Visitor's guide to Lost Island: a theme park worth discovering

June 24, 2023, 10:22 PM · With most regions of the United States already hosting at least one full size amusement park, it’s become increasingly rare for an entire new development to occur. Several attempts have been made over the past couple decades, but often these fizzle out in the planning stages, and on the rare occasion one gets built, success is difficult to achieve. However, one that has managed to open its gates recently is Lost Island Theme Park. Located in the city of Waterloo, Iowa, this park is fairly remote as it’s about an hour drive from the nearest large city (Cedar Rapids), two hours from Iowa’s population center (Des Moines), and four hours from the nearest major airport (Minneapolis). However, with this year’s theme park road trip planned to take me from Kansas City to Chicago (before returning via St. Louis), I decided to make a detour to check this place out. What I expected was a small park with some fun rides and creative theming. What I found, however, was quite possibly the best park in the Central US not named Silver Dollar City.

While Lost Island is a new park, it is not a wholly new development. Back in 2001, the Bertch Family opened Lost Island Waterpark, which has grown into one of the best mid-size waterparks in the country.

A entrance to a water park

In the mid-2010s, they made the decision that it was time to expand, and this would be accomplished by building a 90-acre theme park on property across the street from their existing operation. Originally, this park was themed to a lost continent (such as Atlantis), but that was discarded in favor of something new. Without rights to any popular IP, Lost Island created their own, coming up with the enchanted island of Auk Modu, a place composed of five different elemental realms that are kept in balance by the mysterious Tamariki. Construction began in August of 2019 by digging out a third of the property to create an artificial lake, and over the next three years a park sprung up from the former cornfield.

outdoor, sky, cloud, tree

Lost Island opened to the world on June 18, 2022, but unfortunately that first season didn’t go as planned. Due to delays caused by the Covid pandemic, roughly a third of the park’s attractions were not ready to go at opening, and some of those missed the first year entirely. Additionally, a lack of advertising resulted in extremely low visitation, with the park only turning a profit on a single operating day. The incomplete look of the park, as well as operational issues caused by low staffing, led to subpar reviews, and the park closed early for the season. In May of this year, they reopened their gates with a full attraction line-up, full staffing across the board, and a new strategy to make the park a success. So, join me now as we take a tour of Auk Modu and see what this place has to offer.

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Upon arrival, guests step onto Ara Matua, a boulevard which functions as the main street of this park. Colorful pathways lead guests toward the grand entrance, a Polynesian inspired structure with the park’s name and logo front and center. Beyond is a courtyard giving views of each of the realms that make up this park, arranged in a circular manner for convenient navigation.

A ferris wheel in a park

Aoka, the Tamariki of Friendship, serves as the park’s mascot and is on hand to greet visitors. Helpful island guides (this park’s name for staff members) are also available to answer any questions guests may have. Otherwise, it’s time to head deeper into Auk Modu. Although I went clockwise on my expedition, we’re going to go the other way here to line up with the numbers on my map.

sky, outdoor, playground, plant

Our first realm is the spirit realm, home to the Tamariki. While the magical guardians of Auk Modu and the ones charged with maintaining balance, these mischievous little spirits enjoy play like children, and as such this functions as the park’s kiddie area.

sky, outdoor, plant, ground

A Wacky Worm coaster named Lokolo and a half dozen Zamperla flat rides are available, all given an island name and decorated to fit within the colorful realm. At the center of everything is the Tamikoa Grotto, a play structure providing young ones the perfect spot to burn off energy. A snack stand (Ummi Ummis) and gift shop (Tamariki Trinkets) round off the area’s offerings. It’s not an area too unlike kids areas at most theme parks, but it is well done and just an appetizer for the level of detail that is to come.

