World’s First Theme Park Never Stops Transforming

Holiday World is considered to be the world’s first theme park and, according to two recent online polls (conducted by USA Today™ and TripAdvisor®), its adjacent water park, Splashin’ Safari, is ranked among the best of America’s 1,200 water parks. Pretty impressive for a park in a small Midwestern American town called Santa Claus, Indiana; population 2,500.

So how has this water park – which is only open for half of the year – managed to enjoy such success over the past 25 years? According to Matt Eckert, President & CEO, success can be attributed to:

  • Honoring its storied history
  • Having a passion for delivering family fun in a safe, clean and friendly manner
  • Being dedicated to constant innovation

Delivering excitement on a foundation built for family fun

The idea for Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari was inspired by a father’s desire to bring family fun – and Santa – to America’s heartland.

Louis J. Koch, a retired industrialist from nearby Evansville, first visited the town of Santa Claus in 1941. According to Eckert, “Mr. Koch had a large family, with nine children. He envisioned a theme park for Santa Claus, Indiana, because he was concerned about children’s disappointment while visiting the town and discovering that Santa didn’t live there.”

After years of planning, Louis Koch opened the new theme park – called Santa Claus Land – on August 3, 1946. Within a few years, Louis’ son Bill assumed leadership, and successfully operated the park for decades. In 1984, the park was renamed Holiday World and a decade later, with Bill’s oldest son, Will, now in a leadership role, Splashin’ Safari opened and began a pattern of steady growth. In 2012, long-time employee Matt Eckert became President & CEO.

Since the addition of the now 40-acre water park, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari have welcomed millions of guests. Twenty-five years after opening the water park, it continues to be one of the most popular in America.

  • 1993 Opening year

  • 40 Acres

  • 1,100,000 Visitors per year

Constant innovation has resulted in huge success

When the water park first turned on the taps in 1993, it had just a handful of attractions. But, the management team at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari is not easily satisfied by past achievements. “I like to call us the superlative park,” says Eckert. “We want to be the e-s-t of something, so we want to be the first or the longest or the fastest or the tallest in the country or in the world.”

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari added their first ProSlide® attraction in 1996, a MAMMOTH® raft ride they dubbed Watubee. “Fast forward to 2017, and we have pretty much the playbook for ProSlide®,” says Matt Eckert. “Nearly every product that ProSlide® offers, we have it.”  That includes ProSlide’s® game-changing innovation, the HydroMAGNETIC® water coaster driven by linear induction motor.

“Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari were early adaptors for linear induction motor (LIM)-powered water coasters and they remain the only water park in the world with two of them,” says Rick Hunter, ProSlide® President and CEO. “As soon as we showed them the concept for this industry-changing ride, they just got it. There’s something special about working closely with a group of fellow entrepreneurs who love the industry as much as you do.”

This year, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari will add even more ProSlide® attractions: Tembo Falls, an elephant-themed kids’ area with eight ProSlide® KIDZ slides, and Tembo Tides, a mini wave pool for smaller children.

“What we come back to time and again with ProSlide® is we look at the quality of the product we have, we look at the service level that ProSlide® has offered, and we look at the uniqueness and innovation that ProSlide® has brought to the table,” says Eckert.

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari continues to garner accolades

Between the two co-located parks, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari have received more Golden Ticket Awards (“People’s Choice”-style awards presented by Amusement Today ) than any other amusement park in the world, with 56 honors recognizing outstanding customer service and attraction innovation: Friendliest Park (13 awards), Cleanest Park (18 awards), Best New Waterpark Ride (4 awards) and Best Waterpark Ride (8 awards).

“For us, it’s never about building a standard water ride,” says Hunter. “It’s about working together to create an outstanding attraction for their park. We’re proud to contribute to the ongoing success enjoyed by Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari.”

In addition, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari was awarded a Best Water Ride award from the World Waterpark Association (WWA) in 2010, for the Wildebeest (a ProSlide HydroMAGNETIC® ROCKET® ), and was named America’s “Top Value Park” by Consumers Digest three times over the past decade.

“The awards we receive for our attractions do help us,” says Eckert. “It validates to our guests that we’re not just a small park in the middle of a cornfield. We are playing with the big time. We are consistently ranked up along with the Disney Worlds and the Universals.” Eckert goes on: “I credit that to our park, I credit that to our people, and I credit that to our manufacturers, such as ProSlide®.”

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ProSlide’s® focus on constant innovation is one of the things that drives our ongoing relationship, they are always bringing us new ideas that other ride manufacturers simply don’t consider.

Matt Eckert Holiday World

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