Making a Splash: An In-depth Look at Hawaiian Falls Waterparks

Making a splash around Texas are five locations of the family friendly waterpark chain, Hawaiian Falls, owned by Harvest Family Entertainment. With four locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area, and a fifth location eight miles south of Dallas, in Waco, these parks cater to families with kids aged 2-14.
“Teens usually rule at most other waterparks, with thrill rides, so we are appealing to a market that is often ignored. These young families are a segment of the population that need to be addressed,” said CEO, David Busch. Teenagers still enjoy the parks, but the rides and experience really is not for them. “Because we have this reputation of catering to younger children, we have become the most trusted family entertainment venue in Northern Texas. We’ve worked for over 10 years to earn this recognition,” Busch said.
The company’s operating policy is to serve others. “Serving others is our reason for existing. We want to make life more enjoyable for others and we pass this message on to our employees,” Busch said. All employees attend a 10-week mandatory training program and if three sessions are missed, they are automatically terminated. “That is how serious we are about training them to work hard, do the right thing and have integrity,” Busch said.
The parks have a “Hawaii in Texas” theme, and have coined the term, “Aloha, y’all,” to mix the two ideas. The first three parks that were developed portray a rural, fishing village in the South seas look, while the two newest parks reveal a modern-city, Waikiki feel.
Because the parks are geared towards young kids, aged 2-14, the target market for advertising is mothers between the ages of 25-54. “Moms are hard to reach these days. Television ads are unreliable, because viewership is fragmented and not everyone is reading the newspaper. We do engage in some social media, but word-of-mouth is always best. You can advertise all you want, but if you can’t deliver and have that great reputation, it isn’t worth anything,” Busch said.
Each park has several employees in special events, and they work at getting in front of any group that has 15 or more people. “One third of our business comes from group sales, such as schools, youth groups and scouts,” Busch said.
The Hawaiian Falls waterpark chain began with the opening of the Garland location in 2003. This park is known for its slide complex, featuring a slide at the top of a hill, 80 feet up in the air. Garland also added a new ride this year, The Rush, with enhancements from SplashTacular. This two-person tube ride is completely enclosed. “Riders can choose a song to slide down to, from a database of over 1,000 songs. Disco lights will play in sync with the chosen song to create a very cool, multi-sensory experience. This is the best investment we’ve made in our 40 years in business, as we have seen our biggest increase in attendance, due to this ride,” Busch remarked. This location boasts 11 water slides, a lazy river, a water tree house, wave pool and activity pool.
In 2004, The Colony location opened its doors, and was built on flat ground, making it quite different from its high-elevation predecessor. In 2012, a new ride called “Whirlwind 360” was added. This is a thrill ride, also from SplashTacular, in which two riders enter their own launcher atop a 60-foot tower. The floor then drops, and both riders are sent down opposing arcs around a large bowl at a speed up to 40 mph. After several spins around, they are ultimately stopped and climb out on a staircase in the middle of the bowl. “This ride is a little outside of our sweet spot, since it isn’t one for the young kids, but it is still a really neat ride,” Busch said. “The Rush” was also recently opened at The Colony location, due to the tremendous popularity in Garland.
The Mansfield location, 50 miles away from the first two parks, opened its doors Memorial Day weekend, 2008. With 14 waterslides, this park has The Torpedo, featuring two speed slides off a four-story tower. Riders step into a capsule and the bottom suddenly drops out, turning the riders into human torpedoes as they free fall down the slide, ending with a major splash.
Three million dollars was invested in Mansfield this year, to bring the Cliff Hanger, a three-person tube slide with a 40-foot drop and the Hawaiian Halfpipe, a two-person tube slide, sending riders down a huge drop before suddenly catapulting them up three stories high and then backwards for a wild ending. A 10,000 square-foot water playground was also added this year, as well as Maui Max, an aqua talker that has many spray features to entertain the guests.
In 2011, the Roanoke location opened its doors, and it is the home of Mega Water World, the world’s largest aqua play structure, holding up to 1,500 children at once. The SplashTacular ride, Double BowlsEye, has four riders in two tubes and is great because families can ride together.
In 2012, the six-story Waikiki Tower was added, consisting of two body slides and two tube slides. The Beach Blasters ride also debuted this year, which launches two separate two-person rafts simultaneously from a 60-foot platform. The rafts race down enclosed, dark tubes, then are propelled into a massive open air-bowl.
Finally, the Waco location opened for business in May of this year. This park features a football field-sized wave pool and an 800-foot lazy river. Waco also has the Pineapple Express, which is a six-story mat racer slide launching riders from enclosed tubes onto six divided lanes into a downhill race and there is Keiki Kove, a zero entry children’s area.
Of course, all the parks offer plenty to eat and stores to browse. “Our retail shop does best with necessities, such as flip flops, sunscreen, goggles and sunglasses. Other than that, some jewelry trinkets do well and our insulated souvenir cups are popular, because guests can get cheaper refills on their drinks with these,” said Regional Vice President Evan Barnett.
Each location has a Sharkey’s restaurant, offering hot dogs, pizza, chicken sandwiches and more of your standard fare. Aside from the restaurant, there are kiosks featuring an array of desserts. “We’ve got churros, mini melts, shaved ice and cotton candy,” Barnett said. “The shaved ice, in particular, is a staple here.”
Additionally, there is the Surfside Barbeque (known as Longboard Landing, in Waco,) where guests can get grilled burgers, turkey legs, pulled pork or sausage on a stick.
As if there wasn’t enough fun going on, between the slides and great food, there are also the activities, such as parades, crafts, group dances and conga lines and a DJ.
What lies ahead for Hawaiian Falls? Two more projects are in place for 2013. Negotiations are currently being made for new parks in California, Nevada, Missouri and Kansas. Two will open in 2013, with plans to unveil the other two in 2014. –

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