Schlitterbahn reaping the rewards from Cedar Fair leadership

ATTim Baldwin

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — For 40 years, Schlitterbahn has carved a pioneering trail in the water park industry. Having introduced numerous innovations and taken creative concepts off the charts, the purchase of the park by Cedar Fair last summer, along with the sister facility in Galveston, caused some loyal followers to watch for changes with some anxiety. The Schlitterbahn team has found that the company has allowed the individuality of each acquired property to remain intact.

Following a brief spring break opening prior to the coronavirus shutdown, the park was able to reopen again in June. Guests were quick to see multiple upgrades.

“As for the guest experience, I think the flashiest thing they notice is the new color on the slides,” said Angela Lackey Flournoy, area manager of marketing. “There are a lot of new pops of color in our Blastenhoff section in terms of new furniture and shade structures. It really adds to that atmosphere and the guest experience.”

Blastenhoff is a large area, one of many within the Schlitterbahn Resort, that features numerous groundbreaking attractions such as Master Blaster and the original Torrent River. Enhancing this area is a makeover of the beaches that emanate from the Torrent river. Now coated with a faux sandy appearance, the visual impact is both natural and striking.

“It feels better on the feet and it looks more cohesive,” said Flournoy. “It’s like we have started from scratch to make them look really pretty, really professional. Cedar Fair has a reputation of being very high quality. This is one of the areas that really comes through.”

Schlitterbahn encompasses 70 acres and boasts 51 attractions, making it one of the largest water parks in the nation. Having celebrated its 40th anniversary last season, the park has introduced numerous innovative attractions and garnered countless awards over the decades, included an unbeaten 22-year streak of Golden Tickets for World’s Best Water Park. Management feels the Cedar Fair team is enhancing the strengths of the park and evolving its reputation.

“It’s not really sexy to talk about bathrooms, but our bathrooms have been completely redone,” said Flournoy. “Any of our guests who have been coming for a long time will notice it. I do! It’s a really cool change to have these beautiful ‘Chip and Joanna Gaines’ re-dos.”

Bathroom makeovers have taken place at both the New Braunfels and Galveston properties.

“Cedar Fair has invested millions of dollars into attractions aesthetics and maintenance,” added Aaron Martinez, marketing manager, Schlitterbahn. “But we still have what people have loved. We have shaded picnic areas that are new or have been upgraded. New lounge chairs have been added, and our food and beverage locations have been enhanced as well.”

An addition of Refresh Stations has found favor with guests who are just looking for a refill and don’t need to wait in a food line. Schlitterbahn has introduced some new menu items also.

Management also notes upgrades and repairs have taken place behind the scenes that guests won’t necessarily notice.

Security features have been added at the various entrances to the park.

“We wanted to know who was coming into the park and what they were bringing in with them,” he said. “We’ve increased our security measures, even pre-COVID.”

The resort has been upgraded at the front offices as well as some of the individual rooms.

“Our gift shops have been through a complete remodel,” said Martinez. “This is one of the biggest differences. We gutted them and completely redid them.”

Those renovations included new ceilings, new paint, new floorings, new racks and fresh merchandise. “It takes a more modern look,” said Martinez. 

More enhancements are being finetuned for the original sections of the park, which were slightly delayed but still ongoing during the shutdown. Most planned goals have been met. However, the main projects for the Blastenhoff section and Surfenburg section were completed on time. Overall, guests are finding an abundance of modern and fresh looks.

“Things that people love about Schlitterbahn are still intact. We still have free parking; coolers are still welcome. That feel of Schlitterbahn and originality of the park being nestled up against the [Comal] River are still the same,” said Martinez. “One thing we have appreciated about Cedar Fair is that when they’ve taken on parks to be a part of the Cedar Fair family, they have allowed the individuality of those parks to remain intact. One of the things they fell in love with was the feel of Schlitterbahn. That’s what made them want it to be a part of their ‘house of brands.’”

“Some people were a little worried we were going to lose that Schlitterbahn feel. Not at all,” said Flournoy. “This is the best version of Schlitterbahn.”

This article appears in the AUGUST 2020 issue of Amusement Today.
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