Waterpark professionals from 22 countries on 6 continents came together to learn, network and benchmark new products during the WWA Symposium & Trade Show, October 16-19. The 37th annual event welcomed more than 1,400 owners, operators, developers, suppliers and designers.
“This was a year of challenges for many in our industry. Globally, we saw operators dealing with multiple hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and rainy, inclement weather throughout North America and beyond,” said Rick Root, WWA President. “Yet, our industry knows that good and bad seasons come and go. Whether up or down, they remain resilient and laser focused on working together to set new goals, overcome challenges and look ahead to bigger success in the coming year.”
“I came away with much more than I expected. I not only have new ideas to try, but also new perspectives on old problems,” said Winter Prosapio, Corporate Director of Communications and Government Relations, Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts. “It was an energizing experience and I’ll be tackling all kinds of projects based directly on the symposium.”
“Attending the annual WWA Show gives me an opportunity to not only network with my peers and vendors, but enables me to keep up to date on the newest technology and trends in the ever-changing waterpark industry,” said Thatcher Robertson, Corporate Director of Waterparks, Kalahari Resorts & Convention Center.
“The WWA Show continues to act as a guidepost for where leaders are headed in making our industry stronger and more innovative than ever. We’re proud to be a part of that,” said Sohret Pakis, Director of Marketing & Communications, Polin Waterparks.
Attendees travelled to West Palm Beach, Florida from parks large and small, public and private, indoor and outdoor, all over the world. Active leisure markets were represented from 22 countries, including: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
“In 2017, we saw the launch of several much-anticipated projects in North America, Latin America and Asia and these waterparks are already making a big impact in their markets,” said Root. “Welcoming these new parks into our water leisure community is exciting and inspires us all to continue striving for new heights.”
One of the focuses of this year’s WWA Show was to build engagement between waterpark professionals at all levels of their career. “One of our key strengths of the WWA Show is our ability to create interaction points between attendees,” said Aleatha Ezra, Director of Park Member Development, World Waterpark Association. “Whether it happens in a classroom setting, around a table at a networking event, in a booth on the trade show floor or within the WWA Show App, we want our attendees to forge new relationships and build upon their industry connections while also having fun.”
“It’s the quality of the people. The WWA Show is really a show of unity and support for the industry we love,” said Rick Hunter, President and CEO, ProSlide Technology. “It’s critical that we as an industry support this important event, and encourage even more folks to come out every year.”
“From amazing venues, helpful and convenient printed materials, fun social events for networking and a vast collection of the brightest individuals in the industry, the WWA Show provides perhaps the best return on investment you can make for your park,” said Patrick Patoka, Director, Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark.
The WWA Show is well known for its high-quality educational events and this year’s program continued the tradition of providing attendees with access to thought-provoking speakers sharing their best ideas on the things that matter most: guest safety, operational excellence, quality customer service, top-line employee training and much more. Throughout the show, many rooms were filled to capacity with attendees ready to ask insightful questions and take home proven tactics to make their teams safer, smarter and more successful.
“We proudly sponsor the Education Sessions knowing that they are the best that are offered, industry-wide,”said Trish Hughes, Events & Trade Show Lead, WhiteWater. “The WWA Show always offers us a unique opportunity to connect and network with our important contacts be they clients, partners or suppliers in a relaxed and fun environment.”
“Once again, the show was very well organized and executed,” said Eugene Vanderwalt, Director of Waterpark Operations, Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center. “The session topics presented were spot-on for what all of us in the industry are struggling with on a daily basis.”
“I look forward to the WWA Show every year, and it always delivers,” said Gaylee Gillim, Owner, Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay. “I count on returning to our park with not only new leadership tools but also practical tips for operators.”
Highlights from the educational program include: “Leadership Matters – Inspiring Excellent Performance From Your Management Team,” “Navigating The Social Media Maze,” “Group Sales Rocks – Pillars For A Successful Sales Department,” “Revitalizing Aging Waterparks for Sophisticated Patrons,” “Waterpark & Resort Trends Across The Globe” and “Working With DHS To Increase The Security Of Your Guests.” Other timely topics covered at this year’s show include: avoiding water recreational illnesses, designing new facilities to allow more accessible play, employing generational marketing strategies and revitalizing guest service culture.
“This was my second WWA Show, and it was a great opportunity to build on ideas that have been germinating since my last visit, while learning some new ones as well,” said Mary Rodgers, Corporate Marketing & Communications Officer, City of Windsor/Adventure Bay Family Water Park. “The quality of the sessions is always high, and the opportunity to meet and network with our peers in the industry is invaluable.”
“The way the WWA Show is organized is truly impressive—it’s efficient, sleek and fun. I am sure more parks in the world would benefit from being here,” said Raylean Guan, Wanda Group. “I definitely will encourage colleagues to be part of it in the future.”
Best speaker awards went to Nick Licastro of Great Wolf Lodge-Concord and Ashley Wolfe of Roaring Springs Waterpark.
