Chip Cleary
Chip Cleary

If life had worked out differently for Chip Cleary, he might be in Hollywood now, engineering the lighting for the next big film or TV hit. But he isn’t complaining. He’s found success lighting up the waterpark industry as senior vice president of Palace Entertainment’s Water Park Team, based on Long Island, N.Y. Based in Newport Beach, Calif., Palace operates 11 waterparks nationwide.

Though Cleary‘s college education prepared him for a career in the entertainment industry, he says he “stumbled his way” into the theme park and waterpark sector. He’s now been in the business for more than 30 years, and during that time has seen a great deal of change.

“I originally started out on the theme park side of the business, but was fortunate enough to see the waterpark boom coming and started building Splish Splash in New York in 1990,” Cleary says. “The changes in that period have been amazing. We started out with simple water slides and now we have much more exciting, much bigger in scale, scope and in some cases actually gravity-defying water rides. Plus, lifeguard training and water quality systems to have made tremendous advances. And I truly believe the best is yet to come.”

Today Cleary is helping to make sure that happens. He was the 2010 chairman of the board of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, and he's also a member of the Model Aquatic Health Code Steering Committee.

According to Cleary, his role has been working with the Steering Committee “trying to look at the entire body of work to make sure it’s cohesive and practical.”

Achieving that cohesion has meant bringing together a group of volunteers with very different backgrounds.

“The only way the MAHC can ever live and breathe is to have all those parties at the table,” Cleary says. “I’ve been very impressed with how open to listening everyone has been on the Steering Committee.”

For his part, he has tried to bring a waterpark perspective to the table. “Palace owns a lot of waterparks and obviously we take an active role in making sure we provide a good safe product,” Cleary says.