Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

IAAPA Awards 2009

During IAAPA Attractions Expo this November in Las Vegas, the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions presented no fewer than 10 sets of awards. Read on for the full rundown.

HALL OF FAME AWARDS (Industry Leaders)

Ricardo Castillo
Inspired by a trip to Disneyland on his Honeymoon in 1958, Richard Castillo set out to improve Guatemalan tourism and attractions. A business man and industrialist, Castillo helped found the Institute for Recreation for Private Sector Workers in Guatemala (IRTRA) in 1962 and now boasts a more than 35-year presidency and 43-year directorship there. The organization provides recreation that benefits and is funded by the public sector and its workers with a host of parks featuring city center-plazas with engaging architecture, restaurants, and railways, and a hotel group which accommodates 2,900 people.
In his tenure, Castillo created two of Guatemala’s innovative and award-winning parks—Xetulul amusement park and Xocomil waterpark, both located in Retalhuleu on the Guatemalan Pacific Coast. As IRTRA continues to plan park expansions and attractions for the future, its current facilities feature attractions including zoos, amusement rides, theaters, sports areas, wave pools, and children’s attractions. One of Castillo’s proudest achievements is catering to a diverse crowd of laborers, professionals, and executives at different cultural levels and creating a unifying atmosphere all guests can enjoy. He leads IRTRA with strong virtues of hospitality, creativity, safety, and customer service. He is steadfastly achieving his goal to aid the Guatemalan economy with exemplary tourist attractions, and has greatly contributed to the industry at large.

Frederic W. Thompson (1872-1919) and Elmer “Skip” Dundy (1862-1907)
From the late 1880s through 1911, Frederic Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy served as luminaries in the birth of the attractions industry, founding Luna Park in 1903 along the Coney Island seaside in New York, United States. For Thompson, an architect, and Dundy, a businessman, the park was the pair’s most ground-breaking and successful undertaking, and one of the first heavily themed regional attractions of its kind. Luna Park featured architecturally whimsical spires lined with 250,000 incandescent lights, live shows, and rides themed to reflect lunar-landings, naval battles, coal mining excursions, and natural wonders; among them “Dragon’s Gorge” railway and “Captain Paul Boyton’s Shoot-the-Chutes.” Sitting on more than 38 acres of land and employing 2,000 workers, the seaside park attracted five million visitors annually.
According to Thompson, the creators worked to offer visitors a diversion from life’s serious nature, and a chance to experience “action, motion, sensation, surprise, shock, swiftness, or else comedy.” Their work set the stage for future industry classics, including a chain of Luna Parks opened by Frederick Ingersoll and later, Disneyland by icon Walt Disney. Over the years, Coney Island continued to grow into an attractions hub for the region, with the architecture and storylines conceptualized by Thompson and Dundy serving as a pivotal and essential foundation to the attractions industry.

A list of previous IAAPA Hall of Fame inductees can be found at


Lifetime Service Award
Roland Koch, owner and president of Roland Koch, GmbH in Bruhl, Germany. For more than 50 years, Roland has served on the IAAPA board of directors, helped organize the Euro Attractions Show 1994, an IAAPA summer meeting at Europa-Park, and Euro Attractions Show 2008 in Munich, among other international events. He has owned and operated rides and restaurants in parks and fairs throughout Germany and was a partner in developing Phantasialand, one of the top parks in Europe, which opened in 1967. Additionally, Koch was instrumental in bringing large format films to Germany and Scandinavia. He is a member of the Applause Award Board of Governors.

Outstanding Service Award
Colin Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA). For more than 20 years, Colin Dawson has worked in the leisure and tourism industry in the United Kingdom and throughout the world. Since 2001 he has held the title of chief executive of BALPPA, an organization which represents 300 member attractions, suppliers, and developers. As head of BALPPA, Dawson has promoted safety and mandatory manufacturer safety measures for all BALPPA members, which resulted in a 79 percent reduction in amusement ride-related accidents. In the process, Dawson helped create custom training material for staffers within the leisure industry. He has also served on multiple IAAPA committees, including the Give Kids The World committee.

