PW-JAN20-39-40-Guest-Article.qxp_Feature 31/01/2020 14:18 Page 40

Guest Article

their kids to places they enjoyed as a child? Developing adoption for theme park experiences could easily translate into a pattern of routine visitation, especially at early impressionable ages. If this is also your belief, and young families are a key market segment, isn’t this a crucial moment in your planning cycles to carefully create a training centre for broader park offerings and get the experience on track the first time?

Repeatable experiences With proper planning and a moderately lower threshold of investment, a kid’s area can become a transformational place for families to engage in play experiences, but also relax and enjoy their time together. This insight becomes a strategic opportunity, whereas happiness is not quantitative, and likely not occurring from kid’s entertaining themselves by

cycling through several rides and other activities. That is the perceived expectation for a visit, but happiness and lasting impressions come from social experiences, not solitary ones. There are several ways to capture the growing

family market, and certainly discounting or free admission for preschoolers can incentivise the visitation. However, the experience itself must be valued even if the child participates at a lower cost. As for planning, let’s explore the aspects of developing the attraction. Every child should have the opportunity to explore the wonders and thrill of their first spin, hop, drop, jump, climb, slide, discovery, or song and dance with the cast onstage. The primary

focus should be on the appeal and participatory play value for the young guest with filters that include the impact on operations, budget, and revenue. The

suggested feature selection, site planning, and placemaking will also require an in-depth understanding of the guest’s needs and behaviors. Here are some thought starters and suggestions: Play is a child’s work - therefore, a family-based

play area, quest, or adventure is vital for many reasons. Above all, it is essential to consider that a child feels incentivised, is proud of an achievement, or are pleased with their performance. Create repeatable experiences that provide great

memories - include non-linear play adventures that evolve into extended stays and invite frequent visitation. Exploration has no age or height requirement, and broader participation leads to valued, shared experiences.

A Leveraged Opportunity Hassle-free engaging entertainment -convenient

fun means a comfortable place with an easy in, easy out visit. Melt-downs, especially in public areas, are messy. A shady alcove or family care centre can provide a change of environment to settle the nerves for all involved. Return to being a Park - a differentiating element

is creating a sense of place, a respite, providing a place of comfort and relaxation. A Park should be a “Park” first, a place of natural beauty to engage the

senses and cleanse the mind. Creature Comforts are essential - shade holds

equal value to the activities themselves. Creature comforts provide some level of assurance that the visit can be more tolerable, especially in hot climates and summer periods when parks are busiest. Safety and Security - adults quickly identify areas

that appear safe and inviting, kids too. A high canopy of shade cover or trees with a physical or perceived perimeter provides a nesting feeling of security, whereas open site lines suggest safety. A lot has changed in 50 years since my first visits,

and thankfully, I am still that same kid willing to cross a scary bridge, this time with design insights for young families with a lasting impact. I’ve learned that the journey can be worth the effort, especially so when we can look back with fond memories. When properly planned, play, exploration, and adventures, combined in safe, comfortable gathering spaces,


become a leveraged opportunity to deliver a better experience for guests and maximise the commercial opportunities for the owner/operator. These experiential attributes reflect the impressions left with the guest and not necessarily the reasonto visit but the reason to return, hopefully for generations. When that happens, the pursuit of new market growth is validated.

Rob Decker, Owner – RAD Design & Planning, with a career spanning 35 years, Rob’s focus has been to conceive and launch strategic initiatives to generate excitement for guests while leading the design and

development of projects that in total exceed $2 billion. With a love to entertain and create, the theme park/water park resort environment became Rob’s perfect laboratory. “When I approach a new project, I like to let the guest’s voice lead me to create a better experience. The business case and market condition will shape the project, but ultimately my role is to create a strong sense of place, wonderment, and fun for our guests.” Rob has recently retired as the senior vice

president of Planning & Design for the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company after 20 years of service. Prior to joining Cedar Fair he served as an architect and master planner at internationally recognised firms on the East Coast before taking a lead role as Design Director at Jack Rouse & Associates.


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