Tuesday April 5, 2011

Doug Waterbury Plans Major Expansion for His Parks

He’s also planning to acquire two Renaissance festivals in Texas
By Aaron Gifford

    Doug Waterbury says Central New York has a lot to get excited about this summer and beyond.

    Waterbury, an Oswego County native and resident, has new attractions planned at his theme parks in the coming months. Over the long-term, the entertainment mogul has major expansions planned for each park and is eyeing park acquisitions or developments in several states. And much of Waterbury’s work may be filmed for a national audience.
    “Every year we grow and expand our parks,” he said. “We’ve got a lot going on right now.”

    Here’s a look at what’s to come:

    At Santa’s Work Shop, North Pole (near Lake Placid), Waterbury is in the midst of a $100 million project that could be completed within 10 years. It would include custom homes, condos and possibly a hotel on 300 acres of land he owns next to the theme park on Whiteface Mountain. All told, there would be hundreds of new housing or lodging units there.
     “It’s starting now,” he said, “but it will take 10 years to design and build.”

    Waterbury is also currently in discussions with the Great Wolf Resorts company officials about building a huge indoor water park at Whiteface. He says it would be three of four times bigger than the one at Greek Peak, “and a world class destination.”

    Great Wolf has 12 indoor water parks across the country, including locations in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Pocono Mountains, Pa., Charlotte, N.C., Mason, Ohio, and Washington state.

    Waterbury acquired Santa’s Workshop and its surrounding property several years with expansion in mind, but he’s been very careful not to encroach on its nostalgia.

    “I love Americana and the traditional old theme parks,” said Waterbury, a father of four. “I love Christmas and I’m a family man. And of course I love to build things, so I saw this as the perfect package.”

    Sylvan Beach Amusement Park on Oneida Lake will enjoy a significant amount of change in the next two years.

    Waterbury said he will expand the nostalgic venue into a “total theme park” this summer by adding 12 street performers with a 1940 carnival motif. Performers auditioned in Manhattan earlier this year. The number of street performers will be expanded to 19 in 2012.

    “There’s all kind of interesting personalities,” Waterbury said.

    In addition, a teen night club will open this spring in an existing building next to the Yesterday’s Royal restaurant. A “Ring of Fire” ride for teens and adults may be added this summer, and a parasailing boat will be added next year. The “Screamer” 38-seat thrill boat will return this summer, its second year in operation, but Waterbury thinks he may move it to St. Martin in the Caribbean next year because the $1 million high-performance water craft can be utilized year-round down there.

    Instead of its typical September closing, the amusement park will be open through October (Fridays and Saturdays only). A walk-through haunted house will be assembled and opened before Halloween. Waterbury was scheduled to attend a horror conference in March, and his employees have already started working on the sets and special effects for his Screamers’ Hollow attraction in Sterling and the future haunted house at Sylvan Beach.

    “Halloween is a nice way to finish the season,” Waterbury said. “With that transformation into a total theme park, we think we can still satisfy the 21st century expectations while celebrating the retro flavor.”

    The theme park currently has 25 rides and can potentially reach a market of 3 million people who live within a three-hour radius. Waterbury has his sights on expanding it to 35 rides so he can reach a larger radius of up to 8 million people. He also wants to offer tourism packages with Turning Stone Resort and Casino with chaperoned trips for children whose parents would prefer to stay in Verona to gamble golf or see a show. And Waterbury’s own events company will bring in big-name performers to Sylvan Beach in the years to come.

    “With all of those things we can transform the terrain into a major destination,” he said. “Now we’re on the radar screen.”

    The Renaissance Festival in Sterling will feature almost 150 performances per day this season, and continued restoration of the park’s building and grounds is running according to schedule. For 2012, Waterbury is hoping to build a 5,000 seat multi-use arena for jousting and other live entertainment events. He also has enough land available there for a 200-300 site campground with full amenities and a swimming pool.

    “We want to expand it and continue to feature other attractions there,” he said. “But we’re not rushing into anything. I’ve had a lot of success because of careful, thought-out planning. We’re practical people. We’re not foolish.”

    Meanwhile, Waterbury wants to expand his empire to other states. He will consider acquiring two Renaissance festivals in Texas, one of which is located just outside of Houston and among the largest venues of its kind in the nation. He has plans for tour boats in Pennsylvania and aspires to build a “South Pole” theme park in Florida, preferably near Orlando.

    “Think about Santa in Bermuda shorts, sitting in the sand someplace warm after his Christmas work is done,” Waterbury said. “That can be 10 years down the road before we turn a shovel, but I am serious about the idea.”

    Waterbury said he’s only interested in building or owning theme parks, and is not considering any type of partnership or leasing arrangement in future ventures. Mainly, he prefers to acquire and revitalize theme parks that are older but still well-known.

    As Waterbury proceeds with these projects, much of his work might eventually be featured in the national spotlight. He was in Hollywood recently to meet with reality show producers from the Original Production Company, which is interested in filming him for several months. The show would be called “Renaissance Man.”

    Waterbury said he’s negotiating whether he’ll have the authority to decide what gets filmed and what gets aired. He’s already made it clear that the cameras are off when he’s at home with his family.

    “We value our private life,” he said.

    Original Productions’ creations include “1,000 ways to Die,” “Motor City Motors,” Deadliest Catch,” “America’s Toughest Jobs,” and “Ultimate Plastic Surgery — Before and After.”

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 164

Issue 164
October/November 2019

Cover Story

  • Cruse Control
  • Jeff Cruse takes over as top leader for Novelis’ Oswego Works


Linda Eagan

On The Job

What type of marketing do you find most effective?

Success Stories

The Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County

My Turn

Why President Trump Won’t Admit Mistakes


News Briefs on Local Businesses & Business People

Economic Trends

Oswego County IDA Recapitalizes Popular Loan Program

Last Page

Rodmon King