Tiffany Quilici is the longtime sales and marketing director at Roaring Springs Waterpark, Wahooz Family Fun Zone & Pinz Bowling Center, a trio of amusement offerings for children and adults that has been growing along a 36-acre parcel near I-84 in Meridian since 1999.
Roaring Springs, the most highly visible aspect of the trio, is the largest water park in the Pacific Northwest, Quilici says. The company has expanded its range for years, adding the Pinz bowling alley in 2012 and then opening an indoor amusement park at Wahooz in 2016. Accordingly, it has increased from waterslides to bowling and amusements such as go-karts, a ropes course, amusement rides and paintball. The company employs about 700 people at its peak in the summer and about half that year-round.
Now the company is working on a new $4.5 million, 12,500-square-foot Galaxy Event Center that is due to open in November. That center, which includes meeting space for 600 people, will offer the largest meeting space in Meridian.
Co-owners Pat Morandi and Tom Nicholson also commissioned a feasibility study last fall for a 50,000-square-foot indoor water park and two hotels that would go where the Roaring Springs parking lot is now. They are now considering whether to go ahead with that project, estimated to cost $50 million to $60 million. At the same time, they’re also thinking about an indoor go-kart track.
Quilici, who sits on the board of directors of the World Waterpark Association, spent some time talking to Idaho Business Review about the company’s goals and the amusement park industry. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why add an indoor water park?
The fastest-growing segment of the waterpark industry is indoor waterparks. That’s where the growth is; the outdoor water park industry is pretty mature at this point. When you weather-proof your entertainment options, it’s year-round.
Roaring Springs is open 100 days a year. The weather here, even in summer, can be variable, so families are looking for something to do indoors.
Asia is the biggest market for water parks, it’s growing like crazy there.
If you build the indoor water park in the parking lot, where will the parking go?
That is the biggest challenge we are trying to figure out right now. The hotels need to be connected to Wahooz so the winter guests could stay in the hotel and could go indoors from the hotel to the waterpark into Wahooz, all without going outside.
Isn’t an event center a pretty big departure from what the company does now?
No. We already have 1,000 groups coming to the waterpark and to Wahooz every year. We have company picnics, church groups, schools, sports teams, company holiday parties … we have seven people just on our group sales team.
Our existing event center only seats 200 for dining, and we have much larger groups than that that want to come here. In the process of building this, we discovered it not only fills our need for event space, it fills a massive need in Meridian for more event space. So now we are venturing into galas, trade shows, multiple-day conferences, proms, all kinds of group events we haven’t had the facilities for before. Some groups will be able to purchase a package with accommodation and play. We’re building a gourmet catering kitchen and hiring a chef.
The hotels would be branded; we’d go through one of the big hotel groups. We’re building two because one would be more business class, and one would be more for families.
What other innovations are big in the amusement world right now?
There have been a lot of innovations, especially in the waterpark industry. We have two speed slides we installed two years ago that are completely computerized.
In amusement, there are also always your tried and true favorites., If you have a waterpark you have to have an endless river, racing slide, a rafting ride, and a wave pool.
Apart from weather, what outside factors affect sales at Roaring Springs?
The school year. Earlier and earlier school start dates have been a threat to the amusement industry across the country. This year, we did engage in the Save our Summers campaign, where the Boise School District wanted to move the school start date to seven days earlier. We really got the message out that in Idaho, those are the last best days of summer, when people love to be outside.
They compromised; school was supposed to start on August 15 and it’s going to start on August 20.
It’s been a challenging year in the waterpark industry for incidents. The accident in Kansas last year was such an extreme example. That was the tallest waterslide ever built. It had been built by that park; we use the best waterslide manufacturers in the world. Our waterslide provider is out of Canada, in Ontario.
They had had problems with it in the testing phase, and then they opened it and this terrible accident happened. The local media called me to ask me if that could happen here and I said, “No, that isn’t even in the same universe as Roaring Springs. Our rides are all proven to be safe.” That was just a crazy experiment that went terribly wrong, but it ends up affecting the perception of safety of the industry and the insurance rates.
Does the park undertake any water or energy conservation measures?
We certainly work to conserve water from a revenue expense business standpoint. We have a lot of water reclamation systems in the park. There is a million gallons of water circulating through the park at any one time. Six or seven years ago, we put in energy saving measures to help our pumps run at variable speeds. So we try to be a good steward of the environment in terms of water and power.