Watching his uncle — Ned Stancliff, former vice president of Herschend Family Entertainment — Chris Swartz knew he wanted to work in the amusement park industry. Today, as park manager of NRH2O in North Richland Hills, Texas, he can proudly say he’s achieved his dream, and then some. Swartz is now leading the industry as chair of the World Waterpark Association’s Board of Directors.
According to WWA, the public sector represents approximately 20
percent of new membership in the organization, and Swartz is the
first chairman to come out of the municipal public sector
“As more communities look to include attractions found in
private waterparks, the WWA is a natural place to gravitate
toward,” he says.
But Swartz got his start in the private sector. As a youngster in
Weeki Wachee, Fla., he spent a lot of time in the water. One of his
first jobs was as a lifeguard while attending the University of Central
Florida, located in the Orlando area. He was employed at
Wet ‘n Wild Orlando and says two things drew him
to waterparks: the fact that the industry is rooted in recreation
and fun, and the casual dress code.
He took on the responsibility of opening the brand-new NRH20 in
1995, at age 24, after a couple of years in management at a Georgia
Swartz believes there aren’t many differences about operating
a public park compared with operating a private park. But he does
note that in a public environment, “You’re under more
of a microscope.”
“Because I know that everything I do is in the open, I think
that’s made me a better operator,” he adds.
Swartz first became involved with WWA around the same time he took
the job at NRH2O. A self-described techno-junkie, “I gave the
first-ever presentation on the Internet for the WWA,” he
Now, as chair, he’s opening the waterpark doors to those in
the municipal aquatics sector, helping them form new connections
through WWA and proving that aquatics can be financially
But ultimately his goal is simple. “When I rotate off the
Board of Directors, I want to see the association stronger than
when I began,” he says.