In 1973, we started a pool construction company and eventually began doing commercial pools. There really weren’t any waterparks to speak of at the time.
Back then, pools were an absolute drain on every city budget. Some cities still believed you should have a pool for every so many people. They would have 25 pools spread out, and it took $4 million each year just to keep them open for three months.
Then, in the mid-’80s there was a guy, Carl Fuerst with Leisure Concepts and Design in Chicago, and we got to work on a couple of his projects.
Carl was a real pioneer, especially in the Chicago area. I went to many sessions with him, where he’d be talking to the public sector. He’d say, “Look, we’ve got all these pools that are antiquated, that are 31/2 or 4 feet to 12 feet deep. But you know what? Most people swim in water 4 feet and less, so why do we have tank after tank in all these cities with water that is much deeper than people like?”
There were aerial shots of some of these outdoor pools that showed like 20 people in the deep end — and 300 in the shallow end.
Carl said, “Why don’t we put in activities that are family-oriented, where people want to be? They want to be around people, they want to do sand volleyball, to have turf and improved bather prep facilities. They want water to play in about 0 to 2 feet, and we can charge $4 or $5.” All of a sudden cities are finding out that instead of a pool costing them a lot of money, they could have a surplus.
But if you went into a community and said you were going to do a waterpark, they’d go ballistic, because they thought of big, tall rides. We’d have to come in and say, “No, we’re not building a waterpark. Seaworld is a waterpark. Cedar Fair, Soak City, Aquatica, Disney, Blizzard Beach — those are big waterparks.”
The harder we worked, the luckier we got. We used to work absolutely seven days a week at this, just because we always had so much work and we loved what we did. All of us were passionate about this. Now it’s fun to have my kids coming into the business.
— Charles Neuman, CEO, Water Technology Inc., Beaver Dam, Wis.