Melissa Lockwood, with an impressive career in waterpark management that spans the globe, shares her insights on the industry and all the things to look forward to at the upcoming WWA Show in Las Vegas
Meet Melissa Lockwood. She began her career as a lifeguard, pool manager and swimming instructor during high school and college. Melissa worked in municipal parks and recreation in Missouri and Texas while completing her Masters in Recreation and Leisure from the University of North Texas. She opened Yas Waterworld in 2013 and also managed Ferrari World Abu Dhabi for several years before returning to Yas Waterworld as Director of Operations. Melissa became General Manager of Baha Bay in 2019, a new waterpark at Baha Mar Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. She sits on the Board of the World Waterpark Association, where we reached out to her to find out about the upcoming WWA Show taking place in Las Vegas October 4-7, 2022.
Tell us about Baha Bay.
The park was under construction when I joined and its completion was the final piece of development for the 1,400 acre Baha Mar Resort campus when it opened in July, 2021. The park is set over 15 acres and is home to more than 30 rides, slides & attractions, including the world’s first FlowCurl from FlowRider and the Caribbean’s first Dueling RocketBlast from ProSlide. Baha Mar Resort guests have park access included in their stay and we also have a main gate for general access. The park has been hugely popular with our resort guests and has allowed the resort to attract more families to stay.
How did you get involved with WWA and why are industry associations important?
I was introduced to WWA while working for the City of Keller, Texas, which was a member of the association. I was able to speak at the WWA show in 2011 in New Orleans. Being involved in WWA and other industry organizations has been beneficial to my parks, my colleagues and my career. I have presented at several WWA shows, WWA Middle East Symposia, and IAAPA Expo Europe. By sharing my knowledge and experience I am able to give back to our industry while continuing my own learning process. The networking aspect is also important; our industry is smaller than you think and it’s always great to catch up with old friends and make new connections.
What’s your elevator pitch for the WWA Show?
Who doesn’t like some time in Las Vegas?! It’s the one time each year we really get to reconnect with our peers, attend inspiring educational sessions, research new products and vendors and have fun together!
Why do you keep coming back to the WWA Show?
I have been to trade shows while working at municipal facilities, private waterparks and now resort parks. These shows are a great opportunity to bring valuable information back to your organization and learn what’s new and upcoming in the industry. I always come back home with actionable ideas for revenue, safety, operations and more. It’s a great opportunity to find something new to implement at your facility as well as make those connections that you can reach out to when you have challenges.
What are you looking forward to most for this year’s event in Vegas?
Being back in Las Vegas will be great after the 2020 show became virtual due to COVID-19. I always look forward to reconnecting with industry friends, some of whom I’ve known for 20+ years now! I’m looking forward to the trade show floor to see what new products are available as well as the annual reunion party at Cowabunga Bay.
What are some of the unique challenges you are facing currently that will be addressed during WWA?
I believe we have all been impacted by supply chain issues over the past three years. I’m looking forward to connecting with vendors and looking for additional solutions. I have heard from many other operators who are facing staffing challenges as well. I’m excited to attend “Building Your Full-Time Leaders Into Future GM’s” with Stephanie Hee-Johnston & Frank Perez and I think the Keynote Session from Punam Mather on Friday morning will be instructive as well.
What other important issues is WWA helping to address, both at the show and at large?
Throughout COVID-19, WWA compiled great resources for members and continues to do so. One of my favorite WWA initiatives is the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL). WWA and its partners organize the WLSL each year with the goal to eliminate drowning – Swimming Lessons Save Lives! The 2022 event was the first year that Baha Bay was open and we had a great turnout. It reminded me that what we do as an industry can really have an impact on our local communities.
What’s your favorite waterpark?
There are so many to choose from but I’m going to go with the nostalgia factor of Big Surf Waterpark at The Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. I’ve been visiting since I was a kid!
Are you planning to do anything else fun while you’re in Vegas?
I am going to stick around town a few extra days and have a girls’ weekend with some friends. We are going to see some shows, have a relaxing pool day and hopefully not lose any money on the tables!
For more information or to register for WWA Show 2022, visit wwashow.org