A roller coaster in a park

Next up on our tour of Auk Modu, we reach the realm of Udara. Home to the Air Kingdom populated primarily by quirky inventors, this area is given a steampunk vibe and has various thematic pieces powered by the simple flow of air.

outdoor, sky, antenna, street

In the lore of the island, a floating city once resided over this region, and the people here now seek the knowledge required to rebuild and repopulate that wonderful civilization. Here, we find Nopuko Air Coaster, the largest of the park’s three roller coasters, which is a refurbished Vekoma SLC that formerly operated in South Africa. An intense and somewhat rough ride, this one was not a favorite of mine, but is a wonderful thematic fit for this area of the park. A couple other flat rides adorn this realm, including a Gerstlauer Sky Fly and a Zamperla Family Swinger, and the Aviarium play structure at the center hosts ADA-friendly activities for the young and young at heart, but the signature attraction in Udara is the Skyborne Drop Tower.

sky, outdoor, purple, theme park

Lost Island was built for a budget of just $100 million, and as such the park features primarily stock model attractions and used rides from other parks. However, this park goes all out in making everything fit the lore, and Skyborne is a perfect example of such. While the ride itself is a standard S&S Turbo Drop, it features an elaborate indoor queue filled with props and murals that tell the story of the Udara people and their attempts to reestablish their floating city.

wall, indoor, ceiling, art

This culminates in a preshow informing passengers they are about to take a ride on a new experimental air transport that will be used to allow travel between the island and the floating city. While the ride itself is nothing to write home about, the level of detail in the whole experience is something that sets this park apart from some parks that are theme parks in name only. To keep within budget, each area of Lost Island contains one such signature attraction that offers guests a look into the backstory created for Auk Modu.

sky, outdoor, tree, swimming pool

Continuing past Skyborne, pines fade to palms as we enter Awa. Home to the Water Nomads who formerly sailed across the globe to satisfy their longing for aquatic adventure, they have largely become an easygoing group who now enjoy the simple pleasures of island life. This beachy area is the largest section of the park and contains quite a variety of family-friendly attractions spread out over two connected areas.

outdoor, ground, sky, tree

The first is home to Awaati Water Battle, a splash battle attraction for those who wish to get soaked, as well as Akua Maze, a play area with copious opportunities to get wet. A couple flat rides, namely a pirate ship and water-themed flying carousel, are available for those who would rather remain a bit drier. This is also where guests will find Whalebone Grill, one of the park’s two counter-service restaurants. While I didn’t eat at the park, I did peek at the menu and found it to contain mostly bowls and sandwiches, with common chicken options as well as more thematic seafood selections. Prices were also very reasonable: $6-10 for entrees and $3-4 for sides.

outdoor, sky, tree, ground

Crossing a bridge, we arrive at the second part of Awa, an island in the middle of Lost Island’s central lagoon. While most of the park is complete, this was sadly the one area that still felt like it needed some work. We saw crews still installing lanterns along the pathway in parts of this island, and the Nika’s Gift Carousel that has been delayed due to manufacturing issues is still far from completion. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do here. The Alzanu’s Eye Ferris Wheel is at the dead center of the park and provides a great view of the entire property, and there are also a couple smaller flat rides as well as an arcade and multiple play areas to keep visitors entertained. This section of the park also houses the Thirsty Voyager, the only location in the park to purchase alcoholic beverages and join the islanders in their relaxation.

outdoor, sky, plant, ruins

Once we’re ready to leave the beach behind, another bridge leads over to Yuta. Inhabited by the Earth Tribe, this region is intended to be a dense jungle but has yet to grow in. As such, the Totara Market, which is built inside of a large tree named Namua, does look a bit out of place, but in time I feel it will be complimented well by its surroundings. This is the park’s second counter-service restaurant, serving up burgers, wraps, pizza, chicken, and pork dishes.

sky, outdoor, tree, playground

All the buildings in the area are designed as if made out of stone, including this realm’s play structure, which is designed to look like ancient ruins. Besides that, this area actually has a relatively low ride count, but all three attractions here are worth experiencing.

outdoor, sky, ground, playground

First up is Yuta Falls, a modern version of a log flume that serves as this area’s signature attraction. Long ago, the Yuta Tribe took what the Earth provided them with as their exclusive right, which led to excessive mining and logging of the land. On the verge of ecological collapse, a great serpent appeared to them and taught them how to live in balance with nature, taking only what they needed and protecting the rest of the forest so that others may have their needs met as well.

outdoor, plant, sky, building

This story is told through several murals in the lengthy queue line, with the flume ride that follows representing a journey to a mystic water source with healing qualities, with which the tribe was able to right the wrongs of the past.

