Sunday, July 1, 2007

Fort Splish Splash

Study: Water park best suited for OmniSource site

"A large outdoor water park would make the most economic sense for the OmniSource property in Fort Wayne, according to a study of possible sports and recreation facilities."

"A study by consultant Weston Johnson, of Conventions Sports & Leisure, found a large water park would have a high likelihood of attracting tourists, would have a high economic impact and was more likely to be a private venture."

"None of the other facilities Johnson reviewed - 25- and 50-meter indoor pools; small water park; ice-skating facility; gymnasium; YMCA facility; and museum or art gallery - likely would be as successful, according to the study."

"There was some question Thursday among task-force members about whether the group should consider an outdoor water park because the facility would not operate year-round."

Enclosed paradise
Indoor water parks more popular

"“What’s interesting to me is the sheer number of proposals out there for water parks,” he says. “We have a list of people looking to develop, and it has 273 projects on it.

“It’s a bit concerning, quite honestly,” Sangree says. “We’ve been doing studies that suggest Sandusky and Wisconsin Dells are already suffering from an oversupply.”

Opponents to Fort Wayne’s Harrison Square project often cited an indoor water park as a viable alternative.

But water parks are expensive to build and to run."

"They are rarely a destination in and of themselves, Sangree says. They tend to open in locales that already have a robust tourism industry."

"Sangree says it costs anywhere from $300 to $500 a square foot to build a water park, and it costs almost $3 million a year to operate a 50,000 square foot water park."

"Water park resorts don’t actively discourage anyone from leaving the premises, but it is certainly more convenient – especially in the winter and if you have a large family – to stay put."

"Room rates can run anywhere from $200 to $600 a night, depending on what size suite you are paying for.

Add meals and other amenities and the patriarch or matriarch of a modest family can expect to spend $800 to $1,000 over the course of several days."


Dave MacDonald said...

Did someone say indoor waterpark?

Rachel said...

I was initially skeptical of the idea of a water park, but there seems to be a ground swell of support for such a project. Perhaps FW does need a water recreation facility. And having just been to Cedar Point's Soak City, they are really fun.

However I have a concern about using such a plum piece of land near downtown for a project that would be better suited near an interstate exchange in the suburbs.

If you've ever driven past Kalahari or Great Wolf in Sandusky, they have huge parking lots. This is a necessity for the success of such a project.

Let's keep thinking and talking before we settle on the fad of the moment.

barranda said...

I wonder if Johnson's study called for a water park connected to a hotel as suggested in the other article. It stands to reason that such a venture would not work in light of the existing plans for the new hotel.

Dave MacDonald said...

Consider underground parking to maximize space (the downtown library just accomplished this). Should be integrated with a themed hotel - we want people to stay overnight and spend their out-of-town dollars in Fort Wayne.

Rachel said...


Have you noticed where most of the indoor water park/hotel complexes are located? In B-list vacation hot spots, such as Sandusky, Wisconsin Dells, Traverse City and now Shipshewana. I have yet to see FW show up on the list of tourist-villes. It's a stretch to think that busloads of 8th graders will be coming to the Fort for their year-end school trips.

Dave MacDonald said...


Confucius say "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Each of the destinations you mentioned at one point faced the obscurity of attraction Fort Wayne now seems to possess. And yet, at one time, Fort Wayne WAS a destination of prominence for traders and early settlers.

Perhaps it will take a while for our great city to reclaim such a title. Until then, we can only take that important first step.

Mitchell said...

The one item that this story and others don't talk about is the "casino" effect of these water parks. Since they are intended to be one stop destinations, people are less likely to leave them and explore around the city. Yes, it generates tourism dollars but it doesn't seem to spill out to the surrounding businesses. It seems unfortunate to locate a water park in a prime location like this if it doesn't directly benefit downtown businesses.

Dave MacDonald said...

That's why I'm convinced the OmniSource property must not be viewed in isolation.

Give resort guests a reason to leave the complex with other attractions. My kids would be begging me to take them on the ferris wheel, sky ride, outdoor playground, and enhanced skate board park, paddleboats, Science Central - other opportunities to spread my money among the surrounding businesses.

ROACH said...
think big!!

Joe said...

Lets do this waterpark thing, and lets do it right, hold nothing back. Now if they could include a huge arcade too, now THAT would draw tons of kids (and their parents) to the city.

Dave MacDonald said...


I haven't posted it yet but in Phase III, I'm proposing just that.

To make room for the Nightlife Boardwalk along the bank of the St. Mary's just south of Lawton Park would call for the move of the existing skateboard park. I'm suggesting moving that to where the existing Parks Dept. greenhouses are (east of Science Central). Enhance the skateboard park - indoor/outdoor, potentially to host national skateboard competitions.

I propose including other attractions geared toward "tweeners", teens, & young adults such as: indoor laser tag & paintball, huge arcade, miniature golf, skate shops, and seasonal carnival rides (monster, tilt-a-whirl, etc.)

LP Mike Sylvester said...


I think you are making a great point...

Our hotel occupancy rates hover around 45%. There are three new hotels (Near Dupont hospital, near IPFW, and near The Spiece Fieldhouse) that will be built, not counting the new Downtown Hotel.

They are projecting that the new Downtown Hotel that will be part of Harrison Square will have an occupancy rate of 67% from its third year until the end of the bonds.

Adding a 4th Downtown Hotel would seem like a bad idea.


You also bring up a GREAT point. I went down and talked to several small business owners located around the newly renovated Grand Wayne Center. I asked them if it helped their business...

They said that it did not help their business since the GWC tries to keep everything "in-house" and has an exclusive catering contract...

Mike Sylvester

Dave MacDonald said...


Your point about occupancy rates is well-founded. I interpret the data to mean that we have sufficient hotel accommodations given the current attractions we offer. The market is saturated - more rooms are available than out of town guests coming to Fort Wayne require.

Significantly increase the number of attractions for tourists and occupancy rates will improve. I believe a hotel/resort is a requirement for an indoor park. But, perhaps fewer rooms than the 250-350 I've proposed would suffice to start (additional rooms could be added later after reassessing the need).

Keep in mind that the waterpark is only the first step. I'm convinced we must move forward with other unique attractions such as a touristy Shopping Boardwalk, Indoor Flea Market, Headwaters Sky Ride and Ferris Wheel (Phase II), Nightlife Boardwalk and enhanced indoor/outdoor skate park (national competitions?) in Phase III, and IMAX theater & innovation complex in Phase IV.

The synergies created have the potential to draw people from the Tri-State area, improve occupancy rates and the overall economy.