Clovis News

Valley water parks make a splash

Savannah Montgomery, 12, and her family from Oakhurst have taken day trips or short vacations close to home all summer.

They spent a day at Wild Water Adventure in Clovis and went camping at Shaver Lake. On Friday, the family hit Island Water Park in Fresno.

Why?

"Because it's hot," Montgomery said.

But to her parents, the water parks are close to home and cheap.

The Montgomerys are among thousands of visitors helping increase business at Wild Water, Island Water Park and Blackbeard's Entertainment Center -- which has six water slides -- despite the sluggish economy.

They are taking advantage of low admission prices and special discounts offered at the parks this season.

"We know everyone is economy-minded and they are thinking about where to put their dollars," said Kathy Siggers, owner of Wild Water.

"We have family specials and we have our Friday family nights. We're trying to offer things that add value for the family."

Attendance at water parks nationwide increased 3% from 2008 to 2009 while attendance at theme parks fell 1.1% during the same time, according to a report released in April by the Themed Entertainment Association.

While local water parks declined to reveal exact figures, owners and general managers said attendance is higher this year compared to last year.

"We're seeing about 10% increase from last year, and in my world that's great because we're open less than 100 days a year," said Wild Waters' Siggers.

Sales of season passes also increased about 25% this year as a result of new options available to families, Siggers said. They include a pass good for any five days of the season and a pass that can be used Mondays through Thursdays.

Admission to Island and Wild Water is nearly identical. Daily general admission is $25.99 at Island and $26.99 at Wild Water. Both charge $18.99 for children under 48 inches tall and $16.99 after 3 p.m.

The daily attendance at Island is double that of last year and every Saturday in July has been at capacity, said Terry Mackey, general manager.

"Business is definitely better this year," Mackey said. "People are staying home more and finding things closer to home that are less expensive."

Corporate parties and events, which went down the tubes last year as the economy tanked, are back on the rise at Island as businesses feel more secure.

But that's not the case at Wild Water and Blackbeard's, where there have been fewer corporate parties this year.

Blackbeard's is not strictly a water park, but has operated water slides along with miniature golf, paintball courses and bumper boats since 1985. Visitors pay separately for each attraction.

There are noticeably more people on the water slides this year, while park attendance is similar to last year, said Greg Florer, one of the owners.

People are starting to travel again, often taking one- or two-day trips to national parks and beach areas, which include water parks, according to Cynthia Harris, spokeswoman for AAA of Northern California.

"People mentioned their intention was to travel regardless of what happens in the economy," Harris said.

That's what coach Jose Duran and his boys soccer team from Atwater have done this summer. The team takes two to three social trips every summer to build team relations, said Duran, who accompanied the team to Island Water Park on Friday.

The team already has been to several amusement parks, including Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, about a three-hour drive northwest of Fresno.

The gas prices can get hefty when the team travels.

"It makes you want to stay close to home," Duran said.

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