Parrot Island pushing season passes, hoping COVID-19 doesn’t delay opening

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 929 views 

Season passes are on sale at Parrot Island Waterpark and administrators are hopeful the COVID-19 pandemic won’t prevent a May 16 opening. The water park in Fort Smith is scheduled to be open May 16 through Sept. 7. A pre-season sale for passes on in effect until April 30.

“We met with the city last week and decided to officially open May 16. We have a couple of other dates that we can switch to if we have to (because of the COVID-19 pandemic),” said Kyle Taylor, park general manager.

Two options of season passes are available: The blue pass and the gold pass. The blue pass, which is $53 for a single or $179 for a family of four, allows pass owners unlimited admission all season long; one day free admission to Epic Waters in Dallas; and Friend Frenzy, which allows the pass owner get a friend in free on certain dates. The pass also gives a 10% discount on concessions; 20% discount on retail purchases and 30% discount on cabana rentals. The gold pass, which is $71 for an individual or $242 for a family of four, includes all the benefits of the blue pass plus 30 minute early admission every Saturday and Sunday and few other perks, Taylor said.

Management does not expect to refund part of the season ticket price if the park opens later than May 16 because the passes offer more than just daily entrance to the park, Taylor said. However, if the park has to remain closed for the entire season due to health concerns, those who purchased season tickets have two options — transfer the passes to the 2021 season or receive a refund, he said.

Even with the concerns of COVID-19 that have become a constant topic in the state and nation, sales for season passes, which began March 17, are on trend compared to years past, Taylor said.

“Right now we are pretty comparable to where we were at this time last year,” he said.

As of Monday (March 30), there were 473 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas with seven deaths. There are six confirmed cases in Sebastian County and one to four in Crawford County. On March 26, Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an order prohibiting the gathering of more than 10 people effective March 27 until further notice.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved the first price increase on daily admission to the park in five years in Nov. 5. Single-day ticket prices increased $3 to $18 for those over four feet tall and $13 for those under four feet tall. Non-swimmer spectator passes will remain $5. At that Nov. 5 meeting of the Fort Smith BOD, Richard Coleman, American Resort Management CEO, said the price increase will generate revenue but won’t exceed the prices of other water parks in northwest Arkansas, Hot Springs or Little Rock.

At that same meeting, directors approved an additional $121,500 for a fifth water slide at the park. The slide, a tube slide where patrons ride down the slide on an inner tube was previously approved, has a total price of $441,000. There was $198,000 left in the park’s expansion budget, leaving a difference of $243,000 for the project to be split evenly between the city and Sebastian County.

The slide was expected to be finished by the time the season opened this year. That will not happen, said Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman.

“We thought we would be able to attach the slide the existing slide tower, but that can’t happen. So they are going to have to put in additional tower, which will be good because it will allow for overall expansion of the park later,” Dingman said.

There have been difficulties getting steel and fiberglass in for the new slide. Dingman said they might be able to start the construction this summer, but the more likely scenario is that construction of the slide will begin in the fall.

Parrot Island had a 2019 net operating income of $77,528, up 51% from 2018’s net operating income of $51,000, despite a tornado in May that caused damage to the park, and historical flooding of the Arkansas River that impacted park attendance and 20 rain days.

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