Thinking of developing a theme park or leisure attraction, but need to decide where to develop?
What are the most important considerations when deciding where to locate a theme park, aquarium, family entertainment center or other leisure attraction? What examples of parks that have been successful in selecting a site or failed because of their site?
Many theme park developers acquire land without doing the due diligence required. They may have gotten a great price on the land, but that doesn’t mean the location will be good for any type of development – namely building a theme park or leisure attraction. One of the most important things ITPS does when a feasibility study is completed is to conduct a site analysis and look at the important criteria that might impact the attraction’s operation. It is hard to limit these important considerations to just a few; however, here are 6 key critical considerations to address when deciding where to locate your theme park or leisure attraction.
The location should be close to other demand generators. In other words, make sure there are other businesses and activities nearby that help to bring people to the area already.
The location must be accessible. If people have to twist and turn, and go out of their way to find you, they are less likely to make the effort.
The location should offer good topography. The land should be mainly flat with perhaps some gently rolling hills or else designing and building a theme park could become very challenging.
The location must offer adequate utilities. Infrastructure must be in place or else be available, or costs to develop could skyrocket.
The location should be visible. While you do not have to be “on the 50-yard line”, you do want to be located where passersby can see your park and be enticed to visit.
The location should be a proper distance from existing parks or existing competition. The last thing you want to do is try to compete head-on with another similar attraction.
Located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Hard Rock Park barely lasted only one season before it closed. In addition to other factors, one of the key reasons the park failed was its location. It was not convenient to the main tourist area, and so potential guests who were already there had to basically make going to the park a day’s outing because its location was not convenient. The location chosen was adjacent to industrial buildings and the entire environment did not lend itself well to allowing visitors to abstract into a fantasy environment. Visibility was poor and signage was inadequate, and many guests drove right by the entrance unaware that they had arrived.
ITPS Role: ITPS was hired by Cerberus Capital to perform a forensic audit on the collapse. We were mortified by the planning mistakes made and the amount of money that was “supposed” to have been spent on the park. This was clearly the most unprecedented “meltdown” of any park failure in recent time. ITPS also provided a feasibility on what that market could support and the analysis showed considerably less.
Today, Kings Island is a major theme park just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the USA. It welcomes over 3 million visitors annually. When Kings Island was built back in 1972, its location was in the middle of farmlands. But, it was adjacent to a major interstate which offered great visibility. There were two major highway exits that gave the site great and easy accessibility. The topography of the site was relatively flat and allowed for easy masterplanning. Its location was in a “triangle” of major markets consisting of the cities of Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis. There was – and still is – no major competitor.
ITPS Role: Dennis Speigel was a part of the team that developed Kings Island and was the park’s assistant general manager.
Dino Kingdom was a 12,000 square foot children’s entertainment center developed in an underperforming shopping mall. The owners of the mall decided to develop the entertainment center in order to boost traffic to the mall. There was no feasibility analysis conducted since the developers of the attraction owned both the center and the mall. Dino Kingdom lasted a few years, but eventually closed due to the mall losing a lot of its tenants. If the developers had not owned the mall, the attraction would not have been built in that location.
ITPS Role: ITPS was contracted to provide design review, operations, safety, manual development and on-site training for Dino Kingdom. ITPS recommended the developer perform a proper feasibility analysis, but they did not take the advice. Had a feasibility been performed, it would have addressed the critical component of making sure all site selection factors had been considered.
Celebrating its 20th year in operation, the Newport Aquarium is a 100,000+ square foot leisure attraction in Newport, Kentucky. During the site selection process, numerous potential sites were studied to determine the best location for this world-class venue. A preferred site was chosen on the Cincinnati side of the river, but due to challenges with the city, it did not proceed. At that time Newport, Kentucky and the State of Kentucky wanted to re-vitalize its riverfront and approached the developers of the aquarium to build in a proposed new entertainment development, for which the aquarium would be a major anchor. After it was determined the site met all the proper criteria, the aquarium was built and has been a great success since opening.
ITPS Role: ITPS provided assistance with site selection, feasibility analysis review, design review, pre-opening operations planning, on-site training, management, and sponsorship acquisition.
Feasibility Analysis - Design / Masterplanning - Pre-Opening Operations Planning - Management