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How to Start a Waterpark

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Waterpark

Fast Facts

Investment range

$1,407,600 - $2,814,500

Revenue potential

$1,800,000 - $6,000,000 p.a.

Time to build

12 – 18 months

Profit potential

$180,000 - $600,000 p.a.

Industry trend




Waterparks are great for family fun, or for adventurous adults to have a good time, offering all sorts of attractions, including waterslides, lazy rivers, and wave pools. During the pandemic, waterparks took a huge hit, but they’re coming back in a big way, with the industry set to increase by nearly 14% in 2023. 

Starting a waterpark takes a significant investment, but it could be quite a profitable adventure for you.

But before you dive in, you’ll need to understand the waterpark business. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide details all the business insights you need to launch a successful waterpark.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons


  • Provide a place for fun in your community
  • Good profit potential
  • Market is making a big comeback


  • High startup costs
  • Outdoor parks are seasonal

Waterpark industry trends

Industry size and growth

Waterpark industry size and growth

Trends and challenges


  • Many waterparks with themes, much like theme amusement parks, are emerging.
  • Waterparks are building larger areas that cater to small children.


  • Small waterparks are struggling to keep up with larger parks that have expanded into full resorts.
  • Waterparks are facing staffing shortages more and more.
Waterpark Trends and Challenges

Demand hotspots

Waterpark demand hotspots

What kind of people work in waterparks?

Waterpark industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a waterpark business?

Startup costs for a waterpark range from $1.5 million to $3 million. Costs include the land and the park construction as well as an operating budget. Your costs will depend on land and construction prices in your area, as well as the size of the park you design.

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$100 - $500$300
Business licenses and permits$2,000 - $3,000$2,500
Insurance$5,000 - $10,000$7,500
Website$500 - $1,000$750
Land$500,000 - $1,000,000$750,000
Park construction$750,000 - $1,500,000$1,125,000
Operating budget$100,000 - $200,000$150,000
Sales and marketing budget$50,000 - $100,000$75,000
Total$1,407,600 - $2,814,500$2,111,050

How much can you earn from a waterpark business?

You should be able to charge about $40 per person for admission. You can make additional revenue by selling food and beverages, or park merchandise. These calculations will assume that the average person will spend $60 total each time they visit. Your profit margin after all costs should be about 10%.

In your first year or two, you might have 30,000 visitors in the summer season, bringing in $1,800,000 in revenue. This would mean $180,000 in profit, assuming that 10% margin. 

As you gain traction, you might have 100,000 visitors. With annual revenue of $6,000,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $600,000.

Waterpark earning forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a waterpark. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Funding the startup costs
  • Finding land in a suitable location

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a waterpark, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.

Analyze your competitors 

Research waterparks in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews.

  • Make a list of waterparks that offer similar services. 
  • Review your competitors’ services – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies
  • Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
  • Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.

Why? Identify an opportunity

You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a waterpark with extended park hours, or a waterpark with a lazy river. 

You might consider targeting a niche, such as an indoor water park.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your products or services

You’ll have to plan a design for your park with unique water slides and other attractions. You’ll also need to decide what types of food and beverages to offer. 

How much should you charge for waterpark admission?

Your prices should be based on market prices in your area, but also on your operating costs.

Once you know your costs, use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be mainly families and younger adults. You should market on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook to cover all bases.

Where? Choose a waterpark location

You’ll need to find land in a convenient location, probably 10 to 15 acres. You can engage a real estate agent to help with your search. Here are the factors to consider when choosing a waterpark location:

1. Accessibility

  • Road Infrastructure: Easy access by major highways or roads.
  • Public Transport: Availability of buses, trains, etc.
  • Parking: Adequate space for visitors’ vehicles.

2. Land Considerations

  • Size: Enough area for attractions, amenities, and future expansion.
  • Topography: Flat terrain or areas that can be easily developed.
  • Soil Quality: Suitable for constructing large water structures.
  • Drainage: Proper drainage to handle water waste and rain.

