With features like “Kiddie Cove” and the “Lazy River,” indoor and outdoor waterparks put great effort into creating activities that appeal to young children and their parents. However, an equal number of slides with names like “Cyclone” and “Banzai” offer older kids and adults the thrills they seek. The job for park operators is to create the right combination of activities to ensure their parks see repeat business from a variety of demographics.
At the Wilderness Resort waterpark, located in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., the goal is to provide entertainment for the entire family, while keeping in mind that their smaller guests have special requirements when it comes to safety. In many cases, a trip to this 600-acre property could include a child’s first-ever experience with waterpark activities, in which case spokesperson Heidi Fendos said Wilderness Resort has options for them. She explained that Cubby’s Cove at Wilderness on the Lake, with its zero-depth pool entries and smaller structures, is a nice place to introduce smaller kids to waterparks. Other parks within the resort have more thrill slides that appeal to teens.
“When guests call the resort to make reservations, we ask them for the ages of their children,” she said. “That way, we can direct them to the parks that will be most suitable for their family members.”
Each of the waterparks – from “Wild West” to “New Frontier” – has different themes and ability levels. Fendos said with this type of variety, families can return year after year and still experience new aspects of the resort, evidenced in the facility’s 750,000 annual visitor numbers.
“As a family grows they can still come back to the park and explore something new,” she said. “They can evolve into the different areas.”
The Wisconsin Dells area supports a number of waterparks, including the Alakai Resort, a Hawaiian-themed indoor and outdoor destination. Owner Alexandra Mucek explained that the facility’s indoor waterpark – Hawaiian Village – is designed for kids ages 10 and under, while the outdoor location – Hawaiian Island Waterpark – accommodates children of all ages. Together, the 2.25-acres of waterpark include interactive waterslides where kids can operate splash, squirt and spray controls as well as water geysers.
“Depending on the season, we have areas designed for a variety of ages,” she said.
With the downturn in the economy, Mucek said they changed their focus from attractions just for younger children to rides and features that would appeal to entire families. While she did not have annual attendee statistics, she definitely sees a shift in visitor demographic.
“We’re targeting the family looking for more overall activities at a mid-range price,” she said. “Today, families want to spend the least and get the most for their money.”
Moving away from the resort-type setting, waterparks that operate independent of other activities are also experiencing some effects of families pinching pennies and staying closer to home during the summer. At Waldameer’s 16-acre Wild Water park in Surfside Beach, S.C., Senior Operations Manager Devin Treat said he has seen a rise in season passes, as families look for fun yet cost-effective activities throughout the summer. In some cases, a season at the waterpark replaces a vacation.
“We see more families now, especially moms with kids who use their season passes to keep kids entertained while they are out of school,” he said.
Located in the Myrtle Beach area, Wild Water includes 11 water towers, a lazy river with a waterfall and bumper boats. Non-aquatic activities include go-karts and an 18-hole mini-golf course. The attraction records an average of 100,000 visitors each year.
A multi-mat slide attraction was added to the park in 2007, but the focus since then has been on enhancements to the food court area. However, plans call for a new, yet undisclosed slide in 2013, Treat said.
Family fun is also the emphasis at Shipwreck Island waterpark, part of the 25-acre Adventure Landing in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. According to spokesperson Michelle Branham, approximately 150,000 visitors come to the park annually to enjoy attractions such as the Pirate’s Play Village for young children and their parents, along with a more challenging 35-foot thrill ride called Hydro Halfpipe. She said park owner Hank Woodburn is a firm believer in family entertainment, to the point where his three children grew up enjoying the activities at Adventure Landing.
“He believes that it is important for us to represent all members of the family in our entertainment offerings,” Branham said. “We also want to provide our guests with an affordable family experience, particularly in this economy.”
One special family oriented activity at Shipwreck Island was a “Noon Year’s Eve” event held during New Year’s Eve day, during which 500 kids celebrated the New Year 12 hours early with a balloon drop instead of watching the ball drop in Times Square.
While no new slides are in the works, Branham said that the waterpark is undergoing a facelift that includes a few new features for the existing attractions.
A family friendly park layout awaits visitors to Water World in Erie, Pa., which hosts about 200,000 visitors each year. The waterpark is part of Waldameer Park, which dates back to the 1900s; the five-acre Water World was added in 1986. With a focus on young guests and their families, Water World features 16 slides of different thrill levels, a kiddie pool area for small children, an endless river and a heated pool.
“We have an area with three small wadding pools and five small slides good for children up to age 5,” said President Steve Gorman. “There are two larger body slides located next to this area, so parents can camp in this one location and watch their kids all within the same proximity.”
Building positive family relationships is the goal of Splash Kingdom president and owner Johnny Blevins. At both the Canton, Texas and Shreveport, La. locations, each slightly above 10 acres in size, just as much importance is placed on the setting and environment as on the attractions.
“Our focus on a family friendly environment is a differentiator for us,” he said. “Other parks have more of a club feel. They have more thrill slides and our primary features are for children age 13 and under. There is a place for those other offerings, but we receive positive feedback for our family focused environment.”
Creating a waterpark that appeals to kids, teens, parents and grandparents, all at the same time, can be as simple as analyzing demographics and economic trends, then creating the right combination of activities to ensure their parks see repeat business. –
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