Meritorious Service Award
Tim Sorge, president of Swings-N-Things Family Fun Park in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. After opening a state-of-the-art batting cage in Ohio in 1982, Tim vision grew to incorporate more attractions in a larger facility, and in 1987, he opened Swings-N-Things Family Fun Park, which included the batting cage, a video arcade, upscale miniature golf course, and Ice Cream Shoppe with homemade recipes. For his facility, Sorge selected Cleveland, a nontraditional location for tourists, and created a landmark in the process; Swings-N-Things has entertained thousands of guests in its 22 years. Sorge added bumper boats, a 15,000 square-foot-family game room, Paintball Village, and a go-kart facility, and simultaneously helped write standards and guidelines for the design, building, and operation of the recreational go-kart industry. As a charter member of the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry (IALEI), Sorge’s leadership helped guide the family entertainment center industry (FEC) over the past 27 years. He has served on both IAAPA’s FEC Committee and its board of directors, and has lead the initiative for an FEC insurance program. Sorge played a vital role in providing feedback on the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) on behalf of the industry. As IAAPA and IALEI merge, he continues to consult on how IAAPA can further invest in the FEC community.


Dollywood’s Splash Country
Located in Pigeon Forge, Dollywood’s Splash Country opened in 2001 in Tennessee’s Great Smokey Mountains. Its attractions include “The Cascades” leisure pool, themed with rock grottos and bubbling fountains; “Downbound Float Trip,” a more than half-million gallon-lazy river; “Big Bear Plunge” raft ride; and “The Butterfly” and “Swiftwater Run,” which are large waterslide attractions. The park recently incorporated a cashless wristband payment system and also features shaded “Canopies” and “Retreats”—private areas for guests with lounge chairs, satellite television, ceiling fans, dining tables, and a direct phone line to food and beverage service. Splash Country’s goal is to expand its offerings as technology advances, while still maintaining the Southern hospitality and natural landscape of the Smoky Mountains.

World Waterpark
Founded in 1986, World Waterpark in West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is open year-round and features a 2.7 million gallon-wave pool and more than 20 waterslides, including “Howler” and “Sky Screamer,” which propels riders up to 32 miles per hour. The indoor park is viewable from two levels in North America’s largest shopping and entertainment center and entertains more than 560,000 guests each year. Its attractions include a permanent indoor bungee jump, zip line, and indoor fireworks at the park’s annual “New Year’s Eve Family Beach Party.” The facility recently added Caribbean Cove, a 6,000-square-foot interactive waterplay area for families and children, and is plans to add new slides and renovate its changing rooms next. The park is known for creating an 82-degree, year-round beach environment for families on the landlocked Canadian prairies.


iT’Z Family Food and Fun
Located in Houston, Texas, iT’Z Family Food and Fun features over 150 video and redemption games, amusement rides like the “Disk’O” and “iT’Z Express” rollercoaster, bumper cars, 10 -pin string bowling, and party facilities. Enjoy any one of the four themed dining rooms such as GameTime, Galaxy Drive-In, Toon’z and Hollywood. iT’Z offers guests a full and balanced buffet with a variety of options including pizza, pasta, soup, salad and desserts. The facility specializes in birthday parties, group and corporate events. iT’Z currently operates locations in Houston, Albuquerque and Colorado Springs.

Magic Planet Kuwait
Operated by Majid Al Futtaim Leisure and entertains all ages and located in The Avenues, Kuwait’s largest shopping center, the facility includes a 4D theater, bowling, billiards, arcade games, a food court, and thrill rides including “Smash Bugs,” bumper cars designed especially for kids; the “Grasshopper” tower ride; and the “Crazy Caterpillar” flying cart. Magic Planet also emphasizes safety, and equips its “fun team” employees with a variety of training.


