Do you want to splash around at a water park? Go bowling with your family? Race Go Karts with your friends? Throw an unforgettable birthday party? You can do it all at Wild Island Family Adventure Park! Wild Island is the biggest, locally-owned and operating water park and family entertainment center in the western United States. In this Customer Spotlight, Craig Buster, Wild Island General Manager, provides some key advice on running a successful family entertainment center.
1) What is your favorite part about managing a FEC?
CB: Dealing with the constant change in our industry and the operational unknown from day to day makes this business exciting and constantly new for me. But really, it’s a FUN business to be involved in AND you can work with great people! People come to your work to have fun so that makes it easy to go to work. An added perk is that my last name is Buster, just like Funovation’s Beam Buster! How cool is that!?
2) How did you get into the amusement and attractions industry? Do you have any advice for those starting out?
CB: I actually got into the entertainment industry by luck or accident. I had been close friends with the owners of Wild Island and they needed some help with the 3 new go kart tracks they opened. At the time, Wild Island had a two hour wait on the weekends and they needed help with some operational leadership; I was in my early 20’s and I thought that running a Go Kart track would be really cool, so I jumped at the opportunity! Fast forward 24 years and I am the General Manager and we now have over 100 employees.
My advice for someone getting into this industry would be for them to be very open minded, be progressive, and listen to your staff and guests. Lastly, anyone new to this industry should become very involved in the industry associations, seminars, and trade shows.
3) Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Wild Island?
CB: Wild Island began as a water park back in the late 80’s and then built three Go Kart tracks, and two 18-hole miniature golf courses in the early 90’s. We opened our year-round FEC (Coconut Bowl) back in 2003 and added 20 more lanes in 2007. In 2017 we still operate our water park (seasonally) and Coconut Bowl (which is now 72,000 square feet), additionally we have two Go Kart tracks and two miniature golf courses for outdoor attractions with plans to add more attractions in the near future – stay tuned!
4) What are some of the promotions, competitions, or holiday specials that you offer to attract customers?
CB: We offer family-friendly promotions for New Year’s Eve, season passes for our FEC and specials for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Veterans Day.
5) How do you balance retaining repeat customers and bringing in new customers?
CB: We serve many different demographics and types of customers but like most in the industry we cater to families. We believe by creating a great guest experience for families it will, in turn, bring us new customers for birthdays, bowling leagues, season passes, and general or open play customers by word of mouth.
6) How do you manage to keep guest experiences fresh and exciting?
CB: In addition to keeping our current attractions in tip-top shape, we try to add a new attraction to our FEC every three years. Whether its upgrades or routine maintenance we want ALL of our attractions to seem “like new” at all times.
7) How big of a role does theming and diversity of themes play in this industry?
CB: I believe theming plays a significant role in our industry depending on the business model that you are after. Our theming is very basic for most of our attractions but we want guests to feel completely engulfed in whatever attraction they are in so that they enjoy their time together.
8) How do you market your center? Which mediums do you find are most effective?
CB: We have found that social media gives us the most bang for our buck when it comes to advertising although we still utilize radio and TV as a percentage of our advertising budget. We started using digital billboards over the past couple years and have had decent results with that as well.
9) How important is it to cater to groups, retreats, and birthday parties? How do you specifically market to that segment of your customers?
CB: Kids groups, holiday parties, birthday parties, and corporate parties are a huge part of our business. We market to those guests in many ways – word of mouth usually works the best for us but being a part of the local Chamber of Commerce has also been very successful for these kinds of events. We will invite them out for a free Chamber of Commerce mixer so we can showcase our events capabilities and then we let our Group Sales staff take it from there.
10) How do you mandate and monitor safety at your FEC?
CB: Safety is one of our core principals at Wild Island. We have monthly safety meetings with our Management Team and we also have a Safety Committee that is a group made up of Supervisors from each department. They meet monthly and make recommendations to the Management Team, we implement those changes when possible. We also have daily inspections of all our attractions and we have “guest inspectors” visit twice a month. The guest inspector is someone from a different department that doesn’t do the daily safety inspection but can help our maintenance staff and give them a different perspective on daily safety inspections.
11) When deciding on new attractions or games, what factors are most important to you?
CB: Revenue per square foot that the attraction can produce, cost of the attraction, and return on investment are the key factors on determining a new attraction for our FEC. We need to make sure that the attraction fits a specific need that we are lacking as a business and that the ROI fits into our projected timeline.
Thanks for working this interview into your schedule, Craig! Visit the Wild Island website for more information.
Original Posting Date: March 10, 2017