Feature Article - October 2016
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Wet & Wild Destinations

Strategies for Waterpark Success

By Dave Ramont

The International Olympic Committee announced that surfing will be one of five sports added to the 2020 Olympic program in Tokyo, in part to draw the interest of a younger demographic. And now, surfing enthusiasts in landlocked places like Wisconsin, Tennessee and Colorado can hone their skills thanks to the wave generators and surf simulators found at many larger waterparks.

Larger, destination-type waterparks can be both indoor and outdoor. Some are standalone facilities, while others are attached to resorts. Most of the larger parks are privately owned, though some municipal parks are also expanding in size and scope. The industry's growth and popularity is attributed to facilities offering a wider variety of attractions and amenities to entice repeat guests as well as attract new visitors.

Growing Appeal

Eight new waterparks were slated to open in 2016 in Texas alone, including Typhoon Texas. Located in Katy, Texas, the 25-acre waterpark aims to draw locals from all over the greater Houston area with an assortment of thrilling waterslides and rides, a 25,000-square-foot wave pool, competitive attractions, a 1,345-foot lazy river, and an interactive kid's area with a 48-foot-tall play structure.

The Typhoon itself is a giant waterslide equipped with six-person rafts, so kids and grown-ups can brave the monster ride together. Another favorite, according to Marketing Director Steve Mayer, is the Duelin' Daltons, a seven-story-high freefall speed slide featuring aqua loops that take riders upside down. "You enter in an enclosed capsule and the bottom drops out. It's a total rush. It's the roller coaster for waterparks."

Waterpark designers and managers alike understand that to successfully compete for customers' precious entertainment dollars, they must appeal to all age groups.

In an effort to attract repeat customers and keep them at the park longer, Typhoon Texas offers much more than just rides and attractions. There's live music and DJs, movie nights, and dance contests. For kids there's face painting and clowns, while adults can enjoy cocktails or Zumba classes in the wave pool. Weekly summer camps are held with games, arts and crafts, and ecological experiments. There are several dining options, and their BBQ is slow-smoked on-site daily. Special rates for group outings are offered, as well as customized party packages and catering. Cabana and locker rentals provide additional revenue.

Mayer explained that they offer a lot of special events and promotions—booking various types of entertainment to attract kids—which also makes the adults happy. "We do a lot of in-park specials with food and merchandise for season pass holders," which includes ways to bring friends at a greatly discounted rate.

Waterpark designers and managers alike understand that to successfully compete for customers' precious entertainment dollars, they must appeal to all age groups. David Keim is vice president of a Cohoes, N.Y.-based company that designs, builds and services waterparks, and also manufactures its own equipment. Keim suggests providing interactive play features, ground sprays, and tot slides for toddlers and younger children; thrill slides, surf attractions, action rivers and boogie boarding pools to provide the adrenaline rush desired by teens and tweens; and wave pools and lazy rivers to provide fun for the whole family. "Add features such as a swim-up bar, grotto spas, cabanas and food service, and the adults enjoy the experience as well," he said.