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when small town tourism goes bad

I am constantly asking myself what the difference is between the tourist attractions that make it, and the ones that clearly do not. It just seems like somebody's name should be on a poster forever if they mismanage places that could potentially be so cool. It should be a black mark on your business record - you should be required to be along for the ride to fixing the place and getting it back on track and making people happy again.

In 2012 we stayed in the Ramada in Hutchinson Kansas and were thrilled to discover that it featured a space-themed indoor waterpark... apparently here's a photo of what it was like in its heyday:

But we got to have no such fun, because the main kids pool was drained, and the pool as a whole had very restrictive hours for a hotel. You know how most hotel pools are open tons of hours so you can have a morning swim before checkout? Not this one - and the staff was really confused when we complained, just "It is what it is".

And just to add insult, they left the bright lights in the pool room on 24x7, not caring that our very sad three year old could CLEARLY see that there was fun behind those locked doors.

And now that hotel is no longer a Ramada, it's the "Atrium Hotel and Conference Center", the hotel has no real web presence, so all you see are angry facebook posts from people who stayed there hearing there was a fun indoor water park but they found out it was closed or restricted.

Hutchinson is home to the amazing Kansas Cosmosphere, a treasure of the midwest that's always growing and featuring new exhibits and staffed with space enthusiasts. So a space-themed water park could have really added to the draw there. I wonder who's idea it was? Did they talk to the Cosmosphere for advice? Had they ever run a hotel with a pool before?

What went so horribly, horribly wrong?

I also wonder this about the now-defunct Springfield Aquarium, which Marc and I saw something like a decade ago, but then it "closed for remodeling". And there it's sat now for about eight years.

And we don't wonder about Wild West World, the theme park north of Wichita started up by a religious fundamentalist who swindled investors for money. The theme park remains. Closed. A sign to any family that drives by that we just didn't get it right.

Land was cleared, resources were used, taxpayer money was often spent, and then... what? We all just forget and let these places rot, start up a new project and never pass along the lessons? It's too depressing.


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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 8th, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC)
Weird. Some states require lifeguards and so pool hours in those states tend to be much more limited. But I don't think Kansas is such a state.

There do seem to be a lot of defunct water parks. Maybe they are hard to maintain and liability insurance is expensive?
Jul. 9th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)

Someone got stressed and stopped caring.  That is when the community or workers should step in and offer to help fix it.  It sucks, people have these great magical ideas, but somewhere along the line the excitement fades and we are left with neglected facilities.  I can understand, sometimes I put all this energy into the blog or creative projects, but then I get tired and it goes to waste.  Maybe the places could start a kickstarter or something, it is sad to be let down like that. 

Jul. 9th, 2015 03:11 pm (UTC)
That is really sad. And even sadder is that they haven't removed the evidence of failure, just left it to entice people or as, well, evidence of failure.

I do remember, the first time I visited the rural South, being surprised by the number of abandoned buildings just falling down, empty stores, boarded up gas stations. My husband told me that it's not that businesses don't fail in the East, it's that real estate is so expensive here it doesn't pay to walk away from it. Things get torn down, while in the Mississippi Delta, it's cheaper just to leave them.
Jul. 10th, 2015 01:24 pm (UTC)
As I understand it, there is often capital funding to build things, but not operating funding to cover the ongoing expenses. This is particularly true in the case of universities, where rich people donate money to have a building with their name on it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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