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The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

Rough waters

Bellevue’s new water park plan may be heading into dangerous territory
WOWT 6 News
A view of the water slides at Epic Waters in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Since the early 2000s and before, the amusement park has been an almost indispensable element for every major metropolitan area in the United States. It was announced in early February that Bellevue would be the home of a new $60 million water park. 

Many see this as a great step forward for the city of Omaha as a whole. Amusement parks of all kinds have been known to bring a great amount of economic and social prosperity to the people they serve. They have been sewed into American society as a means of entertainment for the whole family with a low price tag. However, the theme park game is changing and those who don’t change with it are losing steam fast. 

A very limited number of consumers will go to a theme park for the attractions it provides, they go for the experience. There are three main players in the attractions industry: Disney, Universal and Six Flags/Cedar Fair. Together, these organizations own over 70% of the market share in the theme park industry according to Seeking Alpha.

Disney and Universal, the top two players, have a shared backbone, Intellectual Property (IP). The ability to bring the entertainment world’s most popular characters to life has become an immensely important element for the modern amusement park’s survival. Universal has spent an estimated $1 Billion on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter according to Yahoo Finance. 

The outliers in this respect are Six Flags and Cedar Fair, which adopted a rapid expansion strategy early in their life and have only recently slowed down. In light of the pandemic, many theme park companies have struggled to regain pre-COVID. Due to this, Cedar Fair and Six Flags have initiated a merger that will bring together a portfolio of 50+ amusement properties, water parks, and resorts with a total worth of $3.5+ Billion according to AP.

The saturation and barrier of entry for the market create an undesirable situation for prospective investors. For the new Bellevue waterpark, $60 Million in bonds have been issued by the city, and are expected to be paid back within 15-20 years according to KETV. While this allows an opportunity for the development to essentially pay for itself, generating significant profit consistently will be a major challenge for the water park.

The Omaha metro area is already accustomed to making pilgrimages to Kansas City’s Great Wolf Lodge, Des Moines’s Adventureland and Waterloo, Iowa’s nationally acclaimed Lost Island Water Park.

With limited potential for IP acquisitions, the new park will have to focus on creating an elite experience for guests. The planned operator already runs Epic Waters in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. The park is hailed as one of the top indoor water parks in the country. The property boasts an annual revenue of $7.1 Million according to ZoomInfo.

While this number is promising, it is important to note that the metropolitan area that Epic Waters Park serves is greater than six times the size of the Omaha metro at 6.5+ Million. The Omaha, Kansas City, Des Moines and Sioux Falls metro populations combined are still 2+ Million short of that number.

While success for a regional park like this one is certainly not unheard of, many would consider a situation like this incredibly high-risk. In Omaha’s case, the city’s water park dreams may simply not be enough to drive the results needed for success.

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About the Contributor
Blake Kahler, Staff Reporter
Blake is a senior at Millard West and this is his first year on staff. He enjoys commentating and has been an active contributor to the Millard West STRIV program throughout his high school career. Outside of journalism, Blake is a member of the drumline and is a Utah Jazz content creator on YouTube.

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