Q&A with Splash Kingdom Waterpark Founder, Johnny Blevins
Nearly every amusement park or family entertainment operator is continually searching for ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Over the last two years, we’ve seen a huge increase in demand for outdoor attractions. National and state parks have seen record attendance, RV sales are through the roof, and many consumers are looking to get outside with their families and friends.
Water features and attractions have become a popular choice among operators adding outdoor entertainment to their mix. We sat down this week with Johnny Blevins, Founder and Owner of Splash Kingdom Waterparks and P2:3 Consulting, a consulting firm that specializes in adding and optimizing water attractions in location-based entertainment, and asked him to share some of his insights about doing just that
Q1: What have you seen in terms of increased demand for water features or attractions?
Water attractions and activities are one of the top requested and searched items for families when they are heading for a day of fun or a vacation. Family entertainment venues, RV parks, and camps are increasing attendance and revenue with the addition of even a small or medium aquatic attraction.
Q2: Why are water features so attractive to leisure-based entertainment venues?
With the many options available for “zero” standing water, to shallow water and beyond, water attractions can add a huge impact to a facility without the major operational concerns many owners have in their mind as a hurdle to entry.
Q3: What are some of the most popular attractions to add?
If a venue is going from a completely dry operation to offering a water attraction, depending on the client base we are trying to attract, I would consider a multi-level play structure with a zero-depth splash area, or possibly a slide tower that adds a height factor that guests can see from the road, but allow it to also finish in a 6” deep runout channel. These are great options to consider as an FEC is considering entering the wet world.
Q4: What should an operator consider before adding water features?
When we consider placing water attractions in an FEC or RV campground, we need to discuss what your main goal for guest reach would be. Also, is there a gap in your current attraction offerings that we could address with this water-based addition?
In addition, we will want to discuss staffing requirements for the new attraction and how that will affect the budget on an ongoing basis. For example, a current channel (lazy river) is a great addition for almost every age group. However, designing with proper sightlines and appropriate curves that do not create blind spots for lifeguards, will help reduce additional labor costs for your daily operation.
Also, some operators hesitate to consider water attractions because they fear rising utility costs, such as increased water costs. Contrary to popular belief, most water attractions do not create a huge increase in water usage. However, as with any type of addition, we will want to check on all necessary utilities and proper location placement for your venue.
Q5: Some people might think just the initial purchase price of a water attraction makes them cost-prohibitive. Is that often the case?
Adding a water attraction is similar to buying a car… you have many options from entry-level to top-of-the-line luxury. We work with several suppliers and specialize in getting the most bang for our buck. We own and operate facilities ourselves, and have found many ways to create a big impression on a budget that is much lower than many would expect. From spray grounds to slide towers, there are many opportunities to make smart planning and purchasing decisions, before you land on the addition that will be perfect for you and your facility.
Q6: What kind of ROI can one expect on a new water feature?
This is a great question, that varies from location to location. I love to see a 3-4 year ROI for new attractions, but this could vary based on the type of venue and how the attraction is monetized. One huge ROI our clients see is improved ratings and comments from their guests.
Q7: What’s the most common mistake people make when considering a water attraction?
Some of the most common issues I see is when an addition is planned without an “operational” view of the attraction. Many beautiful attractions have become a headache because the design did not take into account the staffing needs, traffic flow, or daily operation of the attraction. As operators, this is one of the first items we consider when we visit with a new client. We want the operator or owner to be happy with their new attraction for years to come.
Q8: Is there anything you’d like to add?
We love to visit with operators and owners about how they do what they do, what makes their business work, and how we can help them overall. If they are considering a water attraction, we would treat their questions the same way we address our very same thought about additions in our facilities. Good decisions and planning at the start make for a much better and affordable addition when the job is done.
Hopefully, today’s interview has given you a lot to consider as you explore your facility’s next attraction or update. Big thanks to Johnny Blevins for taking the time to chat with us about water features.
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