SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (WEHT) — Holiday World announced it will open for the 2020 season on June 17, but Splashin’ Safari will not open until July 4.

It’s the first time ever the theme park missed an opening day.

Park officials will have several measures in place to help protect guests.

Eyewitness News spoke to fourth generation owner Leah Koch Friday about what you can expect to see at the park.


Brandon Bartlett: Leah, thanks for joining us tonight. In a normal world, Holiday World would be open right now, but our world is anything but normal. You have now said that you have an opening date for June 17. How did you decide on that date?

Leah Koch: Well, the governor’s orders say that we could open at 50% on June 14, so we’ve decided that we wanted to give our season pass holders a couple days before the rest of the public gets to enjoy the parks. So June 14 will be for platinum season pass holders, June 15 will be for platinum season pass holders and regular season pass holders, and then June 16 will be for all of our season pass holders.

Brandon Bartlett: And what about Splashin’ Safari? You’re now looking at a target date of July 4, 2020? Is that right?

Leah Koch: That’s correct. We really wanted to take a phased approach in opening. You know, the worst thing we could do is open and be unprepared. So we really want to make sure that before we move up a step in our opening plan, we wanted to make sure that we had everything set and ready to go.

Brandon Bartlett: And you have a new policy this season that the ticket you buy is only valid for a certain day. Why is that and explain how that process will work.

Leah Koch: So rather than make a reservation online for a certain day, we want to keep things as simple as possible. So we felt, we looked at our data and most of the time consumers buy, you know, maybe one day or two days in advance before they come. So most of the time, they already know when they’re coming. So we took that information, and we decided to kind of build a model. We assume a certain number of season pass holders are going to come on a certain day, and then we kind of use that estimate and figure out how many other tickets we can sell.

Brandon Bartlett: It sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of planning behind the scenes there. People will be able to wait in line virtually for the rides this year. How will that work? And what if someone doesn’t have a smartphone?

Leah Koch: We’re really excited about this keyless system. So now you won’t have to wait in a normal line like you normally would. Now, we’re going to have socially-distanced options so you’ll be able to go check in on your phone on a simple web app. You won’t even have to download an app before you go! You’ll just pick your ride based on the wait time, show up at the time that they say to show up and you only have to wait 5 to 15 minutes, which I think is a pretty sweet deal. And if you’re not a smartphone user, we’ll have a wristband option as well. And you’ll just stand at the entrance to any ride you want. They’ll tell you when to return, and it’s as simple as that.

Brandon Bartlett: Well, let’s talk about social distancing. How do you plan to enforce that and will visitors be required to wear a face mask?

Leah Koch: So for social distancing, we’ve got a lot of different solutions depending on the area. So first of all, we definitely want to make sure that we’ve got the virtual queuing. But even once you’re in that queue to get onto the ride, we’ve made sure that we’re going to group people by their family unit. So rather than have every other row marked off like some parks are doing, we’re going to group you by your family. We’re going to keep you together, but we’re going to keep those families separated. In addition, we’re going to have decals on the ground to help you kind of figure out where you should stand on about how far 6 feet is. And for face masks, we expect that the state of Indiana will not require face masks in public and so we will follow their guidelines on that.

Brandon Bartlett: One thing Holiday World is known for is its freebies: the free soft drinks, the free sunscreen. Will they still be offered and will there be some changes made to how they’re handed out?

Leah Koch: The free soft drinks and free sunscreen will still be there. The free sunscreen is just going to get sanitized a lot more often than it normally does. And the free unlimited soft drinks, I believe we just got a approval from the health department that they should be able to operate as normal. But if not, we’ll always have an attendant there or something to help you because the free unlimited soft drinks aren’t going anywhere.

Brandon Bartlett: People will be glad to hear that. Well, when the park does open, what are some of the major changes we will notice and are there some changes behind the scenes we won’t notice?

Leah Koch: In addition to everything we’ve talked about, there’s also going to be hand sanitizing stations, which we’re pretty proud of and a lot of little changes. We’re going to have automatic dispensers for your utensils, so there won’t be any more touching other people’s utensils. We’re glad to be rid of that process. And there are going to be a ton of things that you may not notice. We’re going to have cleaning areas, cleaning schedules that are going to be a lot more intense, but we’re doing everything we can in the name of safety.

Brandon Bartlett: Cheetah Chase was set to open this season but there was also a setback and construction. At what point will it be ready to go when the park opens?

Leah Koch: We expect Cheetah Chase to be ready to go when we open the water park on July 4, and we may even be able to open the water park a little bit sooner depending on how we’re doing operationally.

Brandon Bartlett: Well Holiday World is family owned, several members of your family are involved in the day to day operations. And this was the first time that Holiday World has missed an opening day in its history. How difficult of a decision has this been for your family? And how does not being open for a month and a half affect the family business?

Leah Koch: Well, to start, when we first had to make that decision, it was very difficult for us as you said. Our family’s never missed an opening day, so we took it very seriously. But in the name of safety, it was an easy decision to make once we really considered that. We’re so excited, it means the world to my family to go into the park and to listen to people having fun, and we’re so ready to hear those people having fun again, we’re ready to hear people screaming. It’s just, it’s the best feeling in the world.