By Karen Appold
Getting a waterpark ready for the start of a new season requires lots of work on all fronts. Here’s a rundown of waterparks’ top priorities as they prepare for opening day.
Hiring and Training Staff
The top agenda item for Lynn Brown, director of shared services, Alabama Splash Adventure, Bessemer, Ala., is to hire and train seasonal personnel. “Without a strong seasonal workforce foundation, all other aspects of the guest experience suffer,” she said. “Guests interact with seasonal team members most often. They are the ones who make everything happen on a daily basis.”
Tim Jaskiewicz, aquatic manager, Pelican Harbor Indoor/Outdoor Aquatic Park, Bolingbrook, Ill., also said his biggest priority is to provide staff training. Lifeguards receive about 30 hours of training before they work a shift on their own plus another 15 hours before the summer season begins. They also receive four hours a month of in-service training. The head guard and manager on duty receive approximately 24 hours of training in addition to lifeguard training.
Staff in other posts, such as park attendants, custodians, admissions and concessions staff, swim lesson coordinators and birthday party hosts, receive training as well.
“Staff members are the face of the organization,” Jaskiewicz said. “They protect and watch patrons, answer questions, help out patrons whenever possible, ensure the park is safe at all times, maintain cleanliness, teach skills and watch children during camps.”
For Jordan Leach, operations manager, Aquatics & Safety, Dollywood’s Splash Country, Pigeon Forge, Tenn., recruiting and retaining quality talent is his most important preparation for spring. “Our best source for referrals is inside our own organization,” he said. “Since our current employees already understand and align with our company’s core values, they are the best recruiters. Once hired, new talent has to become and actually feel like part of the team.”
Cory Hutchinson, general manager, Funtown Splashtown, Saco, Maine, also said that hiring staff and properly training them is key. “You have to make sure that they understand their responsibilities,” he said. “It’s also important for them to smile and look happy.”
Clean up, Maintenance and Set up
At Pelican Harbor Indoor/Outdoor Aquatic Park, cleanup and setup includes picking up sticks, leaves, and trash that accumulated over the winter; power washing the deck; setting out garbage cans, chairs, and guard chairs; filling and raking sand areas; cleaning and organizing admissions, concessions, and the manager’s office; inflating inner tubes; stocking first aid and other equipment; checking lifejackets; and putting on FUNbrella tops.
“The park needs to be clean, set up and ready to go for opening day,” Jaskiewicz said. “We want a picturesque setting when the first person comes through the gate for the season.”
As part of the setup process, the aquatics department works with other departments at Pelican Harbor Indoor/Outdoor Aquatic Park to get ready for the spring season. “It takes a lot of people to run a waterpark; I could not do it on my own,” Jaskiewicz said. “We work with our information technology department to ensure computer systems and terminals are installed on time for training and that everything works properly.”
On another front, Jaskiewicz works with the maintenance department to monitor pool filling, filtration and heating and to make sure that pumps are all working properly, chemical levels are being maintained correctly and all automated processes are working.
The grounds crew makes sure that flowers are planted, trees are trimmed, mowing has been completed and schedules are set for upkeep for the season with minimal impact to programs, Jaskiewicz said.
The business office makes sure processes are set up correctly for cash drops, deposits, making change, inventory counts and so forth, Jaskiewicz said. Human resources makes sure all employees have completed required paperwork, passed background checks, attended orientation and are OK to start training and working.
Painting, detecting leaks and repairing them, and making mechanical repairs and performing preventative maintenance are important to ensure that attractions are inviting, safe and operational, Brown said. Additionally, finding and fixing small problems early can lead to substantial cost savings over the long term.
The maintenance crew has many preparations, such as repairs, painting and cleaning, and making sure that everything works properly, Hutchinson said. If the weather looks like it will be an early spring, the waterpark will plan to do extra projects, such as replacing overgrown shrubbery.
Designing and Implementing a Marketing Plan for the Season
This task involves coordinating with marketing partners, reviewing budgets and marketing production. “With such a long off-season, it is easy for the general public to forget you exist,” Brown said. “It is almost as if you are starting a new business each year; you need to build brand awareness again, and make sure people know when your gates open.”
Focus on Making Improvements
According to Leach, waterpark operators must constantly improve by adapting to guests’ changing expectations by investing in people and products. “We analyze market research to make informed decisions about new attractions, in-park offerings such as food menu items and guest safety,” he said.
Continuing to improve the employee experience is another goal. “By engaging staff in an annual employee survey and genuinely listening to their concerns and suggestions, we work to provide a more comfortable and efficient work atmosphere,” Leach said.
About 150,000 guests have visited annually for the last three years, Jaskiewicz said. That was up from 2013 and 2014, but the past year was down slightly. “Weather plays the biggest role in attendance,” he said. “We have seen a slight decrease in membership purchases, but our daily admissions have been climbing.”
Alabama Splash Adventure has seen substantial growth over the past few seasons, as it has worked to cultivate a friendly, clean, family-oriented environment. “As we continue to add attractions, we expect growth to continue into the future,” Brown said.
Annual visitation at Funtown Splashtown is 500,000. “We have been pretty steady since our last expansion in the summer of 2014,” Hutchinson said.