Eric Younkin

Then: Named "Best Public Waterpark Resort" in 2005 and again in 2011, NR2O has a winning formula: Offer your guests the amenities they would expect from a private park along with the perks that go with a public facility, such as free parking, complimentary tubes and life jackets and ample green space where guests can enjoy the picnic lunches they bring with them. The park is owned by the city of North Richland Hills, north of Fort Worth, Texas. Since opening in 1995, NRH2O has worked to increase attendance by adding new features on a regular basis, including single-rider slides, like the Blue Twister, and multi-rider attractions like the Viper. From the beginning, management has focused on staff training and retention as a key to its success, and also has shown a commitment to conservation, with water-saving technologies and recycling facilities installed throughout the park.

Now: NRH2O continues to be a role model for publicly owned aquatic resorts. Originally established with taxpayer funds, the park is now completely self-sustaining, with all maintenance and improvements budgeted and paid for through operation margins. Attendance at the facility is around 250,000 guests annually, with the season running from Memorial Day to Labor Day. North Richland Hills residents receive admissions discounts, and there are many pricing options and specials available to ensure that the park is accessible to as many as possible. The resort is often referred to as “a park within a park” because of the 17 acres of lush landscaping that surround the aquatic features: After enjoying the water activities, guests take blankets and folding chairs to their favorite spots — a unique feature that helps bring repeat visitors.

As a member of WWA, NRH2O participates every year in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson as part of its continuing emphasis on swimmer safety.