A roller coaster in a park

The giant serpent, known as Matugani, is the theme for this realm’s other large attraction. An Intamin accelerator coaster that formerly operated in Sweden as Kanonen, Matugani blasts riders out of a stone station at 0-46 MPH in 2 seconds before passing over a 78 ft. tall top hat, completing a 65 ft. vertical loop, and spiraling through several quick turns and an in-line twist. It’s a very short ride, but packs a punch and is sure to leave thrill seekers satisfied.

A group of people on bumper cars

The third ride in this section is Kukui Station, a bumper cars attraction with a bit of a twist. Instead of more common cars, these have riders sitting on top of rings and controlling each wheel individually, allowing for higher speed collisions and leading to lots of spinning. Lights and music enhance the experience, and there are even points where the computer will take control of cars, forcing them to dance in unison.

sky, outdoor, building, fountain

As we ascend a slight grade, the landscape turns dark and the structures turn red. This is Mura, home of the Fire Clan. A large volcano dominates this area, with everything else forming a village at its base. Inhabiting this realm are the spiritual warriors of Auk Modu, who are tasked with protecting the entire island from the terrifying monsters and demons that threaten it from time to time.

sky, tree, outdoor, playground

When not at war, they are athletes and acrobats, lending to this area containing a few of the park’s more thrilling flat rides. Named for the monsters that have terrorized the island in the past and centered around the Makatu Shrine play area, these will spin you around and turn you upside down. The signature ride of this area, however, as well as the best attraction in the entire park, lies within the volcano itself.

outdoor, place of worship, building, sky

Of all the artifacts on Auk Modu, the most important of them is the Ora Tika idol. Protecting this is the responsibility of the Mura clan, as it is the power holding Volkanu, the demon of fire, at bay deep within the Mura volcano. When this idol goes missing, the Tamariki need your help to recover it and save Auk Modu from destruction. Such is the setup for Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol.

art, purple, cave, light

Your adventure on this attraction begins with a pre-show setting the stage, followed by a winding indoor queue that contains other visual effects as well as an animatronic of the Shaman, your guide for this adventure.

A person in a garment

The ride itself is a trackless, 4D interactive dark ride aboard vehicles with motion bases that move through an environment populated by sets, screens, animatronics, and all sorts of visual effects. Riders must find the Ora Tika idol and use its power to defeat both the lava monster Rokava as well as Volkanu himself to prevent the island from becoming lost forever. It is a high-tech attraction pulled off masterfully, and is quite possibly the best dark ride I’ve experienced in North America outside of the big destination parks.

art, christmas

Throughout all the realms of Lost Island, the main thing that remains constant is the commitment of this park to doing as much as it possibly can with the resources that they have. As awesome as it would be to see something completely immersive, the park doesn’t have the budget for that, so on a visual level it does seem a bit barren in spots.

sky, outdoor, playground, tree

However, the level of detail in what the park has built is absolutely top notch, from the signature attractions all the way down to simple fencing around the walkways. Paint schemes and station structures are consistent with what one would expect from a realm themed to that element, and queue lines are wood posts and ropes rather than unpainted steel switchbacks. Even the pathway and landscaping changes from realm to realm, making it clear that you’re transitioning as you make your way around the park. The park tries really hard to make each area distinct and make everything feel like a part of this world that they’ve created, leaving tell-tale theme park elements for use only where there really isn’t any other choice.

