only one drink at a time, with some facilities setting a limit of as little as two drinks total per sitting.

As with most venues that serve alcohol, waterparks generally require servers to check identification and train them to watch for signs of intoxication and to cut guests off who have reached the limit. It may be necessary to eject drinkers should they become a nuisance or safety hazard. Two reputable certification programs for the responsible sale and service of alcohol include ServSafe Alcohol (developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation) and Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS.