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Fun Times Fun Park: The Growth of an Amusement Park
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At Fun Times Fun Park in Alliance, Ohio, owner Jason Dlugokecki is just getting started on what he hopes will become an established family amusement park. For now, things are small at the recently opened park, but attendance is already growing annually, and the park is drawing a strong crowd of local regulars to enjoy the park’s offerings.

The park just added a new ride to its mix of mini-golf and water attractions: a 1964-era classic Tilt-a-Whirl.

“We purchased it in November,” Dlugokecki says. “It comes with quite a bit of nostalgia behind it for our area. We purchased it from Geauga Lake Park which closed in 2007.” He says the history that came with the ride is an important draw for his visitors. “When we announced that we were purchasing it, and where it came from, it was like announcing a piece of living history. There was a lot of interest in that park, and this in this particular attraction. We find we have a lot of older guests coming here to ride it, because they remember it at Geauga Lake Park from years ago.”

Adding the Tilt-a-Whirl is a first step toward a bigger Fun Times Fun Park, which is Dlugokecki’s ultimate goal.

“We purchased the property four years ago. It was just a run-down mini-golf, with batting cages and go-karts. It was all pretty badly beat-up, all original construction and rides from the 1980s,” he says. “We originally purchased the property to move our Haunted House business there,” Dlugokecki attests. “We’ve been successfully running that seasonal business for a long time, and we felt we’d outgrown our present location.”

However, things didn’t go exactly as planned. “We decided in the first summer to clean up the park, and it was so successful in its first year that we not only kept it going, we’ve kept adding to it. We now have a refurbished mini-golf, batting cages, and both adult and junior go-karts; plus the new Tilt-a-Whirl, bumper boats, a climbing wall, and bounce houses,” he relates. Additionally, Dlugokecki established an inflatable water park. “It’s a large area with a 30-foot tall water slide, and bounce houses that have water slides,” he explains.

The style of the park Dlugokecki is working to establish is as classic as the Tilt-a-Whirl he’s added. “We went back to early day of amusement parks, really. We are a free gated park, where you can buy tickets for the rides you want to ride, or purchase a wrist band so that you can ride all the rides you want for the entire day. If you just want to buy an all-day wrist band for the water area, you can do that too, at a discounted rate. We have a lot of local visitors who come very often and just want to enjoy the water rides in the summer heat.”

Wrist bands for all-day, all-park access is $25 per person over 46-inches tall, for the water park only, the price is $15 per person.

According to Dlugokecki, despite the strong interest in his water attractions in the summertime, the most popular ride in his park are the go-karts. “Especially the junior ones, those are so popular because all the little kids want to drive, not be a passenger. Any attraction that guests can control the outcome of the ride, that is very popular,” he asserts.

His bumper boats ride just opened a few weeks ago, but Dlugokecki believes those will be extremely popular as well. “That’s another ride where guests can control the action, and where kids can actually drive.”

His upcoming plans include a true concession stand with hot food, and an arcade building with games. “At present, we only offer boxed candy and sodas. There were no concessions when we bought the park, but our plan is to offer a concession in the new arcade building we are putting in.” That building, like the Tilt-a-Whirl, is not precisely new – it also has history behind it. “We bought it and moved it from the old Sea World, Ohio location. It’s taken us a bit longer than we’d planned to rebuild it, because we took it down piece by piece and reinstalled it. When it is complete, we’ll have our concession in there. We are hoping for July 4th,” he says. That date is not entirely firm, however. “We’re a family business, it’s myself and my wife, my two friends do maintenance, and we do all the building and construction. We’ve had a wet spring and a cold winter in Ohio, so we are a bit behind.”

That said, Dlugokecki made the decision to make sure all the existing attractions were up and running as a priority, with new areas such as the arcade construction coming second. “We got what we thought was our priority done first, so that our guests can enjoy the attractions we do have.”

To market the park, Dlugokecki says “We don’t do any print anymore, because we have done our Haunted House business for awhile, and we recognize that our customer base doesn’t read the paper. Instead, we do a lot of social media on both Instagram and Facebook. For the Haunted House, we run on a ton of online browsers for that specific target market.” For both the park and his haunted attractions, Dlugokecki is primarily sticking to online marketing. “We don’t even do rack cards or direct mail anymore. There is no return on investment for that. We did radio last year, and there was not much return on investment there either. This year, we’re going with a company that produced a commercial for us, and advertising on Google and YouTube with the commercial. The kids see it there. No one really listens to radio anymore, and with television, people skip the commercials. So, the best place to market is where people are, and people are on their phone with digital media 24/7,” he states.

And his long-term future plans? Dlugokecki says “We really want to make this eventually into a smaller-scale full family amusement park. I admit my eyes are big but that is my goal. I want to add more classic rides like The Whip or The Scrambler, fun rides that you don’t see in major theme parks any more. Eventually, we want to put a lazy river in the water area, and my end game is a wooden roller coaster. That’s my goal.”

As to the haunted attraction that Fun Times Fun Park was originally purchased to hold, it is still at its original location about 40-minutes away. “We just never moved it. We’d built such a good reputation with our haunt, that when we do move it, people are going to expect the same quality. Trying to rush the new set-up just isn’t the right way to do it. We’ve been working on making the move for three years, and we still definitely plan to do that,” he reports. And he adds “We want to have something going on here at the park 365 days a year. I’d like to have the haunted house for Halloween, events for Christmas, Easter, and summer fun. And I think we can do that.”
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