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 that.”
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 features.
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 competitors.
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.”