Waterparks: Despite 2020 Challenges, Growth Forecasted in 2021

March 2021
By David J. Sangree, MAI, CPA, ISHC

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The COVID-19 crisis was the definitive event of 2020. The lodging and attractions
industries were among the most negatively impacted sectors and experienced record
declines in occupancy, attendance, and revenue. With mandated closures, limited
capacities, and travel restrictions, many outdoor waterparks delayed their season
openings while others decided, or were mandated, not to open at all in 2020. Many
resorts with both indoor and outdoor waterparks and standalone indoor waterparks were
forced to close for several months. Current projections for the vaccine rollout indicate a
return to normalcy no earlier than the fall, making 2021 a year of continued depressed
attendance and revenue.
Despite the challenges, more than half of the existing waterpark supply was able to open
in some capacity in 2020. Many existing facilities took advantage of the closures to
complete needed renovations. While many of the new outdoor facilities that were planned
for 2020 were forced to postpone their openings until 2021; growth in the indoor
segment in 2020 outpaced 2019.
Based on our research, the waterpark industry experienced a total attendance drop of
about 83.9 million in 2020, leading to $3.7 billion in lost revenue. These numbers
represent performance at a wide range of properties, including outdoor waterparks,
resorts with outdoor waterparks, standalone indoor waterparks, and indoor waterpark
resorts. All of these properties were sharply affected by the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 and
will continue to face pandemic-related challenges throughout most of 2021.
As of March 2021, the United States and Canada had a total of 1,153 waterparks. Twelve
of those properties opened in 2020. More than half of these openings were in the indoor
standalone segment, with one new private facility and six new municipal/non-profit
facilities. One indoor waterpark resort and one outdoor waterpark resort opened in 2020.
Three openings occurred in the standalone outdoor waterpark segment, two private and
one municipal. The following bullets breakdown the numbers regionally:
• The Midwest and South are home to the most waterparks, with 408 and 381,
• The South maintains its lead over the Midwest in total number of outdoor
waterparks with 294 versus 289, while Canada has the fewest at 33. Outdoor
Waterparks: Despite 2020 Challenges, Growth Forecasted in 2021 2
waterparks in the South typically have slightly longer operating seasons than
those in the Northeast and Midwest due to more favorable weather conditions.
• The Midwest leads the U.S. and Canada in indoor waterpark resorts by a large
margin with 85.
• The West leads in standalone indoor waterparks with 45, primarily due to the
large number of municipal/non-profit indoor aquatic facilities with waterparks in
Colorado and Utah.
• The South leads in resorts with outdoor waterparks with 47.
• Indoor waterparks account for a greater proportion of the Canadian market with
39 indoor resort and standalone facilities. Outdoor waterparks have held steady at
• Of all hotels with indoor and outdoor waterparks, 44% are affiliated with national
hotel franchises while 56% are independent properties.
• Of all standalone indoor and outdoor waterparks, 68% are municipal/non-profit
while 32% are private/for-profit.
The following chart shows the breakdown of waterpark properties by type:
149 124 77
Resorts with
Source: Hotel & Leisure Advisors, March 2021
2021 U.S. and Canada Open Waterpark Supply
Indoor Waterpark Openings: In 2020, twelve indoor waterpark additions or
expansions added 625,200 square feet of indoor waterpark space compared to 335,500
square feet in 2019.
Waterparks: Despite 2020 Challenges, Growth Forecasted in 2021 3
U.S. and Canada Indoor Waterparks and Resorts Opened or Expanded in 2020
Waterpark/Resort Location
Indoor Waterpark
Sq. Ft.
Camrose Aquatic Centre Addition Camrose AB 0 20,000
Minoru Centre for Active Living Richmond BC 0 20,000
Indy Island Aquatic Center – Feature Additions Indianapolis IN 0 0
Papillion Landing Community Recreation Center Papillion NE 0 25,000
DreamWorks Water Park at American Dream Mall East Rutherford NJ 0 255,000
Splash Lagoon – Dual FlowRider addition Erie PA 0 0
Brossard Aquatic Complex Brossard QC 0 32,200
Marriott Addition to WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Rapid City SD 174 30,000
Thrive Recreation Center Lewisville TX 0 30,000
Kalahari Resorts Texas Round Rock TX 975 223,000
Draper Recreation Center Draper UT 0 10,000
Massanutten Resort – 4 new outdoor slides Massanutten VA 0 0
Total 1,149 625,200
Source: Hotel & Leisure Advisors, LLC, March 2021
The number of new resort rooms in 2020 showed gains over 2019 with a supply increase
of 1,149. The two most significant project openings were:
• The Kalahari Resort in Round Rock, Texas, is the brand’s fourth resort. The facility
offers 975 rooms; a 223,000-square-foot indoor waterpark; the 80,000-squarefoot Tom Foolery’s Adventure Park (indoor FEC) with thrill rides, ropes course,
climbing walls, zip line, bowling, laser tag, mini-golf and more; a spa and salon;
an arcade with 250+ games; 10,000 square feet of retail space; a 200,000-
square-foot convention center; five full-service restaurants; and a two-acre
outdoor waterpark that includes multiple pools and attractions.
• The 255,000-square-foot DreamWorks Water Park at American Dream Mall in East
Rutherford, New Jersey, opened in 2020 after missing its original 2019 projected
opening date. It occupies six stories adjacent to Nickelodeon Universe American
Dream. The indoor waterpark is part of the entertainment mall, which also
includes an indoor ski slope, an indoor ice rink, and a variety of stores and
attractions. There are 40 water slides and 15 attractions themed toward specific
DreamWorks franchises. The property offers a 56,000-square-foot indoor wave
pool, the largest indoor wave pool in North America. It does not currently have a
connected hotel, but the developers plan to build a hotel attached to the mall as
part of a future expansion.
Outdoor Waterpark Openings: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many waterparks that
were scheduled to open in 2020 were postponed until 2021. Consequently, only three
new standalone outdoor waterparks opened in 2020.
2020 U.S. and Canada Outdoor Waterpark Openings
Privately-Owned Waterparks Location Major Attractions
The Water Main Aquatic Park at Diggerland USA West Berlin NJ Two pools, a slide tower, Wibit-brand challenge course, swim vortex, in-pool
basketball area, themed splash park
Soaky Mountain Waterpark Sevierville TN $90M waterpark featuring slides, wave river, kids’ area, Double FlowRider, raft
rides, water coaster
Municipally-Owned Waterparks
Wisconsin Rapids Recreation Complex Wisconsin Rapids WI Lazy river, multiple pools, water slides, children’s area