(story by City of Storm Lake Communications Coordinator Dana Larson)
The Storm Lake City Council discussed fees and admission policies for the King’s Pointe outdoor waterpark Monday evening.
The discussion held at the resort was the first in a series of work sessions that the council will take to locations outside of City Hall, in an effort to reach out to the community.
Expenses have skyrocketed for the waterpark in recent years, particularly in goods that need to be purchased to operate the park – as have prices in every sector since the COVID era of 2020. “This is everybody’s life right now,” City Finance Director Brian Oakleaf told the council.
The outdoor waterpark is projected for a revenue shortfall of over $108,000 for the current year, which could increase to $150,000 per year within the next few years if no changes are made. The shortfall must be made up from the City’s general fund – taxpayer dollars. As a municipal pool, the waterpark is not expected to make a profit, but council members would like to see it come closer to revenue covering expense.
Admission and season pass fees have not been increased for 13 years, while inflation has increased nearly 40 percent in that period, Oakleaf said. Other City services such as the golf course have seen modest increases over time to keep up with rising costs, but that has not been the case with the waterpark.
While the majority of waterpark users enter by season pass, that is actually a lower source of revenue than day admissions. For the average season pass holder, cost breaks down to just over $3 per visit.
Other factors contribute to the cost of running the outdoor waterpark, according to King’s Pointe management – longer hours than a normal municipal pool mean that the waterpark must be staffed 246 hours per month, while other pools in the region may be open only 152. The slide towers require constant staffing for safety, so King’s Pointe operates with 17 or more lifeguards at a time, while other city pools may staff only six to eight.
While no decisions were made at the work session, council members and members of the audience seemed in agreement that some fee adjustments will be appropriate for the coming season. The council hopes to avoid large one-time increases that could cause “sticker shock” or discourage families from using the waterpark.
Another possibility discussed for increasing revenue was additions to the foods and other offerings available for purchase inside the park. It was also suggested that more marketing may be necessary to increase overall attendance at the waterpark which could also trim the revenue shortfall. With other waterparks opening up in Iowa, King’s Pointe will need to compete for travel dollars.
One potential admission change discussed could be the addition of a punch card option. Such an option could be attractive for those who would not be able to visit as often as those with a season pass, or groups that would not necessarily fit the family definition that applies to a season pass.
King’s Pointe added a popular “water walker” program in 2023 using its Lazy River feature, and hopes to continue to develop new events, classes or fitness programs to meet community desires, which could also add to waterpark usage. With a considerable investment in renovations taking place this year, the resort is also excited to share those improvements with the public in strong marketing moving forward.
The discussion also touched on occasional behavioral issues that have been experienced with some park guests. Both the council and the audience members were supportive of rules that would better hold guests accountable for their actions, and avoid issues like adults leaving small children at the park unattended. Ensuring good behavior will help to maintain the good reputation the park has throughout the region, and make sure everyone is able to have an enjoyable time, council members felt. Options discussed include asking pass purchasers to sign an agreement noting that they understand the rules, and/or a “three strike” policy that could result in anyone causing repeated problems to be removed from waterpark use.
Council discussion is expected to continue at an upcoming meeting, as fees and admission policies are finalized for the 2024 summer season.
Additional off-site council work sessions will be scheduled throughout the year.