For scores of people looking for ways to beat the heat during those scorching hot summer days, waterparks offer a cool, refreshing and fun option. The heat is sure to deliver throngs of guests, but making sure they return time and again is up to the park management. Keeping up with the latest waterpark trends and staying on top of the visitors’ needs and desires are just as important for retaining guests as is the sweltering heat.
Andy Alligator’s Waterpark opened its doors in May of 2012, as an add-on to Andy Alligator’s Fun Park, in Norman, Okla. Since the waterpark is fairly new, no attractions were added for the 2013 season. However, General Manager Kyle Allison said plans are in the works for the addition of a wave pool in the next couple of years.
To determine what attractions to add to a waterpark, Allison said that listening to the guests is the number one consideration. “Find out what your visitors are looking for, by talking to them or having them fill out a survey,” said Allison. “The other key component is taking a look at available space. That will help to determine what the best ride would be to meet the space requirement.”
Paying attention to trends can also point waterpark owners in the right direction when it comes to choosing new rides. “Right now, I see a lot of parks adding various rides that incorporate technology in some capacity,” remarked Allison. “Technology is really progressing and many new rides feature some kind of combination of water and electronics. For our park, this does not really apply, as we are geared more towards families with younger children. We do, however, embrace some of the newer technological advancements. For example, we provide wristbands that can be loaded with money electronically. This keeps our guests from being burdened with their wallets all day,” Allison said.
Between the family entertainment center and the waterpark, Andy Alligator’s is seeing around 100,000 guests year, mostly those who live in and around Oklahoma City.
Andy Soltvedt, visitor services manager for Bunker Beach Waterpark in Coon Rapids, Minn., always has his finger on the pulse of the latest waterpark trends. “Here, in the Midwest, wave riders are a bit trendy. You always want to have your eye on rides and attractions that will create a more unique experience at your park,” said Soltvedt. Bunker Beach added a wave pool and lazy river in 2010, with great success, so no plans are in store for new attractions in the near future. “We are always aware of what’s hot and if something makes sense for our clients and our space, we will consider it. But for now, our guests are really happy with what we have,” said Soltvedt, who relies heavily on user feedback when planning anything new for the park.
With 128,000 guests a season, Bunker Beach Waterpark draws a regional crowd, with most visitors living within 30 miles of the park.
David Dorman, general manager of Clementon Park Splash World, in Clementon, N.J., echoes what the others have said about listening to the clients when it comes to making new additions to a park. “Under-standing your market is key. You absolutely want to be sure that any investment you make will provide you with the return you need to continue and grow your park,” Dorman said.
This approach helped lead Dorman to a successful new addition to the park in 2012. “We realized that the trends were leading towards attractions where guests do not have to wait a long time to enjoy themselves. Our solution was to add a wave pool, South Jersey’s largest, so our visitors could get refreshed all day long, without having to wait for a turn,” Dorman remarked.
Additionally, Dorman has been working on new ideas to appeal to young families looking for alternatives to the more expensive theme parks. “Our position is that we are the closer to home, more affordable alternatives to those pricier parks. That being the case, we primarily serve those with young families who live within 30 miles of the park.”
Servicing the Pittsburgh region, as well as Northeast Ohio, with 500,000 guests a year, is Idlewild & SoakZone, in Ligonier, Pa. This park delighted guests with a brand new attraction for 2013, and the response has been excellent. “For this season, we added the new Float Away Bay, a 185,000 gallon lazy river. The lazy river was the most requested attraction in park surveys conducted over the last three years and we are so happy to have been able to bring this fun, family-oriented attraction to our guests,” said Brandon Leonatti, general manager. “The park’s popularity continues to rise and the addition of the lazy river was the last key element we needed to add, in order to have a waterpark that is competitive with the best out there.”
While park surveys helped lead the park to the decision to add the lazy river, other factors were considered, as well. “Ours is a park with special appeal to families with younger children, as well as families as a whole, from kids to grandparents. Any new attraction must be able to be enjoyed by all ages. We have fun rides here, naturally, but never will a ride be so intense that young children or grandparents would be hesitant to ride,” Leonatti explained.
Innovative waterslide technology is one of the top trends that Leonatti has been noticing in the waterpark industry. “Top thrill waterslides cost less than top thrill roller coasters by far, so these rides are easier on budgets for parks with a water component,” remarked Leonatti. This does not mean too much for Idlewild & SoakZone, however, as they select their attractions based on their ability to provide fun for all ages, rather than having the latest and greatest waterslide in production.
“The other trend I am seeing, while not exactly a ride or attraction, is selling shade through the use of cabanas. This is increasingly popular due to the peace of mind in knowing your space is reserved on a busy day and that you have a place to escape the sun’s rays,” Leonatti pointed out. Even though the water rides and slides and a great place to cool off, sometimes waterpark visitors require a bit of shade to cool off when taking a break from the water, so cabanas are increasingly becoming more and more popular. –
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