By Karen Appold
As the new year begins, owners and managers of indoor waterparks reflect on their plans and goals for 2017. What improvements and changes will they make at their facilities, what innovative food choices will they serve and how can they continue to strive toward excellent customer service?
Regarding improvements and changes, Eric Gilbert, president, Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park – White Water Bay in Queensbury, N.Y., said a brand new light show – Splashtacular! – will be presented each night. “Guests will be drenched in color as hundreds of moving lights and special effects tied seamlessly to both classic music and contemporary hits fill the indoor water park nightly,” he says. “Shows will feature transforming colors and upbeat music.” In addition, the waterpark now features ambient lighting that illuminates the Adirondack themed water park as dusk settles each night.
In September 2016, Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark in Lake Geneva, Wis., upgraded the brand new Avalanche Falls slide. “It’s only the second slide of its kind in the country where kids can listen to their favorite tunes while going down the slide,” said Tim Harold, manager. Fun song themes include kids’ movie songs, pop paradise, country waves, rockin’ rapids and favorite tunes from Timber Ridge’s mascot, Bruce the Moose. Kids also get to enjoy colored lights on their way down. In 2017, a lot of upgrades to the waterpark are planned. This will include a new coat of paint around the park on walls and attractions, new lighting and a new feature to the toddler area.
Tim Jaskiewicz, aquatic manager, Pelican Harbor, Bolingbrook, Ill., said they’ll be replacing the Diamond Brite flooring in the activity pool with the same material, as it’s due for replacement. It will also be replacing 20-year-old starting blocks for its swim team with more modern blocks.
Over at Sahara Sam’s Oasis in West Berlin, N.J., Byron O’Donnell, assistant general manager, said four new cabanas were added to the indoor water park. “For a small fee, patrons can rent them to upgrade their experience,” he said. The waterpark is also planning to launch a new party package.
Changes in Food Service
Every season, Sahara Sam’s Oasis tries out new items on its food and beverage menu. “It is important to keep our menu fresh, so our dedicated customers have new, exciting options,” O’Donnell said. “But we always retain our customers’ favorites.”
New for 2017 at Schlitterbahn Galveston Island, Galveston, Texas, will be fun signature burgers like the hot Cheetos and cheese burger and the Frito chili pie burger. “We will also bring back Blue Bell ice cream,” said Jarrod Carr, assistant general manager. “This is the most popular ice cream in Texas, so it makes sense to do this.” New for Sweet Shoppes will be a series of frozen coffee options called “java freeze.” At its B&B BBQ, there will be several new items such as loaded mac and cheese and loaded mashed potatoes. “We are always looking for fun ways to reimagine items on our menus,” he said.
Wilderness at the Smokies, in Sevierville, Tenn., will focus on enhancing its food and beverage offerings at Grizzly Grill and Tropical Snow, located inside Wild WaterDome Indoor Waterpark. Enhancements will include increasing the size of its pizza oven in order to expedite pizza orders and acquiring new popular food offerings, said Russell Archuleta, general manager. In addition, it will add roving servers to take drink and food orders.
Harold said changes to both restaurants are planned. Smokey’s restaurant recently got a new smoker, and the menu is now complete with delicious BBQ-style food. Its grab-and-go restaurant, Hungry Moose, will be getting a new look and revamped menu.
Emilio Fabico, general manager, Camelback Lodge & Aqatopia Indoor Waterpark, Tannersville, Pa., said pizzas will now be handmade and fresh.
Because more guests are requesting healthier food options, Andrew James, water resort director, CoCo Key Water Resort at The Hotel ML in Mt. Laurel, N.J., said the waterpark will be implementing new menu items including salads, hummus and fruit.
Gilbert said all menus are continually updated to remain fresh, including monthly menu items and special shakes at Johnny Rockets. The park has also continued to update its Coffee Corner located in the lobby, offering fresh coffee and homemade baked goods each day.
Customer Service Tips
Reflecting on what customer service methods work well, Jaskiewicz advised getting to know your regular customers. “They will feel more comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns,” he said. “If they have an issue, it is a lot easier to discuss them with someone they are comfortable and familiar with.”
O’Donnell said customer service starts at the top and trickles down. “Managers need to demonstrate proper customer service to our staff, so they can learn from and mirror our energy, attitude and values,” he said. “The goal is for staff members to all be pleasant, helpful and informative so each and every customer receives exceptional service.”
Fabico said staff engages with guests to make their experience personal and fun.