Hotel Online  Special Report


So You Want to Build a
Hotel Indoor Waterpark
By Jeff Coy and Bill Haralson, September 2002

If you’re planning to add an indoor waterpark to your existing hotel or start from scratch with a new construction project, like the Kalahari Resort or Great Wolf Lodge at Wisconsin Dells, you may want to get the experts involved early. 

Did you hear the one about the guy who built a yacht in his basement and then had to tear down his house to get the boat out?  Well, it can be the same problem in reverse when you’re building an indoor waterpark.  Many times, you have to build the water structure first --- you know, the waterslides and the treehouse.  Then you build the walls around it and a roof over the top of it.  This can be just one of the unique things about constructing indoor waterparks that requires expert help early in the design stage. 

Want to Build a Hotel Waterpark Resort?  Here are some tips:

  • First, get a market analysis and feasibility study done.  Ask an independent consultant to quantify the demand in your area and specify the size of your indoor waterpark.  Sizing your waterpark must be done in relation to the size of your hotel, area demographics and the preferences of the potential guests within 200 miles of your hotel. 
  • Using your feasibility report, determine a tentative footprint for your indoor waterpark, let’s say 30,000 square feet.  Give this footprint to a pool designer and a waterslide manufacturer along with the report recommendations and list of features, such as slides, treehouse, rocks, pools, spas, lazy river, wavemaker, mushrooms and geysers.
  • Ask the pool designer to read the feasibility report regarding the target market and recommend some design and theming concepts.
  • Ask the waterslide manufacturer’s engineers to work with your pool designer to (1) determine where slides will end and start, (2) design the slide radiuses and descents that are acceptable and (3) determine the final footprint of your building. 
“Indoor waterparks are much more than a pool with a slide.  They include many complex systems that must be integrated to provide the highest possible entertainment value,” says Tom Pientka of Planning Design Build Inc of Madison WI.  Pientka’s firm designed and built the Kalahari Resort and Treasure Island Bay of Dreams and built the Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells.

More Tips On How to Build a Hotel Indoor Waterpark

  • Go back to the drawing board until you get the pool designer’s OK that all desired attractions can properly fit into the building.  Confirm all elevations for fit. 
  • Understand that you will be using 30-40 inch diameter HVAC ductwork in your indoor waterpark.  That’s a lot to fit inside the building.  These large ducts will be used to keep the indoor environment fresh and comfortable.  You will have to use 100% outside air.  Inside air can’t be reused because it is filled with humidity and odor from pool water treatment chemicals.  At the same time, you want to recapture the heat using a heat recovery device to keep energy costs down.  Be sure to ask an HVAC engineer for help.
  • More than half of the construction work is the installation of pumps and underground pipes.  Pour the foundations for the walls of the indoor waterpark.  You will have to remove up to 5-6 ft of dirt inside for the pool piping system. 
  • Inspect the concrete work, walls and foundations.  Check for sharp edges.  Test the slides.  Adjust the water flow for the proper speed.  Regulate the flow and speed for each slide.
Hotel Waterpark Projects Underway

Forty-eight hotel waterparks are open and operating nationwide.  Nine hotels with indoor waterparks are currently under construction in Wisconsin Dells WI, Tomah WI, Erie PA, Minneapolis MN, Alexandria MN, Traverse City MI, Boyne Falls MI, Missoula MT and Dubuque IA.  Eight are under construction in Canada.  Twenty seven more projects are in the development planning stages throughout the USA & Canada. 

Coy and Haralson have teamed up to form Hotel Waterpark Resort Research & Consulting, a collaborative effort of their two firms, to collect a hotel-waterpark industry database as a resource for owners and developers.  Data resources include waterpark supply & demand growth, construction costs, operating expense ratios as well as before & after impacts of indoor waterparks on hotel occupancy, average room rates and revenues. 

Workshop Scheduled October 8th at WWA Convention in Las Vegas

If you still have questions for the experts, plan to attend the Hotel Indoor Waterpark Resort Workshop, Tuesday, October 8, 2002, 9am to 5pm, in the Las Vegas Convention Center.  It is part of the World Waterpark Association convention and exposition being held that week.  To register, contact Marci McNeal at 913-599-0300 or [email protected]

Jeff Coy of Rochester MN-based JLC Hospitality Consulting Inc and Bill Haralson of Richardson TX-based William L. Haralson & Associates Inc will team up to present the results of their recent research on this new lodging-entertainment concept.  Jeff and Bill will moderate several panels of experts talking about their experiences with hotel indoor waterpark resorts --- from market analysis to feasibility to design-development concepts, estimating construction costs, preparing a loan request, pre-opening, operations and marketing. 


Jeff Coy
[email protected]
Bill Haralson

[email protected]

Also See Hotel Indoor Waterparks Boost Revenues, Extend Peak Season to Year Round / Jeff Coy, ISHC / January 2002
Hotel Waterparks Grow Throughout Midwest, Product Ready for National Expansion / Bill Haralson and Jeff Coy / April 2002

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