Best Employee Recognition Program
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa, Florida, United States. Its “World Class Summer” program, designed to create a simple yet impactful reward system, incorporated the Guest Satisfaction Challenge, which measured service areas of employee courtesy, park cleanliness, park arrival process, attraction line speed, culinary satisfaction, and merchandise satisfaction. Progress was tracked, published, and rewarded each week, and team members could easily follow results on giant score boards, turning the experience into a friendly competition. Rewards came in the form of free lunches, popsicles, and sodas. As a result of the challenge, team members were consistently engaged in work, maintained a higher level of involvement and sense of ownership in the park, and sustained positive attitudes and high energy performance during the summer season.

Best Recruitment Program
Hersheypark, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States. The park’s “TEAM Screen” evaluation assesses applicants based on transportation and availability, expression, appearance, and model communication behaviors. In-park interview session events then create an exciting hiring atmosphere and set a high expectation for guest service. In the past year, 14 interview session events yielded 3,744 scheduled interviews, and newly implemented on-site physicals have made it possible for employees to begin working sooner. Employee service survey scores also increased with the new process. The park employs 350 full-time and 4,056 part-time employees.

Best Orientation Program
Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States. The park sends a “Welcome to the Sweetest Team on Earth” message to its newly hired employees and its “Onboarding Team,” creates an interactive experience for new hires with tools like GameShow Pro computer quizzing software. The orientation program emphasizes the park’s culture of mutual respect and illustrates how to present a service promise to guests and coworkers. One hundred and fifty orientation sessions are held at Hersheypark throughout the year, with 20 full-time managers in attendance to train employees and encourage program graduates.

Best Supervisor Training Program
Merlin Entertainments Group in Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom. Founded in 2006, its “Graduate Program” lasts two years and is designed to increase retention while teaching future senior leaders skills and strategies for communication, teamwork, and time and change management. Participants—or “graduates”—in the program are hosted at different Merlin facilities and placed in several roles during the program to learn and train with operations, processes, and histories of each department. Throughout the program, graduates are evaluated by line managers, group training managers, human resources professionals, and graduate managers. Fourteen staff members were hired on from the program in 2006 and 2007, and twelve in 2008.

Best Guest Services Training Program
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers, Indiana, United States. With its “Opening Doors to Great Guest Experiences” program, the park equips staff to facilitate memorable learning experiences for guests. Around 20 new staffers attend each five-day training course to analyze guest-staff interaction via video, study feedback surveys, and participate in discussions facilitated by Conner Prairie’s Experience Managers. Topics include the first interaction between employee and guest, creating engaging experiences, and best practices in family learning at museums and attractions.

Best Safety Awareness Program
The St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. In 2006 the free-admission facility developed a safety department with the goals of reducing incidents and strengthening confidence in zoo operations. The new programs and services involve drug testing, hands-on fire extinguisher training, vehicle safety training, development of contractor safety handbooks, a First Aid facility, and the creation of a Command Center. The new program has reduced worker compensation premiums at the zoo by 54 percent and loss-time accidents by 900 percent, decreasing from 18 in 2005, to only two in 2008.


Best Overall Production, More Than $2 million
Winner: “The Gift of Angles,” Universal Studios Japan; Osaka City, Osaka, Japan;
Honorable Mention: “Magical Starlight Parade,” Universal Studios Japan; Osaka City, Osaka, Japan;

Best Overall Production, $1 million – $2 million
Winner: “Hot Ice,” Pleasure Beach, Blackpool; Blackpool, United Kingdom;

Best Overall Production, $500,001 – $1 million
Winner: “Forbidden,” Pleasure Beach, Blackpool; Blackpool, United Kingdom;
Honorable Mention: “Cirque de la Mer,” SeaWorld San Diego; San Diego, California, United States;

Best Overall Production, $300,001 – $500,000
Winner: “Take Flight – An Avian Adventure,” San Diego Zoo; San Diego, California, United States;
Honorable Mention: “Matt Hoffman’s Danger Defying Daredevils,” Six Flags Magic Mountain; Los Angeles, California, United States;

