Holiday World Unveils Safety Precautions
As COVID-19 first took hold in the United States in early March, the operations team at Holiday World launched weekly meetings to plan contingencies for safely reopening. When Indiana’s stay-at-home order took effect on March 24, it was evident that their planned early-May opening was off the table. But by mid-May, Holiday World was able to announce they would open to passholders on June 14 and the public on June 17. IAAPA visited before opening and discussed the safety improvements with fourth generation owners Leah Koch and Lauren Crosby and President and CEO Matt Eckert.
When it opens, Holiday World will operate at 50% capacity. Tickets will have to be purchased online prior to visiting. The park also used historical usage data to set a daily season pass allowance. To overcome resistance to visiting on a specific day, Holiday World implemented a worry-free weather guarantee, permitting a return visit if rides are stopped due to the weather for two consecutive hours.
At the Entrance
To expedite bag check, Holiday World installed metal detectors and only bags that set off the detector will be hand searched. Previously, all bags were. Queue fencing with social distancing markers guide guests to the admission gates. A team member will direct guests to prevent backups. If the screening area gets backed up, parking attendants will request visitors wait in their cars. Guests will be encouraged, but not required to wear masks. All team members will, however.
Friendly signage is being placed around the park encouraging guests to maintain a safe social distance and there are numerous markings at concession stands and the rope drop areas reminding guests to stay apart.
All guests will receive a wristband allowing them to sign up for the inLine virtual queuing system from accesso. They will go to the park’s website to reserve a time to ride. People without cellphones will be able to sign up at any gift shop. Guests will reserve one attraction at a time and check in with a team member at the attraction entrance. Holiday World will be hiring an additional 250 employees, on top of its regular staffing of 2,000, to staff the inLine system.
According to Leah Koch, the virtual queue will create a new challenge—where the guests will wait. While they expect many to visit food stands and gift shops, they have also placed a large order for additional benches to place around the park.
The park envisions the inLine system as permanently joining the guest amenities for which they are known. Other amenities will be adjusted. The free sunscreen stations have been spaced out throughout the park, to prevent bunching up of guests. A new feature is the addition of 90 hand “Santatizer” stations. The free self-serve soft drink stations, however, will remain unchanged with guests being able to pour their own beverages.
At the Rides
Ride areas are arranged to encourage social distancing with yellow footprints suggesting the proper place to stand. The hope is inLine will not result in a significant delay, but a blue set of footprints in each line will serve as an indicator that the line is backing up and ride operators will notify dispatch to extend the wait time.
Rides will be cleaned at two-hour intervals and plexiglass panels have been erected around the operator booths. Adjustments will be made based on ridership and closures will be staggered. There is no set seating arrangement for the roller coasters, rather guests will be seated by group, with spacing between. The bumper cars will initially not be in operation.
No Hugs with Santa
Visits with Santa are an important part of the Holiday World experience, but this year he will be joining the park’s other characters greeting visitors from the Hoosier Stage. While he will read stories and talk to the kids, there will be no close-up interaction.
Changes to Food Service
Social distance markers and queue rails will guide guests through the food service location. Santa’s Merry Marketplace, one of the main locations, typically includes five individual walk-up food stations where quests would order. Now, guests will place orders from a limited menu at a staffed kiosk and receive their food from a team member as they walk down a single serving line. Guests with reusable cups and popcorn buckets will be handed the product in disposable packaging so they can fill their own container. Cashless payment will be encouraged and tables in the restaurants are spread out and blocked off. Plexiglass shields surround the cashiers.
A Work in Progress
Holiday World views the three-week period between the June 14 passholder preview and the opening of the Splashin’ Safari waterpark as a test period to determine what works and what needs to be improved. They anticipate taking many of these lessons into the water park.