cloud, outdoor, sky, building

Beyond that, the employees really sell the experience. The park has it’s own language called Aukipi, and guides sprinkle words from that into their spiels. Additionally, each realm has a couple natives as streetmosphere characters, and Dr. Marion Galavant can be spotted throughout the park studying the cultures of Auk Modu. The park’s official app goes much deeper into the lore and backstory of the entire place, and numerous interactive elements scattered throughout the park form a sort of treasure hunt for those who enjoy the modern game aspects of themed entertainment. This park really gives everything 150%, and it’s impressive that they’ve managed to create such a high-quality themed experience for a fraction of the budget Disney or Universal spend on a single E-ticket attraction.

outdoor, sky, sign, castle

Longtime readers of this site may remember a game we used to play here called Theme Park Apprentice. In that game, the final challenge was always to design a theme park from the ground up, either as a new park within an existing chain or using an original concept not tied to any property. To me, Lost Island feels a bit like a Theme Park Apprentice proposal brought to life, as it’s full of imagination and creativity that modern attractions based on pre-existing IP and designed solely to maximize profit tend to lack. This is a park unlike anything else in the country, one where the designers poured heart and soul into every facet of its being, and one that truly puts the guest experience first. Despite the limitations of the real world and despite how it looks on paper, this park is truly a gem hidden in a place few are likely to stumble upon, and if it can gain a foothold and grow, has serious potential of rivaling any regional theme park in the country a decade from now. I’ve heard some whispers about expansion plans this place has, and if they are able to enact them, it could very well turn into a place like Germany’s Phantasialand, with lots of original high-quality storytelling and thematic experiences of a level not typically found outside of Disney or Universal.

outdoor, sky, tower

But Lost Island needs your help, and not just to defeat Volkanu. The park was designed with the goal of averaging 3,000-4,000 guests per day during the summer season, and as you can probably see from my pictures, they aren’t getting anywhere close to that. Just last weekend, the park celebrated their first day with four-digit attendance this year, and everyone was excited to see actual lines in the park instead of there being just enough people to fill the rides. To put it into perspective, I was there on a weekday in mid-June, and I’ve been to Knott’s Berry Farm on school days in January with more people in the park. As such, if you have the ability to do so, I highly encourage you to venture to the park this year and show your support. It is a park hampered by location, and if they can’t get attendance there is a serious chance they may not reopen in 2024. However, if word gets out and more discover this place, there’s no reason for it not to succeed just as the waterpark next door has done.

It’s rare that a new park springs up in this industry, and it’s even more rare that one with such thought put into it arises. Lost Island Theme Park is truly an outlier in all the best ways, and what they’ve done thus far is only a scratch on the surface of a well filled with untapped potential. What I saw reminded me very much of the regional parks I found dotted around Germany on my trip last year, but when it comes to domestic parks, Lost Island is truly one of a kind.

If You Go

Lost Island is located just south of US 20 in Waterloo, Iowa. Due to road construction in the area, GPS navigation may not be accurate, so make sure to review a map prior to arrival. At the time of my visit, the only access to the park was via US 218 as the intersection of Hess Rd. and Shaulis Rd. was completely closed for construction. The theme park and waterpark are open 10:30am – 6:30pm daily through August 20, then open Saturday and Sunday the following two weekends before closing for the season. On select Friday and Saturday nights, the theme park is open until 9:30pm. Allow yourself approximately three to four hours for the theme park and about six hours total if you also want to visit the waterpark. Admission is $52 at the gate, with savings of up to $10 if purchased online in advance. The park also sells one day Island Passes at the gate for $62, which grant admission to both the theme park and waterpark. Parking is $10 per vehicle. For more information, visit

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Replies (17)

June 25, 2023 at 7:43 AM

Great review. I hope they do get the attendance they’re looking for, but the location seems to be a challenge. The lack of shade also seems to be problematic. But good to see the focus on theming - being a one of a kind might be good for the marketing team, but tried and tested flat rides done right are just as fun.

June 25, 2023 at 10:35 AM

I can see the issues as Iowa isn't exactly known as a tourist spot. But kudos to these guys going all in for an original theme for a park and it looks like a fun showcase so hopefully more great reviews like this can lead to more visitors.