3. Climate & Seasonality

  • Duration of Warm Weather: Longer summer means a longer operating season.
  • Rainfall Patterns: Consideration for outdoor parks.

4. Competition

  • Nearby Attractions: Other waterparks or recreational areas.
  • Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Offerings that set you apart.

5. Local Regulations

  • Zoning Laws: Ensure the land is zoned for commercial recreational use.
  • Environmental Restrictions: Wetlands, protected areas, etc.
  • Safety Regulations: Compliance with local safety standards.

6. Water Source & Quality

  • Availability: Sufficient supply for park operations.
  • Quality: Clean and free from contaminants.
  • Recycling Systems: Efficient water recycling and filtration systems.

7. Long-Term Development

  • Expansion Possibilities: Room for adding more attractions.
  • Trends: Keeping up with the latest waterpark trends and technologies.

8. Community Relations

  • Local Acceptance: Ensuring the local community is supportive.
  • Partnerships: Collaborations with local businesses or stakeholders.

9. Environmental Impact

  • Sustainability: Environmentally friendly practices and equipment.
  • Landscape Integration: Design that fits naturally into the local environment.
Waterpark idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Waterpark Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “waterpark” or “water rides”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “AquaEmpire Resorts” and “WaveWorld Destinations” over “SplashScape Oasis” and “TidalTwist Lagoon”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation. 

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward. 

Step 4: Create a Waterpark Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Provide a concise summary of your waterpark business plan, highlighting its objectives, location, and expected profitability.
  • Business Overview: Introduce your waterpark, including its location, size, attractions, target audience, and unique features.
  • Product and Services: Describe the waterpark’s offerings, including water slides, pools, concessions, and any additional services like lifeguard training or event hosting.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the local and regional market for waterpark entertainment, considering factors like seasonality, competition, and potential visitor demographics.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify and evaluate other waterparks and recreational facilities in the area, highlighting what sets your waterpark apart.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your marketing strategies for attracting visitors, including advertising, promotions, and partnerships with local businesses.
  • Management Team: Showcase the qualifications and experience of your management team, emphasizing their knowledge of waterpark operations and safety measures.
  • Operations Plan: Detail the day-to-day operations of your waterpark, covering aspects like staffing, safety protocols, maintenance, and ticket pricing.
  • Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, operating expenses, and expected return on investment for your waterpark.
  • Appendix: Include any supporting documents, such as park maps, safety procedures, permits, and financial statements, to enhance your business plan’s credibility.
what to include in a business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to waterparks. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your waterpark will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Form Your LLC

Choose Your State

We recommend ZenBusiness as the Best LLC Service for 2024

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital: Venture capital investors take an ownership stake in exchange for funds, so keep in mind that you’d be sacrificing some control over your business. This is generally only available for businesses with high growth potential.
  • Angel investors: Reach out to your entire network in search of people interested in investing in early-stage startups in exchange for a stake. Established angel investors are always looking for good opportunities. 
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a waterpark business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. There is some possibility that you may be able to attract angel investors or venture capital.

Step 8: Apply for Waterpark Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a waterpark business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

You’ll need to check with your state and local governments for specific waterpark licenses and permits required.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your waterpark business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Aluvii, Roller, or centeredge, to manage ticket sales, waivers, food and beverage sales, and employees.


  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Create a website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. 

Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Tickets Now”. This can sharply increase purchases. 

