Waterpark Improvements
The Picture for Post-season Work and Pre-season Planning

As the splashing ceases for the off-season at outdoor waterparks and operating hours taper to a weekend trickle at many indoor parks, it is time for park improvements and renovations and for ahead-of-season planning.

At the top of the list for the Cliff’s Amusement Park’s Water Monkey’s Adventure in Albuquerque, N.M., is guest comfort, and the improvements that are taking shape for the 2014 season start at the gate. Justin Hays, Cliff’s manager, said, “We always try to make some changes. We’re expanding the Fun Gate admission area to have more comfort for guests, adding trees to shade areas, and opening up areas so people can gather in a larger space than before.”

The comfort theme will continue into the waterpark improvements with installation of a water heater to make the water warmer for more comfort for quests and to be able to open the park earlier and keep it open a bit later. Added shaded areas in the water element play area serves the purpose of the primarily important guest comfort. “We want to make parents comfortable while their children play,” Hays said. Guest involvement will continue with a Facebook contest page for naming a new 100-foot-tall swing ride in the dry park area.

Waterpark decks at Fiesta Village Family Fun Park’s Pyrite Rapids Waterpark in Colton, Calif., are regularly refurbished. “We always improve them with fresh paint and wood to look new every season,” said Lynne Bay, who has been the waterpark manager for seven years. The two waterslides were formerly concrete and are now fiberglass. The single body slide and double body tube slide were installed in 1983, but are kept fresh looking every year, Bay said.

Bay added that whatever is done always complies with state regulations, for example, new laws on drainage systems demanded installation of VGB compliant drain covers.

With the active summer season over at Daytona Lagoon in Daytona Beach, Fla., General Manager Josh Henderson said the focus in 2014 will be on growing attendance. This year marked the first for a new management company at the park. “We now have a pretty good understanding of the market so those changes will be reflected in our marketing plan and 2014 pricing,” Henderson said.  “In addition to our facility asset planning we are working on our marketing initiatives, pricing structure review, and all maintenance objectives. Several of our off-season maintenance plans are already in progress.”

The park’s family entertainment center and large arcade stay operational throughout the year, and entertaining the guests streaming through the doors continues. Nevertheless, in constant review are ways to enhance the product offerings for valued guests, said Henderson, and management uses the World Waterpark Association (WWA) and International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) trade shows as resources.

Still in review for the coming season is the option of adding a new attraction to the waterpark, though Henderson said it would more likely occur in 2015. “We are hoping to transition in a new fleet for our go-kart operation and potential new arcade game offerings as well.”

Meanwhile the children’s waterpark play structure, Castaway Bay, will receive a renovation in the current year.

Flashy new attractions may not be the order of the day, but behind the scenes of the existing ones at parks such as Drytown Waterpark-City of Palmdale, Calif., is where all of the action is. “We’re doing what needs attention to keep the park operational,” said waterpark Manager Eric Dombrowski, “refurbishing pumps, motors, hot water heaters and other mechanical equipment, retrofitting, replacing and repairing, focusing preventatively on maintenance proactively, to keep things working as long as possible. We talk to vendors of equipment we have for suggestions on how to make equipment last longer and stretch our dollars as far as we can.”

At the same time general maintenance crews paint, clean, fix anything wearing down, replace wood siding, landscape, replace turf and plant material that didn’t make it though last year’s freeze, and update signage, making sure it’s accurate and up to date.

Setting the schedule for the season to match the school district’s calendar requires deliberations also, said Dombrowski. “With the change of the school district calendar, we make changes with our calendar, work through it to adjust as the school district changes theirs. It affects us a lot. We’ve learned to be very flexible with our schedule, constantly changing when to open and close.”

Dombrowski recommended attendance at the waterpark conference in the fall each year to get new ideas and to network. “It’s worth the  investment, as an operator and professionally.”

Standard practice at the Rockford Park District Magic Waters Waterpark in Cherry Valley, Ill., is to add a new attraction every three to five years. A new attraction was added in 2012, and the children’s area, which is original to the park, will be refurbished in 2016, said Senior Manager of Operations Jessica Steinberg.

New rides or old, implementation of a preventive maintenance plan for each in the fall, spring and summer, follows a schedule specific to each season, for maintaining moving parts, pumps and motors. Steinberg noted, “Each attraction has manufacturer specifications to follow, for cleaning and maintenance, and staff develop best practices for maintaining the fiberglass.”

“Manufacturers are always coming up with new rides, and at this point we have no final approval on any major additions, said Mike Fijas, general manager at Water Country, Portsmouth, N.H. However, every year we do infrastructural improvements, get new furniture, new and better cabanas, new landscaping and painting.”

The cold New Hampshire climate demands protection from the elements. “We winterize, buy antifreeze by the truckload for the underground pipes, and make sure everything is put away and shut down properly that needs to be,” Fijas said.

One season informs the next about how to improve on all levels and constant vigilance goes into improving customer service and guest relations, said Fijas, from the park experience to wait times.

Gloria Dippen, owner of Three Bears Lodge in Warrens, Wis., said décor refurbishment is underway at the waterpark. Graphic designers were hired to paint murals of indigenous plant and animal imagery on wall space in the 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor waterpark. Additionally, an area along a lazy river and two others in the guest activity area will be painted in the winter.

“Our target customer is young families and we noticed they need activities outside of the waterpark. Their children get very tired after 4 to 5 hours of running and jumping and we learned we need to create an area outside the park for non-waterpark activity alternatives to the very active recreation they’ve been doing for an entire day,” Dippen said. A break room for coloring and watching movies adjacent to the waterpark solves the dilemma. –

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