In addition to the wide variety of breakout sessions and workshops, this year’s WWA show offered two keynote addresses; the first discussed what facilities should do when a crisis response is needed and the second took a humorous look at how supervisors can avoid making common mistakes when it comes to managing people.
First up was Chris Nelson, the crisis management lead for the Americas for leading public relations firm, FleishmanHillard. Nelson shared best practices on how waterpark operators can better prepare for and recover from a crisis situation. “Anyone could have a crisis, and organizational stakeholders know that. What they evaluate is how a company responds, which is why it’s critical to surpass their expectations,” said Nelson. “By going beyond what stakeholders expect, companies can go from being the villains in the story to being stewards of the resolution.”
Next up was Marlin D. Smith, a passionate HR professional with more than 15 years in human resources leadership. Referring to some of his life lessons learned raising three small children, Smith addressed several of the challenges that come along with managing people, as well as some common missteps that supervisors and managers make. “There is a difference between being a boss and being a leader,” said Smith. “Leaders know how to create learning opportunities, say thanks, protect their employees, model behavior and invest in people for the future.”
The 2017 WWA Trade Show featured 100,000 square-feet of exhibit space with more than 250 companies showcasing new products and services in 398 booths.
“Exhibiting at the WWA Show allows us to effectively reach a concentrated group of waterpark owners and operators,” said Justin R. Nagel, Business Development Associate, Architectural Design Consultants, Inc. “We enjoy the pace of the show, as it provides us time to nurture relationships both old and new throughout the week.”
“The WWA show continues to be the core for waterparks & suppliers to maximize their businesses. It was a fun and productive week and, as always, it was great to see our waterpark family,” said Ken Handler, Global Management Amusement Professionals.
“We were able to meet with clients on a personal level, which is an important element of the WWA Show,” said Craig Duncan, Ideal Software. “This year, we also saw many new contacts in West Palm Beach!”
“The ability to actually see and speak to various vendors to evaluate different products in person is a tremendous advantage,” said Thatcher Robertson, Corporate Director of Waterparks, Kalahari Resorts & Convention Center. “I found it to be one of the more important aspects of my attendance to the show.”
The following companies were awarded for their creative and impactful exhibits at the show:
Best One-Booth Category: Techni-Lux, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.
Best Two-Booth Category: Ledge Lounger Inc., Brookshire, Texas, U.S.A.
Best Four-Booth Category: Polin Waterparks, Kocaeli, Turkey
Best Eight-Booth Category: ProSlide Technology, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Best of Show: Vortex USA, Pointe Claire, Quebec, Canada
Industry leaders and pioneers were recognized by WWA’s Board of Directors during the Opening General Session on October 17, 2017 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Each year the Board recognizes member contributions in a variety of areas significant to the industry’s success such as: dedication to guest and employee safety; excellence in leadership; innovation and creativity in designing new themes and attractions; among others.
“We have an incredible mix of leaders out there who are making a difference in the communities in which they serve,” said Steve Miklosi, Chair of the WWA’s Board of Directors. “These are people who are hitting it hard each and every day. They are training our future leaders, developing our next big ride innovations and providing guidance on how to make our parks safer and more successful.”
The WWA inducted four individuals into the WWA Hall of Fame, which honors the water leisure industry’s most important and visionary pioneers and innovators. This year’s honorees were:
Terri Adams, Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts
Ken Ellis, Aquatic Development Group
Franceen Gonzales, WhiteWater
Bob Nagel, Architectural Design Consultants, Inc.
The WWA Board of Directors recognized the exceptional accomplishments of 18 recipients in 2017 including:
Al Turner Memorial Commitment to Excellence Award: Jim Basala, Deep River Waterpark, Crown Point, Indiana, U.S.A.; Joann Cortéz, Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District, Federal Heights, Colorado, U.S.A.; Gary Slade, Amusement Today, Inc., Arlington, Texas, U.S.A.
Executive Board Award: Mike Friscia, Innovative Attraction Management, IAM StarGuard ELITE, Windermere, Florida, U.S.A.; Gaylee Gillim, Esquire, Kentucky Kingdom, LLLP, Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A.; Typhoon Texas, Typhoon Waterpark Management, LLC, Houston, Texas, U.S.A.; Bruco Wigo, International Swimming Hall of Fame, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A.
Kelly Ogle Memorial Safety Award: The Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code, Decatur, Georgia, U.S.A.; Vera Solis, Typhoon Texas, Katy, Texas, U.S.A.
Leading Edge Award: Aquatic Development Group, Cohoes, New York, U.S.A., for the development of Twin Tides™ dual beach/dual entry wave pool; Morgan’s Inspiration Island at Morgan’s Wonderland and the Pneuchair™, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.; The Land of Legends, Belek, Antalya, Turkey, and Polin Waterparks, Kocaeli, Turkey, for their work on Legend of Aqua; Universal Orlando Resort™, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., and ProSlide Technology, Ottawa, Canada, and Water Technology Inc., Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, U.S.A., for their work on Universal’s Volcano Bay™; Wanda Cultural Tourism Planning & Research Institute, Co., Ltd., Beijing, China, and WhiteWater, Vancouver, BC, Canada, for their work on Changbaishan Water Park.