Online Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  1. Social Media Splash: Leverage the power of visually appealing content on platforms like Instagram and TikTok; encourage user-generated content with photo contests, and share behind-the-scenes glimpses to create buzz.
  2. Seasonal Pass Promotions: Introduce discounted seasonal passes, early-bird specials, or family packages to incentivize repeat visits and ensure steady revenue throughout the operating season.
  3. Themed Events and Promotions: Host themed events, such as tropical nights, water-themed parties, or exclusive night swims, to create a unique and memorable experience, attracting diverse audiences.
  4. Collaborate with Local Businesses: Forge partnerships with nearby hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies to offer bundled deals or cross-promotions, expanding your reach through their customer base.
  5. Mobile Marketing: Utilize geo-targeted mobile ads, SMS campaigns, and mobile apps to reach potential visitors in the vicinity, enticing them with time-limited promotions and special offers.
  6. Community Engagement: Sponsor local events, sports teams, or school programs to build strong community ties; organize school field trips or summer camp excursions to introduce your waterpark to a broader audience.
  7. VIP Experiences: Create premium VIP packages with exclusive perks like private cabanas, express entry, and personalized services, targeting visitors willing to pay extra for an enhanced experience.
  8. Referral Programs: Implement referral programs that reward current visitors for bringing in new guests, providing incentives such as discounts, freebies, or exclusive access to certain attractions.
  9. Online Reviews and Testimonials: Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor or Google Reviews; offer incentives for feedback to enhance your waterpark’s online reputation.
  10. Email Marketing Campaigns: Build an email subscriber list and send out targeted campaigns with updates on upcoming events, promotions, and exclusive discounts to keep your audience engaged and informed.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your waterpark meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your waterpark business could be: 

  • Our waterpark offers a thrilling array of exhilarating slides, wave pools, and water attractions for all ages, creating unforgettable aquatic adventures
  • Immerse yourself in our waterpark’s lush surroundings, palm-fringed pools, and cascading waterfalls, transporting you to a paradise of relaxation and fun
  • Our waterpark boasts a wide range of attractions and activities suitable for the whole family, ensuring endless laughter, joy, and cherished memories
unique selling proposition


You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a waterpark business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in waterparks for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in waterparks. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

You will need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a waterpark business include:

  • Ticket takers – greet customers, sell and take tickets
  • Ride attendants – assist customers on rides
  • Snack bar workers – sell food and beverages
  • Marketing lead – create and implement marketing strategies
  • General manager – scheduling, accounting

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Waterpark – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Waterparks are great for summer fun, and they’re bouncing back in a big way since them pandemic. Starting a waterpark is a huge undertaking, but your park could become a feature of your community and a nice money maker. You can always start small and expand your attractions over time.

You’ve got the business know how now, so you’re ready to jump in and get your successful waterpark started!

Waterpark Business FAQs

Is a waterpark profitable?

A well-managed and popular waterpark can be a profitable business. The profitability of a waterpark depends on factors such as location, size, visitor capacity, pricing, operating costs, marketing efforts, and seasonal demand. Waterparks that offer a variety of attractions, provide exceptional guest experiences, and effectively manage expenses can generate revenue through admission fees, food and beverage sales, merchandise, and additional services.

What happens during a typical day at a waterpark?

During a typical day at a waterpark, visitors can expect a range of activities and experiences. This may include enjoying water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, play areas, and other water attractions. Guests can relax on sun loungers, rent cabanas, indulge in food and beverages, participate in organized events, attend live entertainment shows, and take part in special activities or promotions offered by the waterpark.

What is the growth potential of a waterpark?

The growth potential of a waterpark can be significant, particularly in areas with high population density, tourist destinations, or regions with warm climates. Waterparks have the potential for growth through expanding their offerings, adding new attractions, improving guest experiences, marketing to new customer segments, and establishing partnerships with hotels or resorts. Continual innovation, investing in guest satisfaction, and adapting to changing market trends can contribute to the growth of a waterpark.

What type of business is a waterpark?

A waterpark typically operates as a leisure and entertainment business within the hospitality and tourism industry. It offers a range of water-based attractions, amenities, and services to guests seeking recreational experiences. Waterparks can be privately owned, operated by corporations, or part of larger resort complexes. They require careful management of safety protocols, maintenance of facilities and equipment, efficient operations, marketing efforts, and providing exceptional customer service to ensure guest satisfaction.


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How to Start a Waterpark