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Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022 | By David Sangree

15 April 2022
 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022

After two years of pandemic concerns that saw many waterparks remain closed throughout 2020 and suffer continued disruption in 2021, 2022 is anticipated to be a pivot back to normal for the industry. As vaccines are now widely available and COVID becomes endemic, waterparks are poised to capitalize on pent-up demand and return to pre-COVID performance levels. While 2021 saw robust growth in pricing at many properties, 2022 will see the industry open a number of expansions and new developments. Several large-scale projects will alter the waterpark landscape at both indoor and outdoor waterparks and continue to encourage properties to innovate and update to keep market share. A number of larger developments are planned for 2023 and beyond at waterparks and surf parks throughout North America.

Attendance at waterparks in 2021 was down overall due to COVID-19 concerns that imposed capacity constraints at many waterparks. However, most waterparks were able to increase their prices, and they expect to maintain these higher prices in 2022. Consequently, as attendance returns to pre-pandemic levels, we expect increases in total revenues at many properties.

While 2022 looks as though it will be the first “normal” year for waterparks since 2019, the industry will still face challenges. Factors such as higher wages and prices, inflation and lingering pandemic effects will impact the industry in 2022.

CURRENT WATERPARK STANDINGS FOR THE U.S. AND CANADA

As of March 2022, the United States and Canada had a total of 1,177 waterparks. Thirty of those properties opened in 2021, while four properties closed. More than half of these openings were in the outdoor standalone segment, with one new private facility and seventeen new municipal/non-profit facilities. Ten indoor waterparks and resorts opened in 2021, including seven indoor standalone waterparks, one private and two municipal.

The following bullets break down the numbers regionally for all waterparks in the U.S. and Canada:

The following chart shows the breakdown of waterpark properties by type out of the 1,178 waterparks in existence:

 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022

REVIEW OF 2021 NEW OPENINGS AND EXPANSIONS

Indoor Waterpark Openings: In 2021, ten indoor waterpark additions or expansions added 343,710 square feet of indoor waterpark space compared to 625,200 square feet in 2020. 2020 benefited from two large additions: the 225,000-square-foot DreamWorks Waterpark at American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and the 223,000-square-foot Kalahari Resort in Round Rock, Texas. No properties of this size opened in 2021.

The number of new resort rooms in 2021 was down from 2020, which gained 975 rooms due to the opening of the Kalahari Resort in Round Rock. The most significant project opening in 2021 was the Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca, California. The 500-room resort features a 95,000-square-foot indoor waterpark and a 45,000-square-foot adventure park, which includes a ropes course, miniature golf, arcade and a high-tech, newly imagined version of the brand’s exclusive MagiQuest interactive adventure game.

Outdoor Waterpark Openings: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many municipal waterparks that were scheduled to open in 2020 were postponed until 2021. Consequently, 18 standalone outdoor waterparks opened in 2021.

 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022

The city of El Paso, Texas led the way in waterpark openings in 2021 with four new outdoor waterparks at various sites throughout the city with amenities ranging from leisure pools and “lazy” rivers to a surf machine, slides and water playgrounds.

Resorts with Outdoor Waterparks Openings: With only five openings or expansions, resorts with outdoor waterparks had the smallest number of additions in 2021, but still outpaced results from 2020.

 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022

In addition to the U.S. properties shown above, in the Bahamas, Baha Mar Resort in Nassau added the $200 million Baha Bay outdoor waterpark adjacent to the SLS and Melia Hotels. The well-themed waterpark opened in July 2021 and includes a wide range of rides and attractions. It is one of the most expensive waterparks to open in North America.

All U.S. Openings:
The following map highlights the locations of the 2021 indoor and outdoor waterpark openings in the U.S. inclusive of resorts and standalone properties.

2021 saw four waterpark closures, including Splashtown San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, and the CoCo Key Water Resort in Omaha, Nebraska.

