Perhaps the most prominent seasonal attraction in the Rail City, Wild Island Water Park, is one of the businesses riding the waves of this year’s unprecedented academic change. Not only does the waterpark cater specifically to the younger demographic, park officials say, but a large percentage of the park’s staff also comes from the affected population— meaning a magnified impact on the family-style summer attraction.
“We definitely have seen a change in business. Eighty-five percent of our employees are still in high school, so we had to change our operating to match their school schedule,” park operations and admissions manager Shannon Reynolds said. “We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got to work with.”
In anticipation of this year’s shortened summer schedule, the park cut its 11-7 weekday schedule two weeks early in favor of opening for after school hours (3:30 to 7 p.m.), and extended its operating season further into the month of September. Although the modified schedule allows the park to recuperate some of the profit lost from 10 fewer full-length days (which effectively translates to 10 percent of the park’s annual revenue), as well as allowing high school workers to make a bit of extra summer cash by commuting to the park after school, the profit loss is still a prevalent issue, director of park operations Joe Frock says.
“The bottom line is yet to be seen, but when we’re only open for three and a half hours a day as opposed to running from 11-7, that’s a big impact,” he said. “I think we’ve been pretty proactive in what we’ve done so far this season … it’s been a huge impact and we are trying to deal with it the best we can.”
The monumental roadside attraction is far from the only local business facing a shorter fiscal calendar. Other seasonal businesses like the Red Hawk swimming pool and the Lazy 5 waterpark in Spanish Springs have seen similar dents in their clientele; however neither of these locations cites the same scale detriment as Wild Island.
Jennifer Marshall, Swim and Fitness Manager at the Red Hawk Pool, says the main repercussion of an early release summer schedule at the Spanish Springs attraction has been the decrease in kids attending late-summer swimming lessons.
“(The balanced schedule) has affected the swimming lessons and the number of lessons that kids were able to take this year,” Marshall said. “Normally we have a three-month summer where kids can take swimming lessons in June, July and August, and this year kids weren’t able to attend the August sessions.”
Although swim lessons were impacted by the number of kids in attendance, the majority of pool revenue has remained stable, Marshall says, something she attributes to the older population that frequents the pool and staff of lifeguards that are primarily college aged. This year, Marshall says the pool will continue to operate as normal, but in the coming years she anticipates shortening swim lesson sessions so that kids can complete the program before they head back to school.
At the Lazy 5 waterpark, which is owned and operated by the Washoe County Regional Parks Department, a decrease in weekday business has meant simply shutting the doors during the week and focusing on attracting the weekend crowd.
Because Lazy 5 is funded and operated by the county, closing the doors two weeks early doesn’t have the same consequences that it would for a private business, Washoe County Park Operations Superintendent Eric Crump says. According to Crump, the money generated by the park feeds into Washoe County’s General Fund, and although the park’s contribution will be somewhat smaller this year, he doubts that a 10-day difference is enough to make any dent in county spending.
“Certainly, the (balanced schedule) had an impact. We would typically have a couple more weeks when we would be open and pretty busy … but we certainly knew it was coming, and with just opening on the weekends, we are able to compensate and adjust for that pretty effectively,” Crump said. “It certainly wasn’t a big deal to us. Like I said, we knew it was coming and we planned for it … but I could certainly see it having a bigger impact on businesses whose main revenue is summertime activities.”
In comparison to purely seasonal ventures, long-term businesses that cater to the school-age population seem to have caught only a ripple of the balanced schedule splash.
At Kids Club Learning Center, for example, daycare director Marianna Ashley says that the early onset school year really hasn’t made a huge difference in her summer time daycare operations. Although two fewer weeks of summer does take away from August’s revenue stream, it’s a profit she anticipates recovering during the additional break periods kids will receive during the school year. In fact, she is in favor of the balanced schedule because it has somewhat consolidated timing differences between WCSD and year-round schools.
“The only difference for me is that in the summer time our school-age kids are able to do more outside activities…so that time is shortened, because when we have that extra time (later in the year) we probably won’t have those facilities,” Ashley said. “Economically it will probably balance out because the weeks that I lost (in the summer) will get added in during their break time.”
Whether or not businesses were prepared to face the “balanced schedule” head on, or were taken by surprise by a sudden lack of students, after the first week of a new summer reality, businesses at the mercy of school-age clientele can do little but embrace the obligatory change.
“Our hands are really tied by the school district because of the populations that we serve and employ,” Wild Island’s Frock said. “That’s just the hand we’ve been dealt and we’re trying to deal with it the best we can.”