Best Overall Production, $150,001 – $300,000
Winner: “Headin’ West,” Silver Dollar City; Branson, Missouri, United States;
Honorable Mention: “Christian Farla Live! Magic Show,” Walibi World; Biddinghuizen, Netherlands;

Best Overall Production, $50,001 – $150,000
Winner: “Pure Country Radio,” Six Flags Over Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia, United States,
Honorable Mention: “The Jeerk Show,” Silver Dollar City; Branson, Missouri, United States;

Best Overall Production, $25,001 – $50,000
Winner: “The Soda Pops,” Hersheypark; Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States;
Honorable Mention: “Creature Feature,” Six Flags Fiesta Texas; San Antonio, Texas, United States;

Best Overall Production, $25,000 or Less
Winner: “Bunsen & The Burners,” Hersheypark; Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States;
Honorable Mention: “Grand Tournament of Champions,” Legoland California; Carlsbad, California, United States;

Best Atmosphere/Street Performer
Winner: “Funsation Celebration,” Dutch Wonderland; Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States,
Honorable Mention: “Gem Tones,” Dollywood; Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, United States;

Best Live Edutainment Show
Winner: “Creature Adventures Starring The Kratt Brothers,” Dollywood; Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, United States;
Honorable Mention: “The Jungle Rumble – Going Green Edition,” Six Flags Great Adventure; Jackson, New Jersey, United States;

Best Sports Show
Winner: Brown Entertainment’s Cirque Manifique, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California;
Honorable Mention: “Winter Wonderland on Ice,” Silverwood Theme Park; Athol, Idaho, United States;

Heartbeat Award
Winner: “Sha-Kon-O-Hey!;” Dollywood; Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, United States;

Spirit Award
Winner: Chris Ambraz, Busch Gardens Tampa; Tampa, Florida, United States;

Best Female Performer
Winner: Renee Schee, Six Flags Fiesta Texas; San Antonio, Texas, United States;
Honorable Mention: Samantha Freistat, Hersheypark; Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States;

Best Male Performer
Winner: Gabriel Myers, Dollywood; Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, United States;
Honorable Mention: Wong Tsz Kwan, Ocean Park Hong Kong; Aberdeen, Hong Kong;


Integrated Marketing Campaign
Class 1— Adventure Landing; Jacksonville Beach, Florida, United States;
Class 2— Kidzania de Mexico SA de C.V.; Mexico City, Mexico;
Class 3— Six Flags The Great Escape; Queensbury, New York, United States;
Class 4— Minnesota Zoo; Apple Valley, Minnesota, United States;
Class 5— San Diego Zoo; San Diego, California, United States;

Marketing Collateral
Class 1— Xplor; Cancün, Mexico;
Class 2— Dutch Wonderland; Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States;
Class 3— Xcaret; Cancün, Mexico;
Class 4— Columbus Zoo and Aquarium; Columbus, Ohio, United States;
Class 5— Floriade 2012; Venlo, Netherlands;

Online Advertisement
Class 1— Ocean Breeze Waterpark; Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States;
Class 2— Dutch Wonderland; Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States;
Class 3— Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, United States;
Class 4— Minnesota Zoo; Apple Valley, Minnesota, United States;
Class 5— Six Flags Inc.; New York, New York, United States;

Outdoor Advertisement
Class 1— Waterworld California; Concord, California, United States;
Class 2— White Water Bay; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States;
Class 3— Xcaret; Cancün, Mexico;
Class 4— Six Flags Magic Mountain; Valencia, California, United States;
Class 5— Ocean Park Hong Kong; Hong Kong;

PR Program
Class 1— Xplor; Cancün, Mexico;
Class 2— Grupo Via Delphi, S.A. de C.V.; Cancün, Mexico;
Class 3— Six Flags The Great Escape; Queensbury, New York, United States;
Class 4— Silver Dollar City; Branson, Missouri, United States;
Class 5— Dollywood; Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, United States;

Print Advertisement
Class 1— Raging Waves Waterpark; Yorkville, Illinois, United States;
Class 2— Dutch Wonderland; Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States;
Class 3— Xcaret; Cancün, Mexico;
Class 4— Liseberg; Gothenburg, Sweden;
Class 5— Ocean Park Hong Kong; Hong Kong;

