Move over, pandas and giraffes. Some new animals are
heading to the zoo, and they?re looking to cool off
in their own pond.
Polar bears? No. It?s human beings
homo sapiens specifically, the zoo visitors
themselves. Today, as part of their admission tickets, more
and more visitors to the zoo can get their own water-play
areas, complete with water slides, spray features and wave
?Waterparks will attract families and young
teens, and the whole array who would not normally come to
the property,? said Kevin Asher, supervisor of
special projects at the Miami-Dade Parks &
Recreation department. Miami-Dade is one of several zoo
operators that is considering putting in a waterpark.
Like ski resorts, zoos have high and low seasons. But
unlike waterparks, zoos host student groups and tourists
during the school year, and tend to slow down during the
hot summer months unless giant pandas arrive from China or
a rare species gives birth.
?It?s just so hot,? Asher said.
?If you have the zoo principally used in the winter
and spring and some parts of summer, the waterpark can be
used in the spring and summer. We?re looking for
other complementary attractions for family and
family-related visitors that could take advantage of
underused or underdeveloped land [such as a
Judith Leblein Josephs agrees. ?It makes more
sense because of combination ticketing,? said the
operations analyst at Water Technology Inc. in Beaver Dam,
Wis. ?Zoo visitation has its [seasons], but adding
a waterpark and having a wet-and-dry ticket, utilizing
parking and doubling staffers who understand food and
beverage ? would be complementary.?
Adding a waterpark to the zoo is more than just making
use of the trained staff, wide parking lots and concessions
throughout the year. In addition, the attraction can draw
in a wider audience.
?Who goes to zoos? Families with young kids or
older adults,? said Alison Osinski, Ph.D.,
president of Aquatic Consulting Services in San Diego.
?You don?t get the entertainment dollar
from pre-teens or teenagers. [Having a waterpark] is an
attempt to get ? the pre-teen and teenage
The waterparks also aim to develop repeat visitors.
?If you live in the same town for a while, how
often do you go to the zoo?? Osinski asked.
?If you want them once a month, you need a reason
to bring them in.?
Some zoos have already caught onto the idea, installing
everything from sprayparks to full-fledged waterparks. In
Toronto, a pressing need to create a children?s
activity area came in the form of Splash Island, a 2-acre
water-play area with water slides and spray features. The
area doubles as a classroom that teaches about Canadian
wildlife, with polar bears spouting water in the
?Arctic? and a Canadian beaver in the
The Granby Zoo in Granby, Quebec, Canada, has a 12-acre
?Amazoo Yoplait Water Park,? with a giant
wave pool measuring nearly 30,000 square feet, a
1,400-foot-long lazy river (mimicking the Amazon River,
hence the park?s name), a multilevel play feature,
toddlers? lagoon area and lounge chairs.
Over in Ohio, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium purchased
Six Flags? Wyandot Lake waterpark in 2006 with the
intent of renovating and reopening the waterpark in 2008.
The zoo hopes to increase its attendance with the new
?tourism destination,? offering season and
single-day passes to both areas. Besides new rides, the zoo
is adding a polar bear exhibit and an African savanna
But zoo operators needn?t fear that the
waterparks will cannibalize their business. ?People
will still stop and see the camels and the polar
bears,? Osinski said. ?Then they?ll