STUART — Martin County's Sailfish Splash Waterpark is on target to glide past last year's ticket sales with ease, exceeding expectations and giving it a second year in the black.
Skeptics doubted the $9 million park would ever make money during the long-fought and sometimes bitter battle to get it approved.
But it took in $1.4 million in its short six-month first season and put $389,404 in net profits into its reserve fund. And to date, the park's $60,500 in season pass sales are close to double last year's holiday sales of $36,900.
One secret? They set up shop at Treasure Coast Square mall right next to Santa this year and sold $20,000 worth of season passes in a few short weeks. The preseason discounted price is $38.75 for adults and $31.25 for seniors and kids. Prices for season passes change March 2 to $58 for adults and $45 for children and seniors.
"It was an amazing community success story for Martin County," said Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Abbate. "A lot of hard work went into it."
He is hoping, with a longer season and higher operating expenses, to put away at least a quarter-million dollars in 2013 for future expansion, he said.
Profits are going into a capital reserve fund solely for the park and will be used to add new features. