Interestingly, Scott’s North America experience was primarily in the municipal market and he has some great stories and insight into what we can expect in New Zealand, as we navigate through the first half of the 21st century.
Many of our hydroslides in New Zealand are now over 30 years old. We have an opportunity, not simply to replace them, but to really look at future-proofing our aquatic leisure options, and a good place to start is to look at what has been happening overseas, to see if it is relevant and can be adapted to our New Zealand market.
As Scott comments,” I don’t know a lot about the municipal market here but I can tell you a little about my experience in North America. When I first started out, we were doing mostly small-scale projects within the municipal space. By that I mean small AquaPlays with 1 or 2 small body slides. In smaller regions just the 1 body slide. What I have seen take place in the past 7 years is an increase in scale of municipal aquatic facilities. We have seen more and more resources and funding going into larger scale projects. For example, in Western Canada it is now not uncommon to see FlowRiders being installed in aquatic centres, along with medium sized AquaPlay structures and a few slides.”
Scott also notes, “There are now many municipal-owned large-scale water parks. They’ve grown by adding attractions over the years to grow revenue. These additions are usually self-funded by prior years’ profits. In that sense they operate like private parks.”
We asked Scott what he considers the key drivers behind a successful municipal water park development.
His reply, “I think the large municipal projects all have a few things in common; above average per capita income, creative municipal leadership and sound business modelling.”
In other words, in Scott’s experience, it boils down to demographics, leadership profile and operational savvy.
The successful municipal-owned water parks tend to be located in communities where residents have above average per capita incomes. Typically, these are suburban communities that are attracting young, upwardly mobile families with above average per capita income. Very high per capita income areas are not interested and average to lower income areas will not fund the initiative.
The municipal leaders who promote water park development tend to be creative, outside-the- box-thinkers. They treat the land the city owns as an asset to maximise revenue, which can be channeled back into the community. They also see the water park as an amenity that increases property values in the community. They find creative ways to fund the project besides relying strictly on tax dollars. Private/public partnerships or equity stakes by third parties help reduce the taxpayers’ expense and increase the likelihood of the water park initiative coming to fruition.
One notable new trend has been toward outsourcing the operations of the facility. More and more municipal operators understand that, when it comes to the specialised nature of running a water park, they could never do it as efficiently as a third party. Again, out of the box thinking! Managing a few lifeguards at the typical community pool is one thing. Managing professional marketing campaigns, special events, food & beverage, birthday parties, arcades, FlowRider events, etc., to drive revenue are much more demanding. The municipal clients that are serious about turning a profit are hiring professional water park operators to manage all that and return a profit to the city.
Scott may not have been back in the country long enough to know a lot about the New Zealand aquatic leisure market, but WhiteWater New Zealand certainly does. We are always happy to share our unique local knowledge as long term owner/operators of our own hydroslides attraction and as long established agents for WhiteWater West industries. Scott is also enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge and experience of the international municipal market. Together we hope to provide sound advice based on the best qualification of them all…experience!