Business Strategies: The Care and Maintenance of Leisure Entertainment Facilities

March 30, 2011

For leisure entertainment facilities, ensuring that attractions remain clean and properly refurbished is as critical an element in cultivating repeat business as offering the right mix of “fun” and food service options. Given a choice, few visitors will return to a facility that appears dirty and run-down, and as the old adage says, if a customer is unsatisfied with something, he or she will tell 10 other people, who in turn will tell 10 more people, and before you know it, revenues are way down.

Establishing a cleaning schedule and specific set of procedures for each type of attraction in a given leisure entertainment facility is essential; otherwise, said Mike Bayles, project manager at SplashTacular, “something is going to get short shrift.” For example, Bayles and other sources said, bowling alley lanes should be cleaned several times each day; other bowling alley components, every other day or a few times a week; play/climbing structures, once a day and water slides/attractions, at least once a week but not necessarily daily.

At Bethesda Naval Bowling Center in Bethesda, Md., lanes and approaches are dusted thoroughly three to five times throughout the day, while damp mopping of lanes occurs four times a day at three-hour intervals. Pinsetters are cleaned every other day, half on one day and the other half, on the following day. Three times each week, a dry cloth is used to wipe all surfaces, including ball return areas.

Meanwhile, at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Java Gym, Owners Laura and Matt Greene follow a daily cleaning schedule for their facility’s multi-level play structure. It involves first blowing dust off the entire unit (especially netting, webbing and cargo climb elements), then completely vacuuming all horizontal levels and the floor beneath. Crews utilize a citrus-based, biodegradable, antibacterial cleaning solution mixed with water per the package directions to clean and sanitize the structure’s plastic and vinyl parts; a biodegradable glass cleaner is hand-rubbed onto all window and dome components and hand-dried with paper towels. Zep or Simple Green solution is used on foam pole coverings and bumpers. Employees clean vinyl and foam mats by vacuuming beneath them and following up with the application of Zep or Simple Green, which is left to air dry.

When developing attraction cleaning schedules and procedures, it behooves owners and operators of leisure entertainment facilities to include provisos for special exceptions. Connie Kautza, of National Rock & Sculpture, cited noticing “droppings” from birds as an example. “We tell our customers that bird droppings have a very acidic quality, so employees should be instructed to remove them as soon as possible when they see them rather than leave them there because it’s not ‘time’ to clean,” Kautza stated.

Heeding manufacturers’ instructions for cleaning is also a good idea. “Guessing can be very damaging” to the attraction or other component in question, pointed out Dave Wilson, president of All Kids Play. The play structure cleaning procedures followed at Java Gym were developed and, more importantly, provided to the Greenes in written form by All Kids Play, which manufactured the unit. Leisure entertainment facility operators that purchase sculptures and other components from National Rock & Sculpture are advised to avoid pressure-washing the products unless a staff member possesses extensive experience with such a machine—and even then, to proceed with caution. “When you go too close to our products with a pressure washer, the pressure from the water eats them away,” Kautza said. “We say that a bucket and brush can be your best friend.”

Similarly, Bayles and his colleagues counsel waterpark operators who install attractions from  SplashTacular to use regular dishwashing detergent, rather than harsh solutions that contain lime and could compromise product surfaces, to cut through sunscreen, suntan lotion, and body oils that accumulate on surfaces with visitor use. Towers, steps and slides in shallow play areas should be rinsed with potable water and the water “exchanged out” a minimum of once a week to eliminate chalky film buildup, Bayles noted.

Owners and operators of leisure entertainment facilities would be equally wise to implement set timetables for inspecting, refurbishing renovating attractions, even if minor repairs are being executed as needed. “We’ve seen 3-year-old water slides that need to be replaced or at the very least entirely recoated, as well as 20-year-old water slides that look brand-new,” Bayles asserted. “It’s because the operators didn’t put themselves on a strict schedule—or they did.” By SplashTacular’s estimate, water slides installed at outdoor waterparks should be waxed and buffed a minimum of once a year; those used indoors, where humidity is a factor, about once every three months.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the manufacturer to come in on a regular basis to assess” attractions, Kautza said. By the same token, she advised, avoid undertaking refurbishment projects without consulting such a company. “Our product can be repainted, but some polyurethane products cannot be recoated easily, and can be ruined if the owner does not heed the advice of a manufacturer,” Kautza elaborated.

Meanwhile, although smaller repairs can probably be handled in-house, owners and operators of leisure entertainment facilities would be wise to consult professionals for larger jobs. “We strongly advise that anything involving disassembly” for refurbishment or repair “be handled by us,” Wilson said. Bayles agreed. “Don’t just call in a local painter or whatever; there are companies that specialize in this area,” he concluded. “It may seem the easiest solution, but in the end, it can create a mess.”

