Ride (dry) park and waterpark balance

Friday, August 5, 2011 9:26 AM

Recently Holiday World and Splashin' Safari announced plans for another water coaster. This means that it will be six years since a major dry attraction has been added to the park. Meanwhile, Waldameer Park and Water World has continued to put off plans to add a wave pool while continuing to add a number of dry rides.

What do you have to say about such trends in various parks to emphasize one type of park while doing little to the other section? What other parks could use more balance between dry and water parks or in what gets added to each type of park?

Last edited by Arthur Bahl, Friday, August 5, 2011 9:28 AM
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Friday, August 5, 2011 10:10 AM

Dorney immediately come to mind and to a lesser extent Hershey.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 10:13 AM

Water parks are a draw. Probably more so than 'dry' parks, as evidenced by guest behavior on any given day at Dorney, for example. I am not the type to complain when water rides are added more frequently than coasters or flats, but then again I can enjoy a water park as much, if not more than, dry parks. However, even if I hated water parks, I can't complain because I understand the decisions these businesses make because they have done the research to justify their expenditures. Obvious ROI is obvious.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 11:59 AM

For what it's worth, Screamscape is reporting rumors that both Cedar Point and Kings Island will be receiving additions to their respective waterparks this offseason.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 3:03 PM

That sucks.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 3:56 PM

Cedar Point's water park is lame. It could use a serious upgrade. I remember Kings Island's as being pretty good, though.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 4:47 PM

Kings Island and Soak City could both make a very simple change that would cost them *nothing* and would make me a lot happier with both parks: eliminate the "you must be in or on a tube" rule in the lazy rivers.

Anyway, if the rumor is true, it is an interesting development. This summer has been particularly hot and humid, which is great for waterparks, and really shows off their problems with capacity. The last three summers have been cool and wet, which is awful for waterparks, and not particularly good for the dry parks either. If indeed every major park in the region is going for a major waterpark upgrade for next year, it probably means that next summer is going to be cold again. Thanks, guys. 8-(

The idea of doing simultaneous waterpark expansions at Cedar Point and Kings Island is also kind of interesting. A few days ago, I saw a Windseeker commercial that actually promoted both parks, which is something Cedar Fair should have been doing for years now. But I'd think it would make more sense for them to hedge: do a waterpark expansion at one park, and some kind of a dry park expansion at the other, so that if the weather turns nasty, they don't lose in both parks. At Cedar Point there is the added problem that Cedar Point and Soak City are separate gates, so for a substantial number of people, a (much needed) improvement at Soak City registers as "nothing at all". That's less of an issue at Kings Island, where the waterpark is part of a combined gate.

Why not improve everything? Put a big, splashy new attraction in the waterpark, and use the "off year" as an opportunity to add something to the dry park that is lower cost, harder to market, and fills a gap in the line-up? Perhaps something on the scale of, say, a Flying Scooter or something like that...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 5:00 PM

Cedar Point's water park always seemed packed to me. If that's the case (haven't been since '09), what incentive is there to add to it?

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Friday, August 5, 2011 5:02 PM

RideMan said:
Kings Island and Soak City could both make a very simple change that would cost them *nothing* and would make me a lot happier with both parks: eliminate the "you must be in or on a tube" rule in the lazy rivers.

I didn't realize that they had a stupid rule like this one..

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Friday, August 5, 2011 5:31 PM

Jeff, I think the question comes down to this: what percentage of Soak City guests are also resort guests? The higher that percentage is, the less rationale there is to improve the waterpark. This is assuming that the resorts are all filled to 100% capacity, of course.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 5:59 PM

I would suspect it's a mix of resort guests and people within an hour who have season passes. That's just an assumption, but I figure a pretty rational one. I'd love to know how many ride-and-slide tickets are sold to non-resort guests.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 7:08 PM

I think it sucks. Michigan's Adventure has a huge water park, and that is where they put a majority of their new attractions. They recently added Beach Party, which is very similar to something they already had, and, the year before that they wowed us with boring bumper boats, while a majority of the other Cedar Fair parks were getting shiny new hyper coasters. We also missed out of the Wind Seeker craze. But, not that big a deal.

People will say, what about Thunderhawk? Yeah, that was great, but it's the only new non-water ride the park has added since 2000. It would be nice to get a few new thrill rides. Another coaster would be good, but more thrill rides would be better. I can't tell you how much I miss their old Chaos ride, it was the best ride in the park, the rest are pretty boring.

If you are not going to add new rides, at least fix the ones you have, or make them better. Add a vertical loop to the corkscrew. Do something. And, please Michigan's Adventure doesn't need any more kiddy rides they have enough already, and nobody rides them.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 7:28 PM

Waterpark rides have low capacity, cost less than dry rides (for a similar product) and have proven to be HUGE draws for the public. You'd better believe my park would be expanding the waterpark WAY faster than the dry park....HW is doing business right, as they have since Raven went in...

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Friday, August 5, 2011 7:39 PM

There may be an ugly truth ahead for coaster and dry park enthusiasts. Some -- many -- amusement parks may be evolving into waterparks. Sometimes the shift can be gradual, such as with Holiday World. Other times it can be jarringly fast, as was the case with Geauga Lake.

Don't be surprised to see a whole lot more of this in years ahead.

