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    Judge’s Comment: Other waterparks would be wise to see all the things The Cove is doing.
 

The Jurupa Aquatic Center in Riverside, Calif., is growing, largely due to its waterpark, The Cove. In only one year, operators have seen an attendance gain of 10,000. Last July, swim school registrations numbered 300. This July, there were 549 registered students.

The growth can be attributed to several factors: The Caribbean-themed waterpark experience combined with a state-of-the-art competition pool; full-service concessions; an emphasis on customer service, selective hiring and intense training of personnel; new programs; and dedicated use of social media.

The center serves a community located approximately 60 miles east of Los Angeles. There are a number of working class and low-income residents nearby, and before the facility opened in 2011, they had relatively few recreational opportunities.

To encourage the staff to be consistent and provide excellent customer service, five guests are surveyed at random on whether particular staff members made their experiences more enjoyable or went above and beyond. This direct customer recognition reinforces excellent service and creates high staff morale.

Lifeguard candidates must pass a strenuous physical test to qualify for an interview. The strongest candidates are invited to Lifeguard Bootcamp — a full-day assessment of job skills, attitude, customer service and interaction with co-workers and superiors. This vetting process enables park management to start the summer confident in the team’s attitude and skills.

For summer 2012, the center added a Junior Lifeguard program to train future guards, as well as a Water Sports camp. The camp program included water polo, underwater hockey and surfing on the FlowRider.

Operators have been asked to reach self-sufficiency by year three, and attention to social media marketing has been vital in that effort. Social media deals through sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial have attracted new visitors, and the facility’s Facebook page has grown nearly 300 percent since August 2011. The dramatic increase has been attributed to management’s timely response to customer inquiries and concerns. Most posts are addressed within 20 minutes during business hours.

Additionally, every Monday, a close-up picture of a detail in the waterpark is posted with the caption, “What is this and where can it be found in The Cove Waterpark? Post your answer by 5 p.m. to be entered into a drawing to win two free admission tickets.” Most posts receive about 80 to 100 responses, and to take advantage of the higher exposure, the next post is typically marketing for a program or event that has lower enrollment.