Feature Article - September 2014
Find a printable version here

Riding the Wave of Success

Waterparks Find New & Creative Ways to Stay Afloat

By Kelli Ra Anderson


Coming Attractions

Daily twilight price reductions, for example, or discounted season passes later in the summer, attract those who might not otherwise be willing to come at full price.

Attracting new customers and keeping current ones, however, takes a one-two punch of creative marketing with novel, quality on-site experiences. Riding the latest wave of ride trends, parks like Casino Beach have added new attractions like a topsy-turvy lazy river that takes riders 50 feet in the air, through slides, up on walls, to high speeds circulating two or three revolutions before being pushed out the bottom of an enclosed tunnel.

"Waterparks are merging and blending waterpark attractions," Ezra said. "For example, many lazy rivers offer wave elements and water spouts. Some of our most exciting rides offer a similar ride to that of a roller coaster, except they ride in a raft."

According to Ezra, even bowl rides are becoming more elaborate, but designers are always mindful of offering something for everyone, recognizing the importance of families as the backbone of the industry. Some attractions even offer a variety of themes to customize each ride, making sound effects, lighting and music during a ride different from person to person.

But the latest aren't the only way to bring people through the door. It's also about programming, quality of the amenities like bathhouses and the appeal of the overall environment.

At Pirates Bay Waterpark in Baytown, Texas, patrons hate to miss a single day for fear of missing the seemingly spontaneous activities and antics of the staff. "We're always trying to add new activities and try to go with a resort feel where every day is something different," said Michael Flinn, director. "We have a lot of season holders who come every day, and we gear it to them. We steal ideas like from the Jimmy Fallon show, we play games with them, and have some of our staff when they go on break, have lip sync battles with guests. It's little 'wows' and surprising events and it's working well."

In fact, it's working so well a "party starter" position has been created where kids try out for these positions to volunteer on their days off just because it's so much fun. Not forgetting their younger visitors, another successful attraction is the waterpark's "Itty-Bitty Beach Party," an event that has become a noticeable favorite. Every Wednesday morning the zero-depth entry is partitioned off and hundreds of children and stay-at-home moms enjoy a party created especially for the 5-and-unders, a creative response to the popularity of their Friday dance parties where little ones ran the risk of being overwhelmed by older siblings and adults.

Understanding that families are the life-blood of waterparks, more parks these days are expanding their reach to engage all ages in a myriad of ways. "We've been trying to make it more family-friendly to attract all age groups," Vaughn said with a nod toward a new attraction next year for a mini-golf course with spray effects. "The teens and tweens get to have a fun-filled day as well as the toddler. We're marketing toward more birthday parties and events, pavilion rentals at Blue Heron Bay sized for different groups and put together party packages that seem to be really popular."

Understanding that families are the life-blood of waterparks, more parks these days are expanding their reach to engage all ages in a myriad of ways.

In addition to rides where the whole family can climb in and take part, side-by-side slides, too, are being designed with different ages and temperaments in mind. From the speed slide for the daredevil teen to the more traditional slides for the easy-as-you-go adult, parks are making an effort to provide attractions the whole family can do together.

Then there's the importance of attention to detail, an aspect of park design no one should take for granted, as Wyatt, superintendent for 24 years, knows only too well regarding recent upgrades and new buildings, including a new bathhouse. And while patrons are most likely noticing the new triple flume slide and two serpentine speed slides, they also are voicing their appreciation for a bathhouse facility upgrade that is more customer-friendly.