By late October temperatures have cooled off, kids are back in school and summer is a distant memory. But some operators are looking to change that. Halloween events now are popular annual attractions at most traditional theme parks, and it appears a growing number of waterparks and aquatics facilities are scaring up fall business as well.
“It’s a natural extension of the theme park industry’s event promotion into the waterpark industry,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc. in Cincinnati. “In the theme park industry, Halloween promotions and events are practically done in every park across the nation. They drive a tremendous amount of business in the month of October. It started out as a weekend event, but recently more have begun opening up Friday nights as well.”
Last year marked the first Haunted Swamp at the aquatics center in Chino Valley, Ariz., and according to Amy Larsen, recreation coordinator for the city of Chino Valley, it was a huge success. Geared for families, the free Haunted Swamp event ran for three evenings (Oct. 29-31), generating as many as 1,000 attendees. Larsen said her agency decorated every available space of its outdoor aquatics facility, from the pool itself — which included a boat of scary looking pirates — to the bathrooms, one of which was decorated as a witches’ lair.
Last year admission was free, but this year there will be a $1 charge to cover the cost of the event and provide additional revenue. “We all have to start generating revenue,” Larsen said. “Even though it doesn’t get used year ’round as a pool, we can make it a year-round facility.”
Consumer research indicates Halloween is the No. 2 seasonal event, behind Christmas, in terms of retail sales, so Speigel said it makes sense that a growing number of waterparks and aquatics facilities would want to capitalize on it. Zoos and other recreational venues also are creating special events around Halloween.
Other aquatics facilities that run Halloween events include Waterworld California in Concord, which hosted its first Halloween event (GRYo’s 4D Fear Factory) last year; Naval Base Ventura County at Port Hueneme, which also hosted a haunted swamp last year; and The Waterpark at the Villages in Flint, Texas, which held a “Spook n’ Splash” festival last year.
“We just wanted to have a fall festival,” Cathie Hayward, operations manager of The Waterpark at the Villages told local media. “We wanted to find a safe and fun place for the kids to come for Halloween.”