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Friday, August 5, 2011 9:09 PM

Also remember that many parks turn to the credit markets to finance part or all of their CapEx. Lending is tight so trying to finance a $2M-$3M project is going to be a lot easier than financing a $25M coaster.

While a $9M waterpark attracton (Mammoth) is not the norm, for a few million dollars, you can add an entire slide complex, section of a waterpark, a wave pool or a number of other cool waterpark attractions. $2M doesn't get you that far in the hard ride market.

In terms of "bang for the buck", and trying to operate fiscally responsible in today's economy, waterpark attractions get you a lot, with a resonable price tag compared to hard rides....

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Saturday, August 6, 2011 12:36 AM

The problem is that waterpark attractions typically have stupid low capacity and involve people standing in lines which move much more slowly than their counterparts over in the dry park. Then, most waterpark attractions present significant dangers to riders that in general are not avoidable. So waterparks need to have more attractions to start with, then those attractions are significantly more hazardous to the patrons than the iron rides are. I think we're going to see more rides like Wildebeest and Mammoth, and fewer of the traditional slides, as the parks try to figure out ways to bring the risk of operating a waterpark down to something more like what they are accustomed to in the dry parks.

I don't think we're going to see a lot of elimination of the dry parks ala Geauga Lake, because in many parts of the country the waterpark simply can't operate for the full season. But as the waterpark business matures, we're going to see the attractions in the waterparks mature as well.

I think it is instructive to look at what Kings Island did with their waterpark. When WaterWorks opened, it featured a handful of slides, and they quickly added a lazy river, then a wave pool. Can you imagine that? Neither Waterworks nor Soak City even had a wave pool or a lazy river when they opened. Just a bunch of slides. They were built like the dry parks, where patrons would stand in line for a ride, take a ride, then go stand in line for another ride. Heck Soak City was designed around hourly admission!

When Kings Island transformed Waterworks into Boomerang Bay, they actually removed slides in the process. The focus of the "new" waterpark was to better serve people with the way they were actually using the waterpark. Patrons do not use water parks the same way they use dry parks, they use water parks more the way they use swimming pools. There is an awful lot of sitting or lying around, and particularly for the younger set (and for people like me) an awful lot of simply staying in the water as much as possible.

The trick is, how does the waterpark differentiate itself from the local swimming pool or splash pad? That's the challenge they're facing now, especially with splash pads going in all over the country (heck the City of Columbus just put one in downtown...so do you take the kids to Zoombezi Bay, or down to Bicentennial Park?).

Now here's where the parks have a real ace up their sleeves: Your water park admission includes access to the dry park. You think that might be part of the scheme?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011 1:15 AM

I suspect that you're exactly right. A dry park, even a small one, can easily morph into a 'Waterpark plus'. The dry rides, plus the kind of investments into marque wet rides that are beyond the reach of your local pool, are a real advantage to bringing in discriminating consumers.

Not in any way meant to hijack the discussion (and yes, I already mentioned the place once), but this is a part of what my brain tried to process and couldn't come up with a logical output when Cedar Fair shut down GL. If the vast, sprawling mess that had been Six Flags Ohio was doing so horribly, then maybe it was reasonable and necessary to shut it down. But wouldn't it have made sense to keep a few dry attractions, for just such an incentive? They already had the cluster of flats and kids' rides on that end. It would have been simple to keep those, and still be able to advertise and market the place as an actual amusement park.

Again, not trying to derail the thread. But this just seemed like such a perfect window into my thinking, I wanted to share.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011 11:08 PM

Jeff said:
Cedar Point's water park always seemed packed to me. If that's the case (haven't been since '09), what incentive is there to add to it?

Unless the bottleneck is something other than ride capacity, I'd assume you could expand ride capacity to accommodate the sale of more tickets or to increase the value to those already coming (which would presumably lead to more ticket sales).

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Saturday, August 6, 2011 11:09 PM
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Saturday, August 6, 2011 11:17 PM

There were definitely other issues at Geauga Lake. From what I've been able to piece together, that place was literally falling apart. After they took over, they had catastrophic failures on the Impulse coaster, the log flume, the Double Loop, the Spider and of course on Raging Wolf Bobs, and those are just the ones I happen to know about. I heard about "deferred" (read "ignored") maintenance on both the Boomerang and the Suspended Looping Coaster that Cedar Fair learned about when they took over, and I have to wonder if the Carolina Cobra got a new train because the old one had serious problems.

Cedar Fair dumped some serious money into Geauga Lake, and I am certain that they had every intention of correcting the problems and making a go of it. But I think the combination of the very expensive Paramount Parks acquisition and the catastrophic failure of Raging Wolf Bobs demonstrating what a money pit Geauga Lake had become spelled the end for that park.

All my opinion, of course...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, August 8, 2011 9:47 PM

I think were Geauga Lake really screwed up was putting the waterpark on the other side of the lake.

They could of kept the waterpark where it was on the Rides side and had a nice traditional combination park while removing some of the newer roller coaster additions and expanding the water park.

Imagine some of the traditional but smaller Geauga Lake left with a nice massive waterpark.

That also would of given them the other side of the park to sell off to generate some money instead. A lot more incentive to put a shopping mall somewhere when you have a giant active amusement park / water park next door. Or even a great spot for a hotel or resort.

I think they had huge ambitions going in that they were going to turn the park around and never thought of the obvious solution staring them in the face.

Once they put the water park on the other side of the lake and started removing rides from the amusement park side, it was way too late to go back.

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