Feature Article - October 2015
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Making Waves

Municipal Waterparks Getting More Competitive

By Joe Bush


Know Where You're Going

Keim agrees that municipal aquatics serve an important role in the community; drowning is the second highest cause of death for children ages 1 to 14. He added that anything that can be designed for a commercial waterpark can be scaled down for a municipality. ADG helps the planning of parks, the traffic flow, the location of elements such as towel handouts and deck layout and seating areas, and yes, attraction selection and placement.

What he suggests as the best way to plan an aquatic area adds excitement to utility, but every project, municipal or not, should begin with an understanding of project scale and expense.

"We take a very different approach than most when planning a waterpark," Keim said. "We use the same approach whether municipal or private. Virtually everyone that comes to us says, 'We're thinking about doing a waterpark, and I want you guys to help me figure out what rides to put in.'

"The answer is, 'Hold the phone, that's not where you want to start.' What are the business goals? What are you looking for this thing to do? How many people do you want to serve? What kind of population base do you have? What kind of age groups? Do you want to target teens? Get a feasibility study done. Do you have enough people, do they have enough disposable income to afford to come to this thing?

"It has to be built so it's appropriate for the goals established. Once you have a business plan framework you can start filling in the spots--do I do a wave pool or a lazy river, or do I have enough people that I do a wave pool and a lazy river? Do we need slides and rides for big kids? Do we need a tremendous thrill factor? Figure out the business plan first and slides and rides and attractions follow."

Brinker said the arrow for municipal water parks is pointing up because there are more and more models indicating return on investment, their lower pricing and their proven draw for many age groups.

"Look at it through the prism of, 'Do I want to drive two hours and spend $35 per person to spend a full day, maybe even a weekend at some of these waterpark resorts, or spend five or six hours at the local waterpark, driving 15 minutes and spending $15?'" he said.

"There are more and more municipal waterparks. In some cities, there are three or four in the metro area. The next municipality to do one has to do something better. People cross municipal lines to go to these parks and they're already thinking they're going to a municipal park somewhere, 'Hey, this one just opened up, it must have something new. Let's try that.'"