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When Walt Disney was planning to develop his first theme park, he turned to Buzz Price for help in creating an economic model that would solidify the business plan. Shortly thereafter, Price founded the economic planning and analysis firm Economic Research Associates and continued to work with Disney for years.

Fast forward 50years and ERA has offices throughout the United States. The company, which was recently purchased by AECOM Technology Corp., is still a major force in the leisure industry, completing approximately 500 studies per year in more than 30 countries.

Who do today’s park operators turn to for advice when it comes to waterparks? Dan Martin.

As vice president handling ERA’s waterparks and waterpark resort assignments, Martin’s job is to act as an adviser to developers by providing information and analysis to help them determine the economic potential of proposed new projects. His work includes feasibility studies, impact analysis and master planning, as well as more broad-based economic research. Since taking on his first aquatics assignment more than 15 years ago, the Chicago-based consultant has worked with many of the top waterpark and waterpark resort operators, including Todd Nelson of Kalahari Resorts and Jeff Henry of Schlitterbahn Waterparks.

“Probably the most interesting project for me so far has been Destiny USA, a mixed-use retail and entertainment project in Syracuse, N.Y.,” Martin says. Destiny USA is expected to include a waterpark in later phases of development.

Martin and his team have been leaders in providing key economic data within the aquatics and waterpark sector, but recently their work has taken them outside the industry. The company was commissioned for several projects involving the integration of waterfeatures for municipalities. In the past year, Martin has completed aquatic-related assignments at the Autobahn Zoo in New Orleans and projects for developers in the gaming industry.

“Aquatic play of all kinds has become an increasingly important part of the American leisure experience,” Martin says. “It appears to me that for the industry to continue to grow and attract a multigenerational audience, it needs to stay ahead of the waterpark features that have begun appearing in less traditional settings, such as zoos.”