Planning The Perfect Waterpark

Photo  Courtesy Of Crafton Tull

Photo Courtesy Of Crafton Tull

Rather than traditional flat-water rectangular pools, stimulating waterparks are becoming the norm for today’s recreational aquatic experience. Once the decision has been made to build a mini, medium, or destination waterpark, several key items should be considered before starting construction. What is your budget?  What do you want to include in the waterpark? How much land do you need? What will it cost to operate? Will it make money?  

Defining Success

For private developers, the definition of success is simple—to make money! For municipal waterparks, however, the definition of success can be different: 

  • Earn revenues that cover costs and any future expansions. 
  • Earn revenues that help pay for other subsidized facilities within the park system. 
  • Reduce the subsidy of the existing obsolete pool. It doesn’t have to make money as long as it’s losing less money.  

All of these are appropriate definitions of success, but each one affects the outcome of waterpark design. Determining a definition of success will help make sure the goals are in line with realities.  

Studying The Opportunities

For those who don’t have the market draw in a particular location, building a waterpark too large will increase expenses, but not revenues. Building it too small may not provide the amenities to attract a large segment of the population. Paying for a feasibility study at this early stage may be the best money spent in helping to define the market while determining realistic outcomes.  

One of the biggest mistakes people make is underestimating the cost of operating a waterpark. Labor alone can be 50 to 60 percent of the operating budget. With all of the turns and blind spots in a waterpark, the lifeguard requirement is significantly higher than at a

Photo Courtesy Of Counsilman Hunsaker

Photo Courtesy Of Counsilman Hunsaker

traditional-style pool. Also, there’s not just one recirculation pump running now. There may be a dozen or more pumps running aquatic activities and features, which demand a lot of energy.  And don’t forget all of those patrons who bring dirt, organic matter, bacteria, hair, makeup, suntan/body oils, and other debris into the pools, which significantly increase chemical demand.  

The other mistake is being too excited about all of the money to be made. A facility may hit capacity every Saturday, but during the work week, attendance drops off, not to mention weather factors that may cause closings and school calendars that recess for the summer in mid-June, while others start back in mid-August. 

The Proper Blend

After establishing some parameters for a project, it’s time to consider the design and layout, at least conceptually. Having the proper amenity mix will impact the feel of a waterpark and its viability within the market. In general, a waterpark needs three aquatic elements: 

  • A capacity holder
  • A children’s area
  • Rides.  

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