We are heartbroken. Our beloved leader, Will Koch, passed away last night. We believe it was due to his Type 1 diabetes. Please say a prayer for the family and for all of us here at the park. He was so much more than a boss, he was a dear, sweet friend. As we know he would have wanted, the park will be open today and we'll all try our best to smile and provide wonderful memories to the families who visit us. And also as Will wanted, the park will remain owned and operated by his family.
Editor's note: Stunning. Yeah, I'm supposed to be a writer, but I can't possibly articulate anything that expresses how crushed I feel as a theme park fan, nor how many of you surely feel.
Holiday World's The Voyage won our Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament this spring, and I heard from multiple sources how thrilled Will was to earn that honor.
I never met Will Koch, but he was one of the good folks in the theme park business, someone who helped build what was once a roadside attraction into a world-class theme park. And he did it, as everyone who has done that, through an obsessive focus on customer service. For that, we are all grateful.
Koch is survived by his wife, Lori, and three children: Lauren, Leah, and William. He is also survived by his mother, Pat, and siblings Dan, Kristi, Philip and Natalie.
Let's send our condolences to the Koch and Holiday World families, via the comments.
(Update (June 16): Since the death of a person in his 40s is somewhat unusual, I thought that I should note for the record that the coroner reports that Koch drowned in the family's swimming pool.)Tweet
The industry has indeed lost one of the good guys. As all great showmen do, Will Koch put his audience first and gave them more than their money's worth. Because of that, his small regional park in the middle of the southern Indiana corn is now nationally recognized, highly regarded, and dearly loved by the people who've been there. The success Holiday World now enjoys was obtained in ways that make the heads of corporate suits and MBAs spin. Instead of charging his customers for the little things, Will Koch said to hell with the bottom line and gave them away. The 4 dollar soda at another park became a free one at Holiday World, and the 10 dollar parking fee simply didn't exist. Despite the disregard for profit and revenue, Will and his park were able to come up with some of the greatest coasters in the world, one of which toppled the Theme Park giants to win best attraction here at Theme Park Insider. Holiday World created an atmosphere not of hundred million dollar rides and technology, but one of tradition, integrity, value, service, and fun, and they continue to win the hearts of almost everyone who walk through their gates because of the values he instilled.
From the looks of things, I don't think it was all about money for him and his family so much as it was about entertaining and treating every single guest like they were a piece of gold. He knew that this business isn't really about money, it's about people. For that reason, Holiday World is a success and a shining example of all that is good about amusement parks and American business. He leaves behind not only a family, but also a gold standard for the industry to measure itself by, and a painfully simple philosophy that corporate boards in glass towers will have to study for years to come. Because of Will Koch and his family, Holiday World is truly an American success story.
Every year we have seen Pat at the front gate welcoming guests (we like to refer to her as "Grandma".) Each year we would see Will makign his way through the park greeting guests and mentoring his team.
He obviously loved his job. I like my job, but he LOVED his job. That love showed in everything in the park. He was always smiling and it wasn't an act. He was born to run Holiday World.
He had 20 years to make millions of people happy - if only for a day or two. Any life that can speak to that level of accomplishment is a life well lived - no matter how short of a time he had.
The McLain family sends our thoughts and prayes to the Koch family and all of the extended Holiday World team. Will is going to be missed by his family, the company and the community around Santa Claus, IN.
Today, Santa shed a tear.
P.S. The Voyage Roller Coaster which he helped to design is my favorite wooden roller coaster around. Thank you Mr. Koch!
Jim B of Indianapolis
Holiday World Fan (Gone but Not Forgotten) Melody!!!!!
We have all lost an amazing person from our reality.
I'm so very happy I got to see him a week ago; engaged and enjoying his life!
My condolences go out to his family, his friends, his coworkers, and everyone that he touched.
Will Koch came by, sat down, and we talked for probably 20 minutes one afternoon. I suggested that clocks on the buildings would help with keeping track of time for everyone for meeting up to regroup, eat, or whatever.
The kids and I were back at Holiday World and Splashin' Safari 2 weeks later for an afternoon. And there were clocks!!!
That's the type of guy Will Koch was. He'd take time to visit with guests and listen to their needs and ideas.
Praying for all the family and employees during this difficult time.
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