Industry Feature

Comfyland Edutainment Centers: Bringing Education and Entertainment Together for Young Children

Young children between the ages of 1-5 are often overlooked as a market for a family entertainment center. For those centers that do include a toddler play area, it is often as simple as a soft-play area where toddlers can climb and play without fear of being overrun by the older kids. However, a 1 to 2 year old is only able to sustain attention to one structured activity for no more than 2-3 minutes. After that they may become restless. By the time they are 4, a child can usually attend to an activity for 8-10 minutes.

Edutainment Activity Systems, like the Comfy Edutainment Center (Comfyland Experience), are finding broad appeal in a variety of markets that include Family Entertainment Centers, Fitness Centers, Children’s Museums, Campgrounds, Preschools and Shopping Centers. Its unique balance of technological, physical interaction and cognitive activity is an attractive solution for locations that are looking to address the needs of young children in a way that appeals to the parent and engages the child for more than a few moments. The center exposes children to age-appropriate activities in a safe surrounding that is based on a Developmental Cycle: Curiosity, Challenge and Confidence. A leading architect specializing in planning FECs has designed the whole complex with its unique outer design of three “C” sections, each presenting a different theme corner – the Senses Corner, the Music Corner and the Cognitive Corner, in a maze-like structure, attracting the toddler to go through the different corners, and providing a dynamic, mental and physical voyage of investigation and exploration.

Giggleberry Fair at Peddlers Village, located in Lahaska, Pa., is a shining example of a location that has brought fun and education together for the entire family. In addition to the spectacularly restored Grand Carousel, this 10,000-square-foot attraction houses Giggleberry Mountain, the Game Room, the Painted Pony Café, and the newest attraction, Giggles Discovers!

The late Earl Jamison, founder/creator of Peddler’s Village and grandfather of 18, strived to provide a wholesome, quality experience for children to be both educated and entertained. His goal was to create activities that children and adults alike would love, as well as activities that the entire family would enjoy together.  With five interactive “edutainment” areas making up the Giggles Discovers! room, they successfully merged fun with learning and have provided something exciting for an age group that is often overlooked.

  • The Comfyland Experience provides a mental and physical voyage of investigation and exploration for toddlers and preschool children 1 to 5 years old.
  • The Giggles Fire Station #1 encourages children to explore an authentic wooden fire truck, ring the fire bell, put on fire hats, jackets and boots, learn about community helpers from the fire safety videos and engage in all sorts of exciting fire-safety activities!
  • Lightspace Play is a wall-mounted entertainment system that combines the latest display and interactive technologies to produce a recreational experience that will provide hours of fun for children of all ages.
  • Children can stretch their dramatic imaginations and create make-believe puppet shows with new puppet friends at the Puppet Stage.
  • The Waterway provides interactive water fun with a Water Mushroom Fountain, Dam Tabs, Build-a-Pipes, Waterwheels, Horizontal Sprinklers, Water Currents Cilia and a Vertical Torricelli Pipes for lots of creative water play.

“Giggleberry Fair was founded on the principles of bringing education and play together in one place,” said Julia Ryan, general manager of Giggleberry Fair. “Children do not realize the cognitive benefits derived from playing with attractions like Comfyland or the water table.”

Comfy has integrated an “Easy PC” system into their activity center that allows toddlers as young as 12 months to enjoy computer edutainment through products designed to fit the motor and perceptional abilities and support the developmental needs of toddlers. The system makes toddlers feel comfortable with computer use and enables endless hours of independent play.

“Recently we had a teacher visit our center and comment how great the Giggles Discover room and Comfyland was for young children,” said Ryan. “She noted that most of the activities in an entertainment center are overwhelming to a young child or toddler. Having an area just for them provides the right balance of stimulus and creates a sense of belonging.”

Edutainment Sparks Imaginations in Young Children and Brings Added Value to Your Location

Whoever said learning can’t be fun? The best educational activities engage a child’s senses, spark their imagination and encourage them to interact with others. Making education enjoyable helps the child retain the things he learns and develop a positive attitude toward learning. When a child finds an educational activity he really likes, he will be more likely to play the activity, reinforcing what he has learned. When you combine this concept with an entertainment venue, you create “Edutainment!”