Radio Commercial
Class 1— Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park; East Destin, Florida, United States;
Class 2— Story Land; Glen, New Hampshire, United States;
Class 3— Utah’s Hogle Zoo; Salt Lake City, Utah, United States;
Class 4— Six Flags Magic Mountain; Valencia, California, United States;
Class 5— Sentosa Leisure Group; Singapore;

Seasonal or Special Event Marketing
Class 1— Wave Die Wörgler Wasserwelten; Wörgl, Austria;
Class 2— Calaway Park; Calgary, Alberta, Canada;
Class 3— Fort Worth Zoo; Fort Worth, Texas, United States;
Class 4— Movie Park Germany GMBH & Co. KG; Bottrop-Kirchhellen, Germany;
Class 5— Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Waterparks; Wildwood, New Jersey, United States;

Television Commercial
Class 1—Mountain Creek Waterpark; Vernon, New Jersey, United States;
Class 2— Miami Seaquarium; Miami, Florida, United States;
Class 3— Adventure Aquarium; Norcross, Georgia, United States;
Class 4— Monterey Bay Aquarium; Monterey, California, United States;
Class 5— Pleasure Beach, Blackpool; Blackpool, United Kingdom;

Web Site
Class 1—Mountain Creek Waterpark; Vernon, New Jersey, United States;
Class 2— Story Land; Glen, New Hampshire, United States;
Class 3— John Hancock Observatory; Chicago, Illinois, United States;
Class 4— Movie Park Germany GMBH & Co. KG; Bottrop-Kirchhellen, Germany;
Class 5— San Diego Zoo; San Diego, California, United States;


Best Hat
Sea World in Gold Coast, Australia, won with a blue-brimmed baseball-type cap featuring animals from the waterpark and resort. A dolphin, sea otter, shark, and other characters from the park peer out from pinwheel-sections of the hat, the Sea World logo is featured on the front, and two embroidered water bubbles adorn the front corner of the bill.

Best Keychain
Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States, won with its realistically-stitched, baseball-shaped soft toy, emblazoned with a smiling Hershey Kiss and the park’s logo and colors.

Best T-Shirt
Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia, United States, won with its emoticon-themed casual wear in pink and other fluorescent colors. The T-Shirt displays the course of emotions experienced while riding a roller coaster, and ends with a simple beaming face above the theme park’s name. The T-Shirt’s fitted cut for teenagers is fashioned to appeal to young adults and the text-messaging generation.

Best Drinkware
Warner Bros. Movie World in Oxenford, Queensland, Australia, won for its 3-D ceramic Superman mug which features a large handle in the form of an “S” and the Warner Bros. character positioned for takeoff against the glass’ bold colors and American flag icon. The three-dimensional relief accentuates Superman’s features and provides a tangible element of fun for the customer.

Best Toy
Efteling in Kaatsheuvel, Nederlands, won for its Fairytale Tree puppet theater featuring an all-in-one printed, pop-open 3-D stage. The theater features built-in curtains which unveil plush finger-puppets including a princess, dragon, and classic fairytale characters.

Best Gift
Legoland Windsor in Windsor, United Kingdom, won for its chess board, complete with Velcro-closure carrying case. Pieces on the chess board are portrayed by medieval court gothic characters, and double as standard Lego pieces with interchangeable accessories.

Best Visual – Overall Store Design
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa, Florida, United States, won for its Howl-O-Scream Shop of Horrors, complete with spooky décor, red and black Halloween furniture, cracked mirrors, and blood-filled barrels, among its creative “Teddy Scares” plush bears, clothing, and other retail items.

Best Visual – Feature, Focal Display or Window
Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia, United States, won for “Abby Cadabby’s House,” a lifelike playhouse centered in their retail area for children to enjoy while parents shop nearby. The house contains an imaginative kitchen play set, Sesame Street souvenir racks, benches for young visitors, and detailed renderings of popular Sesame Street character, Abby Cadabby.

