Feature Article - September 2013
Find a printable version here

Trickle Down Theory

Boosting Waterpark Fun to Grow Revenues, Build Community

By Rick Dandes

More Trends

Municipally run waterparks are also now providing areas within the facility for older, less active people, including shady areas for parents and grandparents to sit. And it's not boring shade, it's highly stylized, often themed shade. For instance, if you have a pirate theme in the park, there might be sails. If you have a Wild West theme you'll have shade that looks like rickety buildings for people to sit under.

"A trend is to provide an area with a lot of natural shade," Caron said, "and it's far away from the pools themselves, with trees and things along those lines. Along that same front, we are seeing more therapy pools. So that when parents or grandparents accompany their kids, they do what they would normally do for exercise while their children are being entertained."

Another friendly amenity is offered at Water World in Hyland Park, where officials implemented an all-you-can-eat buffet, which has proven to be popular.

It is worth noting that many municipalities wisely have turned to creating relationships or even sponsorships with private partners in their communities. Others are reaching out to residential school districts, saying, in effect, "We have a waterpark with 50-meter pool" that could be subsidized by three or four different school districts, each of which might pay thousands of dollars a year to use the pools whenever they need to. Think outside the box: YMCAs in some cases, or therapy centers can be partners.

"We've even seen a couple of cases where stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home dads, whose kids have to have state-mandated PE credits are partnering on the front end to help endow these facilities so that their children can use them for free," Caron said. As money is harder and harder to raise and subsidies are less and less politically possible, you are seeing a lot more of the communities reaching out to the private entities to help pay for things.

"And I think it's only going to continue," Caron added. "We work on a lot of large private-sector projects, and many times they'll have a green light, but they'll just keep the money on hand and not move forward. I would not be surprised in a few years to see the Raging Waters or Wild Rivers—the smaller private park players who do really nice projects—teaming with municipalities to help out, the theory being that the municipality has the land, they have the money, let's work something out."

An interesting design development at smaller parks is aquatic recreational areas that residents can enjoy at no additional charge. These areas often include interactive water features with artificial rivers that integrate splashpads and spray fountains. "Such areas are increasing traffic to sections of cities or towns that were experiencing fewer visitors due to aging facilities," explained Stephen Colvin, director of business development at Cloward H2O, a Provo, Utah-based aquatic design and engineering firm with projects in the United States, the Bahamas, China, Canada, Dubai and other countries around the world.