Hot Springs Theme Park Magic Springs Doubles Attendance

by Mark Hengel  on Monday, Mar. 10, 2008 12:00 am  

President and General Manager Dan Aylward has doubled attendance at Magic Springs & Crystal Falls in Hot Springs over the past five years.

Aylward comes across as a banker on first meeting, and fun is not a word to describe him. The fun of others has been his business for almost 40 years, though, and he has a record of running sucessful parks, as does Themeparks.

Aylward was lured to Magic Springs after overseeing Six Flags Inc.'s eight theme parks in Europe. Attracting new patrons and retaining the old is the key to managing a theme park, he said.

"Every year you have to be fresh and new," Aylward said. "You don't have to spend $5 [million] to $10 million, but we do spend on rides."

The park has invested in new attractions at the rate of about one per year. Crystal Falls was added when the park reopened in 2000 and Timberwood Amphitheater opened in 2003. Other new attractions include roller coasters in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and an expansion of Crystal Falls in 2007. Workers are erecting a six-lane water slide for the 2008 season.

"You can race the family: mother, father or grandma," Aylward said with rare flare. "It follows in line with the general theme of [being] family-oriented."

He is upping Crystal Falls' deck chair total by 20 percent for the coming season.

Aylward said he does not expect attendance to continue increasing at the clip it has experienced since 2002.

"You don't expect to double attendnce every five years. That's a little aggressive," he said.

Instead, he expects modest gains during the coming season, with numbers similar to 2007's record year. The marketing strategy will remain the same, though, he said.

"We know families are the core of our business, and we try not to forget that," he said.

The park focuses its marketing efforts on mothers aged 18-34, he said. Magic Springs advertises from Memphis to Tulsa and from Shreveport to Tyler, Texas. Anything north of Branson, Mo., is not part of Magic Springs' plan, he said, because Silver Dollar City dominates that territory.

Silver Dollar City attracted more than 2 million visitors last year, and Aylward names it and Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington as Magic Springs' main competitors.



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