By Karen Appold
This story explores how outdoor waterparks annually improve and maintain their facilities for their guests.


At Lava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming Complex in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, the Olympic-sized swimming pool is painted every year to ensure proper maintenance of the pool’s surface. Four slides are buffed and inspected annually, decks are power washed and sealed, and all safety signs are repainted. “All of these activities are important to ensure our patrons’ safety and to enhance our capital equipments longevity,” Executive Director Devanee Morrison said.

An artist’s rendering of the Soaky Mountain Park. The general manager said explaining to staff in an engaging way why things need to be done a certain way is key to keeping them engaged and motivated during training.


In autumn, Matt Nieman, operations manager, Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo, Iowa, said staff members assess the park to see what improvements are needed. “Getting a jump start in the fall is the key to successfully completing improvements in the spring,” he said. “Sometimes it snows in late April, which only gives us 30 to 45 days to get the park up and running.”


Tasks typically include slide repair and repainting as needed, repainting and recoating wear and tear on pools, checking its 55 water pumps to see if any bearings or motors need replacement or refurbishment, and replacing roping and netting used to keep guests out of certain areas.


Soaky Mountain in Sevierville, Tenn., a brand new waterpark that had planned to open its doors this summer, was completing construction when this article was being completed. David Andrews Jr., general manager, said that typical annual maintenance includes general pool maintenance, landscape revitalizing, washing, and painting.

Lost Island Waterpark maintenance staff members from 2019. Shown in the front row are, Claire Daly, Emma Harnack, and Dan Sheridan. In the back row are, Julius Boimah, Caitlin Kirchoff, Tannis Morgan, Drew Melcher, Isaak Dengler, and Bill Brousseau.


Diane Bruers, manager of Kentucky Splash Waterpark & Campground in Williamsburg, Ky., said spring is the time to paint pools, clean slides, power wash and prune.

Specific Projects
Spring is a great time to tackle larger projects. For the first time since the park opened in 2001, Lost Island Waterpark was scheduled this spring to have its entire lazy river sand blasted down to raw concrete and recoated back to its original finish. “We have been repainting and touching it up as necessary to keep it appealing to the eye, but over the years more and more layers of paint have resulted in difficulty getting additional paint coats to stick,” Neiman said. “It’s time to whittle away 20 years of paint and get back to the original coating.”


This year, Lava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming Complex was scheduled to complete a landscaping project around its pool facility to enhance the facility’s aesthetics and to contain certain areas where grass has been worn with foot traffic, Morrison said.

Biggest Water Filtration Challenges
Water filtration systems can pose challenges from time to time. Each pool at Lost Island Waterpark has its own filtration system, so there are multiple filters throughout the park.


“We need to make sure that each filter can handle the number of guests coming in,” Neiman said. “We’ve seen a substantial increase in attendance over the last three years.” This year, all of the sand in wave pool filters was scheduled to be removed and replaced with glass media to hopefully filter water down to lower microns. “This will keep water clearer and increase bather load,” he said.


Bruers’ biggest challenge with water filtration is keeping strainer baskets clean. In order to do this, they are emptied often.

Matt Nieman, operations manager, Lost Island Waterpark, Waterloo, Iowa. Each autumn, staff members assess what improvements are needed at the park, Nieman said.

Maintenance Staff
Staff sizes change with the seasons. Lost Island Waterpark only has two full-time, year-round maintenance employees; during peak season that number increases to about 10. “We’re in the process of building a theme park as well, so we’re building up our maintenance team,” Neiman said.
The full-time maintenance staff at Lava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming Complex consists of one maintenance supervisor, a senior maintenance craftsman and five custodians. During the summer season, it hires up to eight seasonal part-time staff to assist in grounds maintenance. “Our facility has future plans to add attractions and will add maintenance staff in order to keep up with this growth,” Morrison said.


Soaky Mountain currently has one full-time manager, but it plans to add one year-round employee and up to eight seasonal ones.
Kentucky Splash Waterpark & Campground has seven maintenance employees in the summer, who do mowing and weed eating.

General Manager David Andrews Jr., of Soaky Mountain in Sevierville, Tenn. The park was still under construction when this article was being researched.

Annual Attendance
Attendance at waterparks is up and down, depending on whom you ask. Bruers said attendance has been flat for a few years. “I think that’s because we need more space and activities for crowds,” she said. “We just started a huge multi-phase addition that should address this issue.” It includes ball fields, additional campsites, a splash pad and a large new water attraction.
Annual attendance at Lava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming Complex has also been flat over the past few years. “We’re planning to add more attractions because we’re at full capacity,” Morrison said.


Lost Island Waterpark, on the other hand, has seen attendance increase over the last few years. Neiman believes that staff members providing unique personal experiences for guests has contributed to this growth. “Employees are encouraged to interact with guests at every opportunity, such as having conversations with them about where they’re from, giving advice on rides, offering to take pictures, and providing eating suggestions. Staff members are encouraged to handle and solve situations on their own instead of consulting a manager.”