June 25, 2023 at 12:54 PM

Fortune favors the bold. AJ offers a wonderful love letter to an ambitious regional park. Between this and the recent TPI article about 'Casa Bonita' it's clear that the only real "theme park insiders" are those who can look beyond Orlando. Well done AJ. Well done Lost Island!

June 25, 2023 at 2:56 PM

This place wasted a lot of money on theming and/or picked the wrong theme IMO. A pacific island (or whatever they are going for) theme in the middle of Iowa without a proper berm/hills/foliage looks bizarre and out of place. It's a small market, the paths are enormous, and the big open spaces are too big to make that kind of theming immersive, and the whole thing just gives off dead mall vibes. A park like Kentucky Kingdom that has light theming in places but smaller paths and plenty of trees/landscaping to create a sense of intimacy I think would be much more viable economically and not require such a cash dump to maintain theming that the visitors there won't care about.

June 25, 2023 at 2:57 PM

Awesome write up on this charming theme park. But now c'mon the Midwest!!! Let's support this park that is really trying and offers an awesome place to spend a day. If this park was within a three-four hour drive from my place I would visit at least twice a season. I do plan on visiting this park down the line (sometime this decade) along with other theme park destinations of the Midwest. But I fear I won't get a chance with the attendance situation described by Mr. Hummel.

A part of me understands that Waterloo, IA may not have been the wisest choice but Holiday World in Santa Clause has proven it can work. I know here in the Southwest we would support this park. Our small, fair-esque park Western Playland seems to get more visitors and it's not half, or a third, the park Lost Island is.

I hope this park weathers this storm and crafts its niche in the near future. Seems like an awesome place with a cohesive and attractive theme.

June 25, 2023 at 3:36 PM

Shared this with a friend who lives in Iowa and he laughed at the talk of it being "remote."

"It is about 10 miles away from where I went to college (at a major state college, UNI). Waterloo has 70,000 people and runs continuously into Cedar Falls - another 40,000 people."

So should be doing a bit better, maybe they need to advertise more. I mean, it's Iowa, can't be that many attractions around here.

June 25, 2023 at 3:40 PM

Thanks for the great report, AJ. Definitely adding this to my to-do list. I would love to hit this up the week before the IndyCar races at Iowa Speedway, then throw in a visit to Adventureland as well.

That said, I am a little frustrated by the exurban car-centric design that puts this, the water park, and a big casino hotel within a quarter-mile of each other, but provides no practical way to walk from one to either of the others. That undercuts what could have been some nice synergy to create a multi-attraction destination.

I get that's what can happens when destinations evolve over time without outside restrictions, but it's still a missed opportunity to create a more compelling attraction for visitors.

June 25, 2023 at 5:22 PM

A few comments on the comments...

Chad: Shade is definitely lacking on the walkways here, but fortunately the park does have shade structures over most of the longer queue lines as well as indoor seating at both restaurants. Hopefully as the foliage grows in this will be less of an issue.

Mike: Waterloo does have about 500k people within a 50 mile radius and over 2 million within 100 miles, so it's not absolutely devoid of people. However, it's also a location that doesn't have enough of a local audience to create a reliable passholder base, so they need to get people who are either vacationing in that region or are willing to trek out there to visit the park. I agree with you on advertising...while prominent in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, there was pretty much none that I saw outside of that, so I assume the established Adventureland right near Des Moines is getting much of the state's theme park traffic (it was definitely much busier than Lost Island on my visit the day before).

TH: Thanks for the compliments! I've long been an advocate that if you haven't been to Orlando, you should go to Orlando, but if you have been to Orlando, you should venture elsewhere rather than returning over and over. While you won't get the familiar IP at other parks, if you don't need that many regional parks still provide just as enjoyable of an experience, and particularly among the independent parks there's a certain charm that's become lost to corporate operations and policies.

