When the county of Spartanburg, S.C., passed a local hospitality tax for the purpose
of building more recreation for its residents, the city of Duncan
jumped on board. It secured a note to finance an aquatics center
and citizens embraced the idea immediately, especially because the
funding was coming from guests of local hotels and restaurants
rather than taxpayers.
“We never had any issue with dealing with the public on
it,” says Corey Swaim, director of Duncan’s parks and
recreation. “We didn’t raise taxes or anything like
Opened in June 2009, the $3 million Shipwreck
Cove waterpark project serves the District Five area, which is
a combination of three cities. It is situated on 4 acres of a
22-acre planned recreational area still under development.
The pirate-themed waterpark is one giant swimming pool with a
lazy river area, two tall water slides, a wrecked ship with water
shooting from its cannons, and a shallow-water kiddie play area
with a pirate ship play structure and various jets. There’s
also a grassy lawn with a picnic area and lounge chairs lining the
poolside. The rest of the land will include room for the
waterpark’s expansion, such as more water slides and play
The park does compete with other area waterparks, but has the
advantage of drawing local people as well as the evening crowd.
“The main unique thing is, we are licensed to operate in
the evening, which the other ones in the area are not,” Swaim
says. The plan is to operate the park from Memorial Day to Labor
Day. So far, nearly 60 percent of its visitors draw from
neighboring towns and even out of state.
Seasonal employees, maintenance and improvements to the facility
are paid by revenue from facility operations and managed by Parks
and Recreation. The park’s revenue stream comes from entry
fees: $10 for people more than 48 inches tall and $8 for those
shorter than that, as well as reduced fees for senior citizens and
afternoon entry. Fees are comparable to those of local
Revenue also is generated from the gift shop, which sells
T-shirts, backpacks, visors and other knick-knacks, as well as from
concessions. The waterpark offers birthday party rentals: At $14.95
per child, with a minimum of eight children and one adult, the
package includes exclusive use of the sandbar area for two hours,
access to the whole facility, meal, invitations and a gift for each
guest. The price for additional supervisory adults who do not swim
is only $5 each.
In addition, Shipwreck Cove partners with local businesses that
provide corporate sponsorships. Starting from $1,000 annually for
three years up to $15,000 a year, companies receive guest passes,
advertising, naming rights and Web links, among other benefits.
Operators also worked with ShowCase
Marketing of Greenville, S.C., to create an effective brand,
complete with characters, a storyline and creative Web site.
So far, the opening has been a resounding success in making Duncan
a tourist attraction. “It’s been doing really
well,” Swain reports. “We’ve had a lot of media
coverage on it and we’ve had a good run.”