COVID-19 IMPACT AND OTHER ECONOMIC REALITIES

While 2022 started off rocky with COVID-19 infection rates soaring in many parts of the country, recent data indicates that the pandemic will quickly transition to endemic, with restrictions in most states being lifted as we return to normalcy. This transition is expected to have a positive effect on all industries, with waterparks poised to gain back demand lost in 2020 and 2021. However, though pandemic concerns will likely ease, there are lingering economic and operational effects that will continue to impact the industry as it moves to a full recovery. Inflation, increases in wages and the labor shortage will all impact operations in 2022.

PROJECTIONS FOR 2022

For 2022, we will see growth across all segments of the waterpark industry with projected openings of 20 facilities. We also anticipate expansions of more than 31 existing facilities. Regionally, the South leads the U.S. with 13 projected openings. The Midwest will see six openings, and the West one. As of this writing, no major openings or expansions are anticipated for the Northeast. Overall, the number of projected openings is down from 2021. The following map highlights the locations of the properties.

 Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022
Waterparks Riding a Recovery Wave in 2022

Indoor Waterparks: With projections of 232,500 square feet of new indoor waterpark space and over 330 new rooms, 2022 will be a year of continued growth in this market segment.

Beyond 2022, Great Wolf Lodge is constructing a 700-room property in Perrysville, Maryland, which will open in 2023, and has announced plans for new resorts in Texas, Tennessee, California and Connecticut, making it one of the most growth-oriented companies in the indoor waterpark resort space.

Outdoor Waterparks: Growth in the outdoor segment will continue with 19 new standalone waterparks anticipated. Many existing waterparks are investing in modest to large expansions in 2022. Highlights include the following:

Resorts with Outdoor Waterparks: There are four planned expansions or new developments of resorts with outdoor waterparks in the United States in 2022. Highlights include the following:

Surf Innovations: New innovations continue to be developed for the waterpark industry including multiple new man-made surfing facilities. The leading companies in this space include Wavegarden, Citywave, American Wave Machines, Surf Lakes and SurfLoch/WaveLoch. We expect to see additional opportunities for consumers to enjoy surfing on artificial waves in the coming years as developers work to construct multiple projects.

Surf parks appeal to a wide range of customers in various life stages, including families with children. Surf parks can capitalize on that in much the same way waterparks have by creating family-friendly environments coupled with memorable experiences. This will increase the reach and scope of the sport in a way that may lead to dramatic growth in coming years.

Surf parks have strong developer interest in North America and throughout the world. The following table shows the number of surf parks proposed or under construction . These do not include projects in very preliminary stages.

The United States could see five new surf parks open in 2022.

The Palm Springs Surf Club is performing a $50 million redevelopment of the former Wet ‘n’ Wild waterpark in Palm Springs, California. The project will feature a three-million-gallon, state-of-the-art Surf Loch technology wave pool. The developers have transformed an existing pool with large-wave-making technology which will be open to the public. Other planned amenities include a leisure river and restaurant.

CONCLUSION

After two years of uncertainty, the waterpark industry is poised to splash into 2022 operating from a place of strength. Many indoor waterpark resorts outperformed traditional hotels during the past 12 months due to their strong demand from leisure families. Leisure demand actually grew during the pandemic in contrast to the group and corporate segments, providing a boon to properties with lodging components. There are new waterpark resorts proposed and under construction throughout the United States with Great Wolf Lodge leading the way with multiple new projects. New standalone waterpark projects are also projected to open both indoor and outdoor by municipal and private developers. As the market remains strong for development, financing challenges, inflation and labor costs will remain a concern and may dampen some opportunities.

However, as much as the pandemic forced the industry to adapt, fundamentals of waterparks remain strong, and we expect to see continued growth. With a couple of tough years seemingly behind us, owners, operators and developers can take the lessons learned and challenges faced into the recovery with renewed hope and perspective. While the waterpark industry has not changed in essentials, we are excited to see further innovation and adaptation as the industry gets back to the basics of entertainment and immersive fun on the road to a robust recovery.

Related News

COVID-19 Impact On US Waterparks And Waterpark Resorts | By David Sangree & Nuresh Maredia
11 September 2020


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