The_Man: It's tough to capture the feel of a place in pictures, and when you're walking around the park it works a lot better than simply seeing the images. While the outside world does creep in, there's enough to see within the park that you generally don't notice it too much unless you're looking for it. If you compare it to somewhere like Disney, Universal, or even the older SeaWorld stuff, of course it's not going to hold up. However, the theming quality does compare favorably to even the more recent Cedar Fair and Six Flags attempts, and it's really what allows the park that would otherwise be fairly pedestrian to feel novel and unique. Call it a waste of money if you want, but other than Silver Dollar City this place was the nicest of the parks I visited on my trip in the theming and landscaping department.

Manny: If I lived in Iowa or one of the surrounding states, Lost Island would be an annual trip for me. It does feel a bit similar to Holiday World in that it's an independent park relatively removed from a population center that is doing things right. It did take over a decade after Holiday World became known beyond their local audience for them to become a widely recognized park, so I'm hopeful if Lost Island can get through a few seasons and start getting a following the way the waterpark did they'll have a bright future before them. The owners expected the first year to be a loss as it does take time for a new business to grow, but if they aren't turning a profit within two or three years it's going to be difficult to sustain the operation, so hopefully as summer gets into full swing they'll see more visitors.

Robert: Part of the construction currently going on is to add proper footpaths connecting everything together. The end goal is to make it possible to walk from the KOA campground all the way to the theme park, but the project likely won't be complete for a couple years as it's being done by the city. Visiting as part of a larger Iowa trip would be a great way to check this place out, and Adventureland is definitely worth stopping at if you're in the Des Moines area (that park has a very "Disneyland at home" feel in parts).

June 26, 2023 at 11:03 AM

I spotted a couple of folks wearing t-shirts for Lost Island when we visited Worlds of Fun over Memorial Day Weekend. I had to look to see how far it was, and saw it was nearly 5 hours from Kansas City. While I applaud the attempt here to build something of this quality out of nothing, it really doesn't make sense to try to do this literally in the middle of nowhere. Iowans have a love affair with Field of Dreams, and there's definitely a lot of "build it and they will come" to this theme park.

I hope that they're able to find some success, but without a legitimate reason to visit this region and a lack of sufficient population to support something like this from a local level, I worry that this won't last long. Water parks can thrive in small markets because they're relatively cheap to build and maintain. Theme parks are a completely different story, and just don't have the same kind of appeal to a local community.

I wish this project the best, but this isn't anywhere near the quality of Hard Rock Park, which was built in a proven tourist area and still couldn't survive.

June 26, 2023 at 11:34 AM

Holiday World is a benchmark here. The setting for that park is ever more challenging than for Lost Island. So success is possible, but it requires an enormous amount of outreach, a commitment to providing value over nickel-and-dime-ing for immediate return, and a willingness to find and serve attraction niches in the industry, such as the wooden coasters that helped HW break out within the coaster community.

June 26, 2023 at 12:00 PM

I feel that Holiday World also has the advantage of being in Santa Claus, IN and the kitsch that comes with celebrating Christmas year-round. Also, Holiday World isn't quite as far in the middle of nowhere as this is being less than 3 hours from Indy (tricky, but doable day-trip) and about 3 hours from St. Louis. That's 2 pretty big airports (and relatively major cities) that can serve the park.

As AJ noted, this park is nearly 5 hours from KC, 4+ hours from Chicago, and over 3 hours from Minneapolis. That means you almost certainly have to book a hotel room in Iowa to visit this park even if you live (or fly into) one of those major cities cities/airports. Also, for coaster/theme park fans, there just aren't a lot of other attractions of interest anywhere in this part of the country (there's not a single National Park in Iowa, and just 2 NPS attractions in the entire state), so even if you're on a road trip of the Midwest, getting to this park is going to require a pretty big detour.

June 26, 2023 at 11:54 AM

Yeah, the thing that worries me most about this park is the intimation that they need to turn a profit within the second or third year of operation. This makes sense as a long play, but if the owners aren't able to eat a loss for the better part of a decade, it'll be tough to make this work with such a small local population.

