When it comes down to it, resorts are in the memory business. Sure, we provide accommodations, but what really makes timeshare ownership special is the space we give families to enjoy each other’s company.
Many of those memories are made in the types of spaces that set a resort apart from a hotel, usually a pool, a beach or other options. Recently, larger resorts have been adding full-fledged waterparks, lazy river rides, and even “adventure parks” with ziplines. While this type of amenity can attract new buyers and even provide a new revenue stream, smaller resorts without big budgets or acres of undeveloped land find this type of attraction out of their reach.
If that’s the issue at your resort, there are ways to add fun without breaking the bank. Here, Resort Trades profiles three possibilities.
Cost: Under $10,000 to $100,000 and up
Land Requirement: 1,200 square feet to 10,000 or more square feet
Timeline: Eight weeks to a year
Staffing Needs: Rental or loan of equipment, minimal maintenance
For resorts considering a miniature golf course, the possibilities are endless. “There are portable and modular course options as well as permanent installations,” says Scott Lundmark, president of Adventure Golf Services. “We can provide pack and drop-ship pre-designed mini golf and game court products; provide design-only products such as our new U-Build-It mini golf kit with construction and budget documents; or we can provide a turnkey service with crew mobilization for a complete construction process, or resorts can go a la carte with a project manager to supervise the installation. We work with clients to determine which options are best for them.”
That flexibility also extends to theming, as resorts can have a basic course with a landscaped, natural look or add elements such as palm trees, surfboards or skis. “There are so many possibilities for themes,” Lundmark says. “Western themes and pirate themes are always popular, but recently we’ve seen a shift toward Caribbean and California beachy themes.”
Adventure Golf Service provides other fun products such as game court systems and golf hitting or swing bays. Their modular patented panel system can also be used indoors or outdoors for bocce ball, croquet, shuffleboard, chess games, putting greens and more.
Stoneridge Resort in Blanchard, Idaho, opened a custom-themed miniature golf course, The Panhandle Loop, in 2007. A $380,000 amenity upgrade revamped the miniature golf course into one that provides both a fun recreational experience and education about the history and attractions of the Idaho Panhandle. The Pend Oreille Historical Society participated not only by writing town histories for the interpretive signage but also by donating reproductions of a post office and a Big Wheel representing a giant steam engine that once powered the town’s sawmill. The resort does charge a fee to play, but it was waived during a recent resort renovation to placate guests who might have objected to the dust and noise. “It’s a fun and classy course,” says Cindy Thomas, resort manager. “We love that it teaches history, too.”
Cost: $200 to $500
Land Requirement: Four pickleball courts fit on one standard tennis court
Staffing Needs: Rental or loan of equipment, minimal maintenance
If you have to ask what pickleball is, you may be…. But seriously, this racquet sport is one of the fastest-growing activities in the United States. “Five years ago, I got two calls a year asking about pickleball, now I get five a day,” says Danna Gardner, vice president of Tennis Universal Inc.
Suitable for anyone from older children to seniors, it requires quick reactions and strategy, but less strenuous activity than traditional racquet sports such as racquetball or tennis. It’s played on a court 44 feet long by 20 feet wide, which means four pickleball courts fit on one tennis court. Pickleball nets are 36″ x 21’9″ and are secured to 34″ high at center court with a net center strap. Being just two inches lower than tennis nets in the middle, many facilities choose to utilize their tennis nets for pickleball play by simply adding pickleball playing lines to the existing tennis court. This allows each court to be utilized for pickleball and tennis with minimum expense. The paddles are roughly the size of a racquetball racquet, but solid, like a thicker, heavier table tennis paddle without the rubber. The ball is essentially a whiffle ball, with circular holes distributed evenly across its surface.
“It’s really a lot like table tennis,” Gardner says. “Because it’s an underhanded serve, it’s less intimidating, and a more recreational game. It’s also great because you can accommodate 16 people in a space where you previously had just four.”
To accommodate even more play and recreation, resorts can add playing lines for up to four pickleball courts on each tennis court along with “portable” pickleball net/post systems with very little expense and no permanent alterations to the court infrastructure. Alternatively, permanent pickleball nets and posts are a great choice where interest in the sport is enthusiastic, or limited space provides for pickleball courts only. When permanent pickleball posts are placed on an existing tennis court, this will require the court to no longer be available for “tennis”, as the permanent placement of the pickleball posts will obstruct and impede the playing area of tennis. “But for resorts with multiple tennis courts, it has become popular to transition and dedicate the area of one tennis court exclusively to the ever growing popularity of pickleball.” she says.
Aquatic Play Pad
Cost: $30,000 to hundreds of thousands
Land Requirement: 300 square feet to thousands of square feet
Timeline: Several months to a year or more (for design and build)
Staffing Needs: There are daily, weekly and mid-season maintenance requirements as well as start-up and shut down or winterizing procedures
When it’s hot, nothing is more refreshing than getting wet. But pools can come with a host of issues, mainly the need for lifeguards for safety.
Many resorts are avoiding those issues by adding aquatic play areas, which typically feature a zero-depth (no standing water) area, with water play products.
“With a Splashpad that is zero-depth, you can lose the lifeguard persona and parents can relax a little bit more because there is no risk of drowning,” says Jason Broadhurst, director of marketing for Vortex Aquatic Structures Intl., which has trademarked the term splashpad. “You can play with products without necessarily getting too wet (depending on the product!), so you can avoid a full bathing costume change. And because there are so many different play experiences to interact with, you’re likely to stay onsite longer than you would in a pool.”
Once you decide that an aquatic play pad is the way to go, there are multiple other decisions that must be made. “Ask, who is the facility for? Which age groups will it cater to? What is the ultimate goal of the facility?,” says Kirk Hutchinson, territory development manager for Waterplay Solutions Corp. “You’ll need to decide where the water will be coming from and how it will be managed.”
Hutchinson suggests working with a reputable supplier with a proven track record and to investigate the product warranty and level of support provided by your supplier. “An aquatic play pad can operate for over 30 years—choosing high quality product serviced by skilled support teams will ensure success throughout the lifetime of your play space,” he says.
Both companies have custom theming and off the shelf theming options, as well as products that appeal to both small children and older guests. “Once you start needing genuinely custom solutions it gets more difficult,” Broadhurst says. “We try to see how we can modify standard products as much as we can. When we worked with LEGOLAND Discovery Center, we created some custom products and modified an existing structure – it can be done, but will obviously add time and cost to a project.”
Custom theming can be achieved through the use of airbrushing, decals and pad graphics. “When investing in custom theming, always ensure it will serve to increase play value for your visitors,” Hutchinson says. “Visitors will get more enjoyment from interactive features with high play value compared to a theming element that doesn’t offer any additional fun. A simple example would be a beach theme. You could modify an existing feature to replicate the shape of a surfboard, or add an interactive feature designed like a surfboard that kids can rotate and spray in multiple directions. Both compliment the overall theme, but only one increases play value.”