Just add water: Fun park to make big splash with new attraction

This image shows what the new Coconut Cove water attraction at Bananas Fun Park in Grand Junction will look like. The attraction will tower 50-feet tall and include more than 50 features, including a 10,000-gallon tipping bucket. (Photo courtesy Bananas Fun Park)

This image shows what the new Coconut Cove water attraction at Bananas Fun Park in Grand Junction will look like. The attraction will tower 50-feet tall and include more than 50 features, including a 10,000-gallon tipping bucket. (Photo courtesy Bananas Fun Park)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Chris Burns believes he’s come up with a cool way to turn hot weather into a competitive advantage at his Grand Junction entertainment center: just add water.

In fact, Burns expects to make a big splash — figuratively and literally — in opening the largest water attraction in the region at Bananas Fun Park.

What’s billed as Coconut Cove will tower 50 feet tall and include more than 50 water play features, including slides, splash pads and arching jets. Every three minutes, a 10,000-gallon bucket at the top will tip, drenching the structure and those playing on it.

Construction is under way on the $2.3 million addition with completion scheduled for the Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s so hot in the summer. Let’s take advantage of that heat with water,” says Burns, owner of Bananas Fun Park.

Coconut Cove constitutes the latest addition to the fun park Burns opened 13 years ago, proving the axiom that if he builds it, customers will come. The operation has turned a profit every year, he says, even in the midst of ups and downs in the economy.

Burns opened a laser tag arena in 2006 and renovated the facility in 2012. Another makeover is planned for November.

A 10,000-square-foot pavilion opened in 2009 to offer a venue for special events as well as a climate-controlled place to house inflatable play structures.

When it comes to the business of fun, capital investment is serious stuff, Burns says. “You’ve got to keep getting better in this industry. You just can’t stand still.”

Burns has long envisioned a water attraction to add to what’s one of the most popular rides in his park: a fleet of bumper boats that ply a large lagoon. “People love those boats.”

With average high temperatures in the 80s and 90s from June through September in the Grand Valley, it makes sense to offer a place for families to cool off, he says.

Like the rest of the attractions at Bananas, Burns says Coconut Cove will cater to customers of all ages — from toddlers to their grandparents.

Several areas of the attraction will offer a place where the youngest of the young can splash around. There’s no standing water anywhere, which makes play safer. Clear sight lines allow for easy supervision, Burns says. But the multiple-level platforms, curving slides and other features also offer excitement for those a little older and more adventurous.

To cater to those who love to get wet, Bananas will offer Water Wednesdays and discounted admission to the bumper boats and Coconut Cove. That’s in addition to 10 Buck Tuesdays, when a $10 pass covers unlimited miniature golf and bumper boats as well as access to the laser tag arena and inflatable playland.

Burns expects his new water attraction to serve as a proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats — and not just those bumper boats, but also food and beverage sales at the Congo Cafe and an outdoor grill, the use of other attractions at the park and games in the arcade. That’s not to mention the number of birthday parties and other group events the park hosts.

As the largest attraction of its kind between Denver and Salt Lake City, Coconut Cove will add to what Burns says is already a regional draw in Bananas Fun Park. He also expects to bring in tourists visiting the region, whether they’re passing through Western Colorado or visiting national parks in Eastern Utah.

But even as new attractions drive business, so does a scrupulously clean facility and customer service that fosters a friendly and welcoming environment for families, Burns says. “If we provide the fun stuff and do it right, we should be all right.”

It’s a proposition to which Burns attributes his success over the years as what started out as a part-time venture renting inflatable play structures evolved into a full-time enterprise operating an entertainment center.

Burns says he’s also strives to surround himself with good people. During summers when the seasonal staff swells, that includes a lot of college and high school students. By his own reckoning, Burns calculates he’s provided jobs to 1,500 students over the years. “That’s pretty rewarding.”

Even more so, he says, when former employees bring their own children to Bananas and another generation discovers what’s offered there.

As for himself, Burns says he still enjoys work — whether that’s helping crews set up inflatables for a party or planting flowers at the park each spring.

Burns expects there’ll be even more work for him and his staff when Coconut Cove opens and more people come to Bananas to enjoy not only the water attractions, but also play laser tag, miniature golf and arcade games as well as drive go-carts around the track. “Everything is going to pick up.”

Depending on how things go, Burns says he could further expand the fun park with additional water attractions.

But for now, he says looking forward to offering a way for his customers to beat the heat even as he turns that hot weather into a competitive advantage for his entertainment park.

“I think it’s going to be really, really cool. The concept is awesome.”

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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