Water Park Feasibility Study

Leisure Business Advisors (LBA) specializes in conducting the feasibility study for a variety of leisure businesses, including water parks. An independent industry expert usually prepares this detailed study, which is required by potential lenders and investors. 

The feasibility study is the first step of the development process and provides critical guidance for design, construction, and operations. It evaluates potential market support and forecasts usage. The feasibility study determines potential financial performance and maximum warranted development costs. It provides physical planning parameters, such as total land size needed and building space required. It recommends the attraction mix and can include a walk-through description and artist conception images for use in initial presentations. 

The following paragraphs outline the major tasks typically involved in conducting a feasibility study.

Task 1: Orientation Meeting

An initial meeting would be held to discuss the project in more detail and to see the prospective site if one has been chosen.

Task 2: Site and Area Evaluation

The site and local area would be evaluated to determine its effect on potential usage. Factors include:

  • Market proximity
  • Physical limitations or constraints
  • Access routes
  • Traffic patterns
  • Surrounding development
  • Potential complementary and competitive facilities

Task 3: Concept Description and Industry Trends

The type of leisure business being studied would be described and industry trends discussed. Readers of the feasibility study may be unfamiliar with the concept and this section of the report provides an introduction before specific project-related issues are examined.

Task 4: Market Analysis

The market areas would be defined based on distance from the site. Demographic characteristics for the resident market would be analyzed to provide an indication of support. This would typically include:

  • Population growth
  • Age distribution
  • Income distribution 

The tourist market would be defined and analyzed. Based on available information, this analysis would likely examine:

  • Current size
  • Historic growth
  • Other characteristics 

Task 5: Evaluation of Comparable Facilities

Selected comparable facilities would be examined. Available reported information would be provided on individual characteristics, including:

  • Name and location
  • Physical description
  • Pricing
  • Annual revenues
  • Financial performance
  • Development costs 

Task 6: Annual Usage

Potential annual usage for the proposed facility would be estimated for the first five years of operation based on a number of factors, including:

  • Planned components
  • Size of the available markets
  • Qualitative market characteristics
  • Market penetration rates achieved by comparable facilities
  • Location and possible competition 

Task 7: Concept Development

LBA would make physical planning recommendations needed to service expected market demand. The specific parameters vary from one leisure business to another. For larger projects, LBA can also provide a walk-through description and color artist conceptual images as seen through the eyes of a typical visitor. These would preliminarily suggest the general "look and feel" and could be used in initial presentations. Physical planning parameters may include: 

  • Recommended types of activities
  • Recommended activity mix
  • Minimum land size
  • Recommended building space
  • Recommended food service and merchandise space
  • Recommended number of parking spaces 

Task 8: Financial Analysis

The financial analysis for the proposed facility would be based on the selected concept and potential usage. Financial estimates for the first five years of operations would include:

  • Revenues by category
  • Operating expenses
  • Operating profit
  • Return-on-investment for equity investors 

Task 9: Warranted and Typical Development Cost 

LBA would determine the warranted development cost or investment based on potential profitability. This is the recommended maximum amount that should be spent to effectively develop the project and return a reasonable return-on-investment to equity investors. 

This warranted amount would be compared to the actual development costs for other comparable facilities. Relative size would be taken into consideration. This comparison would provide guidance as to whether the proposed project could be developed for its warranted investment. If it can be, the project is considered financially feasible.

Selected Projects

John Gerner, our managing director, has been a consultant for more than 20 years and has conducted feasibility studies for many water parks and theme parks in the United States, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, He has been a speaker at the World Waterpark Association (WWA) annual convention. Selected projects are highlighted below.

Water Park Expert Testimony (Niagara Falls, New York)

LBA was retained by Empire State Development, a public authority of the state of New York, to evaluate the feasibility of reopening Fallsville Splash Park in Niagara Falls. It was the subject of a New York State Supreme Court case. John Gerner served as an expert witness in water park development in this court case in early 2009. Harris Beach was the attorney for this state authority and the main client contact.

Morgan County Aquatic Center (Madison, Georgia)

The Morgan County Aquatic Center opened in 2009, and is a public facility operated by the Morgan County Parks and Recreation Department. LBA conducted a feasibility study for the aquatic center as a subcontractor to Doran & Karwoski, Inc.

Boardwalk at Hersheypark (Hershey, Pennsylvania)
The Boardwalk at Hersheypark is a water park area of the theme park that opened in 2007. It includes a wave pool, lazy river, seven slides, and a children’s play area. Gerner Consulting evaluated the market and financial potential of water park activities for Hersheypark management as a subcontractor to Economics Research Associates. 

More Details on the Design Process

We pride ourselves on prompt service and are sensitive to time constraints. If needed, assignments can be accelerated for an extra fee. 

To learn more about the typical design process, click here.