Also celebrated during the Opening General Session was this year’s recipient of the Chris Stuart Emerging Leaders Scholarship program.
Five years ago, the WWA launched the Chris Stuart Emerging Leaders Scholarship program to give individuals in the beginning of their water leisure careers the opportunity to attend the WWA show. This year’s recipient was Marc Colon with Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, Tannersville, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
“The knowledge that I gained and the connections that I made provided me with a stronger motivation and interest to pursue a further career path within the industry,” said Colon. “Everyone I met was so friendly and knew so much about the business.”
“For our industry to survive and thrive we must involve the younger generation and encourage them to consider our industry as their future profession,” said Miklosi. “Each and every facility out there has a candidate for the Emerging Leaders Scholarship Program and we are fortunate that so many member parks took the time to recommend a candidate this year.
Other scholarship finalists were: Michelle Mills, Triple Play Family Fun Park, Hayden, Idaho, U.S.A. and Sura Omar, Typhoon Texas, Katy, Texas, U.S.A.
Recipients of WWA’s popular Wave Review marketing competition were recognized during the Keynote Session on October 18, 2017. Winners’ work represented successful marketing campaigns from small public-sector facilities to large corporately owned waterparks.
“Year after year, our waterpark marketers continue to knock it out of the park with their innovative approaches to customer engagement,” said Ezra. “Recognizing the creative work of our waterpark marketing professionals is a true joy and something we are lucky to have been able to do for so many years.”
Multi-category winners were: Castaway Cove Waterpark, Wichita Falls, Texas, U.S.A.; Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark, Tannersville, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., Hot Park, Rio Quente, Goiás, Brazil; among others.
Highlights of this year’s networking events included:
WWA’s Annual Golf Tournament. On a hot Florida morning, dozens of golfing threesomes and foursomes came together at Madison Green Country Club for a day on the greens. Home to the Florida State and U.S. Amateur Championship Qualifiers, and the site of the 2012 Florida Golf Association Men’s Senior Championship, the course is rated 4.9 stars out of 5 by Golf Digest. Top prize went to winning team: Pat Finnegan, WhiteWater; Ron Sutula, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston Island; Jason Sorci, Architectural Design Consultants, Inc.; and Justin Nagel, Architectural Design Consultants, Inc.
WWA’s Annual Reunion Party. At this signature networking event hosted by Rapids Water Park, owners, operators, suppliers and developers spent time eating some yummy food, chatting with old friends, making new acquaintances and touring behind-the-scenes of one of the area’s most recognizable leisure attractions.
WPB Party. Attendees closed out the third day of the WWA Show with this relaxing event at the Hilton West Palm Beach’s beautiful pool area.
“For a third straight year, we received record support from our sponsors. Thanks to their support, we are able to provide attendees with many of the key elements they most appreciate like inspirational Keynote speakers and buffet lunches,” said Miklosi.
The 2017 WWA Sponsors included:
Platinum Sponsor – ProSlide Technology Inc.
Double Gold – WhiteWater
Gold Sponsors – WWA Insurance by Haas & Wilkerson, Launch Logic, Life Floor, PGAV Destinations, Polin Waterparks, Van Stone Conveyor and Water Technology Inc. / Neuman Group / Neuman Aqua
Silver Sponsors – Allied Specialty Insurance, Aquatic Development Group (ADG), Convergence.net, Industrial Test Systems, Kimley-Horn & Associates, Launch Logic, Polin Waterparks, Van Stone Conveyor, VLocker North America and Water Safety Products
Bronze Sponsors – American Resort Management, American Wave Machines, Apex Parks Group, Aquakita, Avalanche Waterslides, Foothill Communications, Incord Play, Innovative Aquatic Design, Magic Carpet Lifts, Millennium Aquatics, Northeast Insurance Center, Pentair Commercial Aquatics, Sacoa Playcard System, Shade Creations by Waterloo, Vivo Aquatics, Water Odyssey by Fountain People and Wet Engineering
Special Sponsors – Aquakita, Dippin’ Dots, Gateway Ticketing Systems and IALDA
Phone Charging Station provided by Tiburon Lockers
WWA Lapel Pins provided by Zebec
WWA takes attendees back to Las Vegas, Nevada with next year’s World Waterpark Association Show taking place October 23-26, 2018.
“We always count ourselves lucky when we can take our show back to Las Vegas,” said Root. “It’s such an iconic place for our group to come together and a great draw for attendees from all over the world.”
The Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino will provide the backdrop for most things taking place at the WWA Show with the exhibit hall and classes all accessible from within the resort itself. Visit WWAShow.org for more details about the 2018 show.
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