Keeping Up with the Current – Best Practices for Waterpark Maintenance and Safety

February 13, 2015 No Comments

By Jessica Leigh Brown

The ability to welcome guests to a pristine waterpark requires a blend of successful elements. Friendly, efficient staff members make guests feel comfortable and safe. Clean, comfortable furnishings invite customers to sit and stay for a while – and come back on their next day off. Rides that sparkle with cleanliness make parents feel at ease as they watch children at play. What are some key methods to achieve the perfect recipe for success?

A view of the waterpark at Triple Play Family Fun Park in Hayden, Idaho. The general manager looks for waterpark workers who are “aware that lifeguarding is a serious responsibility.”

A view of the waterpark at Triple Play Family Fun Park in Hayden, Idaho. The general manager looks for waterpark workers who are “aware that lifeguarding is a serious responsibility.”

Blake Ford, waterpark general manager at Water Park of America in Bloomington, Minn., stressed the importance of evaluating a park’s target audience when choosing furnishings. “You have to get a feel for what kind of waterpark you’re operating,” Ford said. “I have worked at upper-class resorts that wanted to go with the higher class furnishing such as sling-back chairs. I’ve also worked at waterparks that wanted something more durable, like a plastic mold chair.” Water Park of America, which sees an average of 300,000 guests each year, currently uses Grossiflex plastic chairs for its indoor seating areas. “We have tan tables and chairs that resemble the standard outdoor pool furniture that you see at most pools.”

When it comes to hiring staff members, Ford noted that employees at indoor waterparks typically need to be more committed than those at outdoor parks. “At indoor parks, you’re at a higher caliber because staff members will have more interaction with guests. For indoors, I’m looking for people who are friendly with good attitudes while at work. They’re employed year-round rather [than] seasonally. I look for older lifeguards because they have a more flexible, dedicated schedule.”

At the 44,500-square-foot Massanutten Resort in Massanutten, Va., Director of Recreation Dana Staniunas agreed that staff members at the indoor park need to be socially adept. “We’re looking for outgoing individuals, people with personality who like to be around other people,” said Staniunas. “We often look at their prior job history to see if they’ve worked in customer service in the past.” While past experience is a plus, Staniunas also likes to hire young people. “High school and college students who participate in lots of extracurricular activities tend to be a good fit,” he said. “I look for someone who answers my interview questions with more than just “yes” or “no” – they need to be outgoing to provide great customer service.”

At Avalanche Park in Boyne Falls, Mich., the theme is a Swiss-Austrian village that was overtaken by an avalanche. Shown is a guest enjoying a water attraction. Photo courtesy of Boyne Mountain Resort.

At Avalanche Park in Boyne Falls, Mich., the theme is a Swiss-Austrian village that was overtaken by an avalanche. Shown is a guest enjoying a water attraction. Photo courtesy of Boyne Mountain Resort.

Furnishings at Massanutten reflect the park’s needs. “It’s important to find furnishings that can stand up to the environment of an indoor waterpark – but can also keep guests comfortable,” said Staniunas. “Currently, we have strap chairs that are situated throughout the waterpark for people to enjoy. We also have resin tables and chairs in our snack area.”

Kandi Ho, aquatic and recreation manager at North Clackamas Aquatic Park in Milwaukie, Ore., surveyed her fellow waterpark managers when choosing furnishings for the facility. “We looked into the industry and what people are utilizing and for the most part, we use what our peers are using,” said Ho. “We have a spectator area with bleachers, in addition to tables and chairs in the eating areas.” Ho also looks for specific personality traits when hiring new staff. “A lot of our staff are youth, so we’re looking for people who are energetic, dedicated and outgoing,” she said. “Beyond that, anyone who is already trained is obviously a huge asset.” North Clackamas Aquatic Park, which welcomes around 260,000 guests each year, also has an in-house training program for staff members. “Most of our staff get trained here, and so we get to know them during that period of time, which is great because we can emphasize our facility’s specific needs.”

A surfing attraction at Avalanche Park. The attraction is currently in the market for new furnishings. “The new furniture also needs to be stylish and fit our brand and style at the park,” the waterpark director said. Photo courtesy of Boyne Mountain Resort.

A surfing attraction at Avalanche Park. The attraction is currently in the market for new furnishings. “The new furniture also needs to be stylish and fit our brand and style at the park,” the waterpark director said. Photo courtesy of Boyne Mountain Resort.

Michael Murphy, general manager at Triple Play in Hayden, Idaho, which hosts an average of 250,000 guests each year, has discovered a way to quickly discern an interviewee’s potential. “We tend to conduct group interviews versus single interviews,” said Murphy. “You get much more of a sense of personality, and whether a person is outgoing or not, in a short amount of time.” Murphy looks for candidates who, in addition to being extroverts, will take the job seriously. “We’re looking for people who are aware that lifeguarding is a serious responsibility.”

The 20,000-square-foot indoor park called Raptor Reef, follows its prehistoric theme with its furnishing choices. “A lot of our steel is [formed to look like] banyan trees, and we have a couple of dinosaurs and a waterfall in the park,” said Murphy. “We predominantly use outdoor lounge furniture – tables, chaises and chairs.”

Avalanche Park in Boyne Falls, Mich., is also a themed park. “We’re themed as a Swiss-Austrian village that was overtaken by an avalanche, so we want to choose furnishings that will match our color scheme and décor,” said Waterpark Director Patrick Patoka. Currently in the market for new furnishings, Patoka said he is taking cost, quality and durability into account. “It’s a harsh environment with a lot of humidity and chemicals from the pool, and we need to get something that will stand up for quite some time,” Patoka said. “The new furniture also needs to be stylish and fit our brand and style at the park.”

Patoka looks for specific traits when interviewing potential employees. “We’re looking for someone with an outgoing nature and extra energy – we’re a people industry,” he said. “I look at their demeanor and personality to see if they’re upbeat and optimistic.” Patoka enjoys hiring young people, many of whom have never held jobs before. “I think young people are better assets because you can train them for your specific facility,” he said. “It’s also very rewarding to help them understand the responsibility that comes with having employment.”

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