most notable tourist attractions, if you build it, people do not necessarily come. The state's new Lost Island theme park seems to have gotten off to a dismal start, with owners reporting deeply disappointing attendance for its first weeks of operation.Despite the lesson taught by one of Iowa's
Lost Island opened June 18 near Waterloo, north of Cedar Rapids. It's a sister property to the established Lost Island water park, which is located a short distance away across the road, making it impractical to walk between the two gates. That has limited the cross-over traffic between the two, which owners had been counting on to help drive attendance to the new park.
Yet owner Eric Bertch told The Gazette in Cedar Rapids that the new theme park has been welcoming just 100 to 300 customers per day, about one-tenth of the water park's attendance. The attracted just 415 guests over the Fourth of July weekend, which typically is one of the biggest weekends of the year for amusement attractions. Bertch said that they had expected the new park to attract 2,500 to 3,000 guests a day.
Lost Island has faced multiple challenges on the road to its debut. A fire in March destroyed the queue building for the park's Yuta Falls flume ride, which should have been one of the more popular attractions in the park. As a result, that ride will not be open this year. Also, the park has not been able to open what should have been its top roller coaster, Matugani, the relocated Kanonen Intamin launch coaster from Liseberg. Bertch blamed supply chain delays keeping Lost Island from receiving a needed brake motor part on that coaster, according to The Gazette.
The new Volkanu: Quest For The Golden Idol interactive dark ride from Sally has been a hit with riders, but one dark ride won't support an entire theme park. Lost Island's next biggest draw is a relocated Vekoma SLC... which isn't much of an attraction for many coaster fans, for whom the Vekoma SLC might be the most disliked coaster model on the market.
So what went wrong at Lost Island? The park has no outside IP, but it does offer a creative original IP concept, being themed to five "realms," with four representing ancient elements - Fire, Water, Air, and Earth - plus the spirits that maintain them in balance. The location, one hour north of Cedar Rapids, is a challenge. It is adjacent to the Isle Casino, but casino/theme park combinations have posted a mixed record of success over the years. (Sentosa Island has been a win, Las Vegas generally has failed, and the jury is still out on Genting in Malaysia.)
Lost Island's model probably should be Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, which also is located far off the beaten tourist path, in Santa Claus, Indiana, and also is a family-owned property. But Holiday World & Splashin' Safari operate as one gate, with both parks accessible on a single ticket and located at the same site. Holiday World also evolved over decades from its origins as the Santa Claus Land roadside attraction, putting less financial pressure on the family.
Lost Island's rough start draws comparisons with Hard Rock Park, the failed theme park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which rebranded after one season then closed soon after that. Hard Rock was located in a booming tourist town, but unrealistic attendance expectations doomed the park's finances.
We do not know what Lost Island's fate will be. It depends upon how long the Bertch family can continue to run the park until attendance rises to the point where the park becomes financially sustainable. The challenge is that the park will need more attractions and more promotion - including possibly discounts on $49 admission tickets - to attract more visitors. And all of those solutions cost the park money that it is not now making.
For a line-up of the park's attractions, please see our opening-day post on Lost Island.
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