Herschend Family Entertainment Acquires Hawaiian Falls Water Parks

Herschend Family Entertainment Acquires Hawaiian Falls Water Parks

Three water parks in Texas are the latest acquisitions in Herschend Family Entertainment Corps.’ plans for national expansion.

The company bought Hawaiian Falls water parks in the Dallas suburbs of Garland and The Colony. A third will open next spring in Dallas, said spokeswoman Lisa Rau.

HFEC owns national tourism destinations including White Water in Branson and Dollywood’s Splash Country in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Hawaiian Falls are “micro water parks,” community-oriented properties drawing from a nearby metropolitan area.

Each park is about 12 acres–the same size as White Water. They include a variety of slides and plunges but lack wave pools and deep-water features, Rau said.

The first Hawaiian Falls was built in 2003 by Dave Busch who was born in Wheaton and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1972 with a degree in journalism, he said. After college, he went to work for Worlds of Fun in Kansas City for 12 years, where he became general manager. In the 1990s, Busch, with his brother, Donald Busch, built and later sold water parks in several California cities and in Honolulu, Hawaii.

He got acquainted with HFEC president Peter Herschend through their mutual involvement on several boards of directors, he said. Now, he will work for HFEC as chief executive officer for Hawaiian Falls.
Busch will be assisted in park operations by Ned Stancliff, a water-park expert who has worked for HFEC since 1983 and will become chief operating officer for Hawaiian Falls.

Micro water parks are a concept that fits today’s market, Busch said. The park set to open next spring is in a working-class suburb on Dallas’ south side, he said. They cost $8 million to $10 million to build, compared to $17 million to $25 million for large water parks. That enables entry prices of $13.99 for adults and $7.99 for kids. The Hawaiian Falls had 150,000 visitors last year, mainly from a 10-mile area, he said.

“Two things people never have enough of is money and time, and no matter how much time they spend with their kids, they’d like to spend more,” Busch said. “Here’s an opportunity that’s close-by, affordable entertainment where Mom and Dad can invest four or five hours. They can do it after work or at lunch. It’s not quite an impulse purchase, but it’s not unlike ‘Let’s go to the movies.'”
National growth plans

HFEC has 5,000 employees in 21 properties it owns, operates or is in partnership with in nine states. The largest attractions are in Branson, Pigeon Forge and Atlanta, where they operate Stone Mountain Park.
New plans for national expansion are still being developed and will be revealed after the first of the year, Rau said.

Last month, HFEC announced the purchase of Ride The Ducks, a Branson-based amphibious vehicle attraction that also operates in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle and Stone Mountain Park.
HFEC declined to reveal the cost for either acquisition.

Both companies bring a great concept and ready expertise, Rau said.

“These companies allow tremendous niche businesses to be developed in communities all across the nation,” Rau said. “It’s a solid business plan.”

Company Type: Family-Owned Businesses, Private Companies

Transasction Type: Buyside M&A

Industry: Leisure / Entertainment