For details of all 2010 award nominations, visit:

BEST NEW PRODUCTS (at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009)

Major Theme/Amusement Park Ride/Attraction
First Place: S&S Worldwide Inc.; FREE FLY Rollercoaster; booth 3011; Logan, Utah, United States;
Honorable Mention: Alterface S.A.; Interactive Game Battle; booth 5459; Mont-Saint-Guibert, Belgium;

Kiddie Ride/Attraction
First Place: Extreme Engineering; Extreme Air Single Jumper; Newcastle, California; United States;
Honorable Mention: Zamperla, Inc.; Barnyard; booth 2433; Boonton, New Jersey, United States,

Waterpark Ride/Attraction
First Place: ProSlide Technology Inc.; ProSlide Tantrum TWIST; booth 1607; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada;
Honorable Mention: WhiteWater West Industries, Ltd.; AquaLoop; booth 2501; Richmond, British Columbia, Canada;

Family Entertainment Center Ride/Attraction
First Place: Creative Works Inc.; Lazer Frenzy; booth 7100; Indianapolis, Indiana, United States;
Honorable Mention: Aquaventronics; Bump n’ Blast; booth 5742; Grande Pointe, Manitoba, Canada;

Coin-Operated Kiddie Ride
First Place: Falgas Industries; Surfer’s Van; booth 4459; Castello d’Empuries, Spain;
Honorable Mention: Cogan SRL; ART 6PO Gran Dakar; booth 4019; Soliera, Italy;

Technology Applied to Amusement
First Place: Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc.; Galaxy Payment Plans; booth 2534; Boyertown, Pennsylvania, United States;
Honorable Mention: Alcorn McBride, Inc.; Digital Binloop HD; booth 5656; Orlando, Florida, United States;

Coin-Operated Arcade and Redemption Equipment
First Place: Glow Machine, Ltd.; WEB Glow Machine; booth 8618; Scottsdale, Arizona, United States;
Honorable Mention: Skee Ball, Inc.; Super 21; booth 6437; Chalfont, Pennyslvania, United States;

Revenue and Admission Control/Wristbands/RFID
First Place: Centaman Systems; Cashless Payment POS System; booth 2576; Chicago, Illinois, United States;
Honorable Mention: 4ID Solutions; Wristband Singles; booth 1059; Houston, Texas, United States;

Show Production and Entertainment/Displays and Sets
First Place: AnimaLive; ANIMALIVE Custom Design; booth 5060; Brighton, United Kingdom;
Honorable Mention: Pantel Corp.; Pantel Outdoor Waterproof TV; booth 4648; Garden Grove, California, United States;

Services/Equipment and Supplies
First Place: Merlexi Craft Wheelchair; Merlexi Craft Wheelchair; booth 5746; Louisville, Kentucky, United States;

EXHIBITOR AWARDS (at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009)

The 2009 Image Award was presented to Environs, Inc. ( in booth 5618 from Jacksonville, Florida, United States, as the company which represented the best overall booth from a visual perspective.

First place and honorable mention winners for Best Exhibitor Awards in the following categories included:

100 – 200 square feet
First Place: Get in Line; booth 5149; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States;
Honorable Mention: Perky’s Pizza; booth 1635; Oldsmar, Florida, United States,

300 – 500 square feet
First Place: Environs, Inc.; booth 5618; Jacksonville, Florida, United States;
Honorable Mention: Adrian Fisher Design, Ltd., booth 5644; Portman Lodge, Durweston, Dorset, United Kingdom;

600 – 1,000 square feet
First Place: SplashTacular Entertainment, booth 5051; La Quinta, California, United States;
Honorable Mention: Funovation, Inc., booth 1725, Boulder, Colorado, United States;

1,100+ square feet
First Place: WhiteWater West Industries, Ltd.; booth 2501; Richmond, British Columbia, Canada;
Honorable Mention: MagiQuest; booth 6465; Tillamook, Oregon, United States;

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