Years ago, children were much more active. They did not have access to the Internet, video games, computer software, handheld gaming devices, etc. Their play was much more physical and often involved using their imagination. The world in which we raise our children now is much more sophisticated and interactive, yet physical activity is still a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle. In order to develop socially, emotionally and cognitively, children need plenty of free, unstructured play, says a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Unstructured play allows children to use their creativity, find out what they really like, acquire and practice their social skills, and solve problems. Children who can take part in unstructured free play tend to become more resilient. So how do we balance the technology of today with the right amount of unstructured physical activity that is needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Edutainment is still a relatively new term in the Family Entertainment Industry. Early television programs, like Sesame Street and The Electric Company were some of the first examples of edutainment that were geared towards young children. This type of programming has grown exponentially over the years and has become a billion dollar business through advertising and product marketing. According to Nielsen Media Research, kids aged 2-5 average more than 32 hours a week in front of a TV. Although many of the programming options are in fact educational, society as a whole is concerned about the sedentary lifestyle of our children.

Entertainment Centers Can Contribute to Healthy Lifestyles for Children

Entertainment centers typically rely on the attractions to draw in their customers, but a growing number are realizing that the value added services and programs that are often thought to be secondary, are capable of attracting a broader market and filling a demographic niche that may have been previously missing or underserviced. With the concerns regarding children’s health and parents looking for more educational value, an entertainment center can find itself in a unique situation where its attractions can actually create an environment that can contribute to an active and healthy lifestyle for children.

aMAZEment Action Playcenter is a year-round indoor, interactive play area that features climbing, crawling, swinging and more overall “playing” than you could ever imagine! It is part of the Cedardale Health & Fitness family of locations that includes several seasonal and year-round operations whose goals are to provide family fun in an active, fitness-oriented way.  aMAZEment’s large climbing maze, built by Orca Coast, features a family-friendly Sports Court and a Triple Wave Slide. They also have a 4-in-1 combo bounce house from e-Inflatable, combined with a Giant Sandroom, a play house and store, an arcade area with redemption games and a snack bar.

“The only thing we needed was a safe contained place for toddlers and preschoolers to play without getting run over by school age kids,” said Beth Bailey, senior manager for Cedardale Health & Fitness and Summer Camp director.  “The Comfy Edutainment Center was a perfect fit for families with multiple age groups. The older kids can be more adventurous in the large maze and the younger kids who are not big enough do not just have to sit in a stroller.”

By providing an area that allows a parent to be able to see their child at all times, in a safe, clean, bright environment, a center is providing that “added value” to an already attractive venue. Throw in the educational component and you add even more marketability. “As any parent quickly finds, the attention span of young children is very short,” said Bailey. “So here at our center they can bounce around from one activity to another. They gain confidence and get comfortable in the Comfyland unit, and then move on to the other areas. We are owned by Cedardale Health and Fitness so people associate us with active play; now the children can exercise their bodies and minds, the perfect definition for play.”

Both Giggleberry Fair and the aMAZEment Action Playcenter agree that having “edutainment” based attractions has allowed them to market to families in a whole new way. Even if the children do not realize that they are “learning” while playing, the parents do. Moms and dads are thrilled to see their children interacting and discovering while they play. Having something to keep the 1-5 year olds entertained, allows the whole family to stay and play for longer amounts of time. Not to mention the fact that it is a safe environment and a space that is all their own.

“What I hear most from our customers is that we are an entertainment center that has managed to have something for everyone,” noted Bailey. “There is enough to do to keep the kids busy long enough to keep the value of admission very worthwhile.” (Admission at aMAZEment is $7.95 for 2-12 years and $4.95 for 12-24 months.)

By introducing young children to a center at an early age, the location can become a favorite destination for years to come. Many edutainment-based centers offer pre-school and after-school programs. The children grow with the center and families find many more reasons to come back.  “When children have fun at an early age, we become a safe, well known home for them. They come here to celebrate their birthdays and eventually, when they start school, they can join our after-school program and continue having an aMAZEing time, and we profit from busy weekdays and weekends,” said Bailey.

Cedardale has been able to capitalize on the after-school market for Kindergarten through fifth grade and has added pre-school programs during the day before it gets busy.

Entertainment Centers of today can be an integral part of their community. They can provide a place for families to spend time together, celebrate birthdays and special occasions, participate in local charitable events, provide a safe and fun environment for school programs, and give our children the right balance between physical and interactive activities. Parents are looking for ways to enhance their children’s development while still allowing them to have FUN in the process. FECs have a unique opportunity to provide value-added attractions for families and act as facilitators for our young children to explore, discover and play.

For more information about Giggleberry Fair, contact Julie Ryan at 215-794-4047 or email or visit their Web site at For more information about aMAZEment Action Playcenter or Cedardale Health & Fitness, contact Beth Bailey at 978-521-7700 or email or visit their website at

For information about Comfy Edutainment Centers, go to or contact Frank Seninsky at Alpha-Omega Amusements & Sales, Comfy Edutainment Center’s US Distributor, at or call 732-254-3773 or contact Tracy Sarris at 717-533-1945 or email

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