June 26, 2023 at 1:29 PM

I do not believe the markets are comparable.

Holiday World is within a reasonable drive from Louisville (1.4 million people), Indianapolis (2 million people), Lexington (500,000 people), and even Cincinnati (2.2 million people).

Lost Island's nearest city is Cedar Rapids which is only 135,000 people and its nearest big city is Des Moines which is only 700,000 people. Other than that there is nothing, maybe some people from Davenport would go but for that market you're competing with SFGAm. And quite honestly when SFGAm was my home park I don't remember seeing a whole lot of people from Davenport Iowa even though its their closest park, I think most of them just go to Orlando.

June 26, 2023 at 1:44 PM

Holiday World is also only an hour away from Evansville, which is where I flew in order to visit the park. Great report, AJ, BTW.

June 26, 2023 at 4:04 PM

Cool review AJ! Photos are nice, but first thought is where are all the trees!

Competition for Adventureland in Des Moines.

June 26, 2023 at 4:39 PM

Part two...

Russell: The last park day of my trip was actually an enthusiast event at Worlds of Fun, and the next day roughly a third of the group made the trek up to Lost Island from Kansas City (most as an overnight, but a few as a day trip). The consensus was that despite the size, Lost Island was the superior park, and some even said it was so good they'd fly in for an annual trip if it survives. From what I've heard, the park just had a pretty good weekend, so I'm hopeful that word of mouth will help throughout the year. It should also be noted that the waterpark is no small operation...they've got a lot of modern slides (including a Hydromagnetic Rocket), frequently come in near the top in national polls, and are the largest waterpark within a 300 mile radius. This is really the first proper season for the theme park, so it's going to be largely dependent on whether they can develop a following the way the waterpark has.

Jacob: I don't know any business that can operate at a loss year after year without folding. I don't know what the operating expenses are, but I'm going to hazard a guess they're probably north of $10 million per season once everything is factored in. That's 10% of the construction cost of this park, and not something they can absorb repeatedly even with the waterpark helping out. Unlike Hard Rock Park and their completely unrealistic projections, Lost Island's numbers are sound and they should be able to manage 3,000+ people per day during peak season with the population in the region, they just need to advertise more so that people will come.

Jay: Hopefully the trees will be more prominent in a few years after they've grown, as there were definitely a fair number planted. This place was an empty field a couple years ago, so it might still need a couple more before it starts to look right.

Regarding the Holiday World comparisons, Santa Claus has about 700k people within a 50 mile radius (vs. Waterloo's 500k), but it's got 3.3 million within 100 miles (Waterloo's only got 2.1 million), so Holiday World definitely has more to draw from. Holiday World also has three major cities to draw from (Indianapolis, Louisville, and Nashville), while Des Moines is really the only large population center reasonably close to Lost Island. That said, Holiday World opened in the 1940s and was virtually unknown outside the local audience until the 1990s, so if Lost Island can establish itself they could definitely follow a similar trajectory. The owner's plan is ideally to add a new attraction every other year and they're only looking at attractions that don't exist within a day's drive of the place, so if they offer a unique experience for the region it could take off. I also don't know what the surrounding area is like for tourism...Holiday World guests often don't go exclusively for Holiday World, so if eastern Iowa offers other attractions Lost Island could work by becoming part of a vacation rather than the sole destination of one.

Regarding flights, while Minneapolis is the closest major airport, Des Moines does have a commercial airport that offers service to a number of hubs throughout the country (including Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, and Washington), and Cedar Rapids also services a few of those destinations as well (Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver Phoenix, and Washington), so there are a couple airports within a two hour drive that could be used to visit the park. Waterloo itself actually does have a commercial flight to Chicago at their regional airport. However, I don't see this as a park most are going to fly to, and expect an overwhelming percentage of their guests will be road-trippers from other parts of the Midwest.

June 29, 2023 at 9:03 AM

Great write up as always, AJ! Hope all your future trips are just as rewarding and fun.

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