Magazine article Parks & Recreation

From Hot Spots to Cool Spots: Aquatic Facilities Are Generating Revenue from Shaded Areas

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

From Hot Spots to Cool Spots: Aquatic Facilities Are Generating Revenue from Shaded Areas

Article excerpt

Sometimes there's nothing wrong with being a little shady.

With the rising temperatures, outdoor fun requires a place to take a break from the rays of the sun. On the waterfront, sun worshipers as well as shade lovers appreciate the break from the heat while watching kids or watching waves. The splash of color and festive shapes of sun umbrellas and cabanas, for example, are synonymous with water activity. With the added concerns of health and safety, shade structures are appearing in greater variety of structural types and in a greater variety of venues.

Aesthetically, umbrellas are a facility owner's dream with the many dramatic colors, shapes and fabrics with which they can create spectacular attractions. Changing the colors, logos and styles of these structures is an easy way to add new pizzazz to a tired look.

"The advantages of umbrellas are two-fold," says Steve Pastusak, assistant general manager of Bayshore Development, which manages Splash Mountain Waterpark in Ocean City, Md. "First, for looks--the color and height--and second, for functionality. People don't want to bake in the sun while eating or lounging, especially for caregivers or Grandma and Grandpa who'd rather be in the shade."

It's about aesthetics, but in today's UV-conscious society, it is also about safety. Increasingly, aquatics facilities are discovering a third motivation for adding a shade structure to their facilities--shaded spots can be hot spots in generating revenue.

In the former age of unbridled sun-worship, shade structures were few and far between. In today's more carcinogenic-concerned culture, shade is in high demand with older facilities increasingly adding these amenities in order to gain a whole new clientele.

"The dramatic increases in the incidence of skin cancer have highlighted the urgent need to protect the public, particularly children, from harmful sun exposure," says Basil Haymann, chairman & CEO of Sun Ports.

Traditionally, swimming pools and waterparks were run and budgeted by cities, but in today's climate, with funding stretched to the limits, more and more facilities are looking for ways to generate additional revenue. By providing a cool, comfortable shaded area, they are able to meet the clients' needs and generate revenue.

Although not all facilities charge visitors for the shaded spots, many are discovering a lucrative side business in renting out shaded areas where large groups can gather. Aquatic professionals say that this concept has become the "hottest-cool" concept.

"They're a crucial element to the design and overall quality of the park or facility," notes Scott Stefanc, project designer at Water Technology, Inc., in Beaver Dam, Wis. "We've noticed an increased demand for amenities such as cabanas and other covered shaded areas that can be rented out to derive additional income. Aquatic facilities want to provide amenities for their clientele and increasingly they are getting additional funding from it as well."

Sun-Free Programming

"The number one customer complaint is that there is never enough shade", says Judith Leblein, CPRP, operations analyst at Water Technology, Inc. Shade structures are increasingly being installed to serve as comfortable gathering areas for social events.

Leblein continues, "Shade structures have been successful in programming that can enhance the guests' experience and in turn provide a greater perceived ticket value. Offering craft classes, parties, story hour and children's entertainment under a shaded area can also provide some financial benefits as well as increase guest satisfaction."

Using shade to create a special birthday area can also enhance the bottom line and provide a valuable guest service. "Events and activities such as birthday parties, group rentals, outings and buy-outs are more attractive if the guests have a shaded assembly area that they feel is their own for a couple of hours or the entire day," adds Leblein. …

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