This article is the second of a three-part series on our local economy as researched by the CHS Senior English and Dual-Credit Panola Freshman English classes of 2012. In this article, recent graduate Klaryssa Gutierrez shares the possible solution to bringing in tourism if the oil/gas industry “leaves town.”
A Hotel Waterpark
Center, Texas, our friendly small town located in the heart of the piney woods of East Texas, is called home to approximately 6,000 people. Our town is no stranger to the hundreds of oil and gas businesses that live off of the natural recourses our area has to offer. In order for our town to profit off of these companies, we have managed to construct 5 large scale hotels that house many of the temporary workers of those oil companies. Our 65 square mile town would have no need for that many hotel rooms without the oil industry. The big question: What will happen to all those hotels once the oil and gas business is over and gone? A possible solution could be tourism. If Center could establish something that attracted people from other places to come and stay in our town, we could sustain the hotels we have and avoid having abandoned hotels everywhere making our home look like a ghost town.
We currently have 5 major hotels in our town. These 5 hotels, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, Best Western Inn, Super 8, and Best Western Plus, are all at least 2 stories tall. The Best Western Inn is the largest containing exactly 72 rooms. In contrast, the Super 8 Hotel is the smallest with only 40 rooms. When all the rooms of these five hotels are added together, it totals out to be 300. Our small town lacks tourism that would fill these rooms.
Hotel dependency on oil business should be changed. They need to invest into something that will keep them going after the oil/gas is gone because it will not be here forever. My theory on how to sustain these hotels is to attract tourist from other towns. These tourists would need to travel semi-long distances in order to get them to stay overnight in our hotels. One option would be to convince an investor into constructing a hotel water park. A hotel waterpark is an indoor facility that contains water slides and kid friendly water attractions all attached to a hotel. The benefits of adding a waterpark to a hotel would be increased occupancy and higher room rates. In one Wisconsin Dells survey, Ramaker & Associates reported that typical hotels achieved an annual occupancy of 45% with average room rates of $70, while the hotels with indoor waterparks achieved 65% with average room rates of $130. A hotel can beat other competition and increase revenue just by adding a waterslide.
The requirements to build a waterpark vary by size and budget. The average budget for a small-midsize hotel is about $500,000-$1,000,000. When looking into constructing a water park, factors that need to be considered are demographics, site features, market, competition, weather, and budget. The demographics that are looked at are all the people within a 50 mile radius of the location. The analysis of the demographics should include population levels and trends, incomes, age distribution, and ethnic composition. This information will determine your market. When looking at location, you’ll need to consider the size of your waterpark. The site features taken into consideration are visibility, square footage, access to water, and surrounding land/neighbors. When you believe that your idea is feasible, then you can move on to the next step of the building of a waterpark, construction.
In order to successfully open a waterpark in our town, we should follow the 8 phases of Ramaker & Associates’ company that can help guide us all the way to the grand opening of the park. Phase I is the dream. If we are going to sustain a waterpark in our small town, we need to consider the best location. The ideal spot would need to have the largest lot with good visibility, and easy access to water, which our area already has. This is phase II, the feasibility.
For phase III, the master plan, a good sized small-scale aquatic center for a town of or size would be approximately 6,600 square feet. This size is determined by the rule of thumb of 110 square feet per room. Since the average hotel room count for hotels in our town is 60, 6,600 square feet is determined. The expected budget for our project would be about $1.5 million. This is determined by the cost of about $234 per square foot.
Next we move to Phase IV which is design development. This is the step when you plan out exactly what slides and pools you will feature in your waterpark. Our town would support a waterpark featuring two large slides and one kiddie pool with a splash center. Once we have everything planned out, we move on to Phase V which is the construction documents. Developed in this stage are the working documents that the consultants and contractors need to make the vision a reality. These documents address code requirements and specifications and get you ready for permitting and construction.
If necessary, Phase VI is when we hire a contractor to build the dream water park. After is Phase VII, actual construction. This is the most expensive and time consuming part of the entire project, but it will be well worth it in the end. Finally, after the park is built, we reach the final step, Phase VIII. This is the grand opening of the water park. We started with a dream, and finished with the grand opening. This hotel waterpark that has just been built will have great advantage over the other hotels.
If this hotel could sustain this newly constructed waterpark, there would be many benefits. One would be an increase in revenue for the hotel. According to Jeff Coy, a waterpark consultant, hotels with indoor waterparks achieved nearly 21 percent higher occupancy and $14 higher room rates annually than hotels with ordinary swimming pools. The hotels with indoor waterparks achieved 30 or more points of occupancy above typical hotels in the September – December period and achieved 20 or more points of occupancy above typical hotels in the January – April period. Hotels with indoor waterparks do a superior job of attracting business during the slower shoulder months and the low months compared to hotels with just an ordinary indoor swimming pool.
In conclusion, our small town will have no way of supporting five large hotels totaling 300 rooms all together if the oil and gas business leaves. My solution: adding a 6,600 square foot indoor waterpark to one of our existing hotels that meet the necessary requirements. It would attract all the hotel business since it would be the only hotel in the area with a waterpark. Our mayor said that our town would be hosting about 12 baseball tournaments this summer. When these families are trying to book hotel rooms, they are all going to want to stay in the one with the best aquatic facility. If a local hotel invested into attaching a waterpark to their existing establishment, it would greatly benefit its own company and our town.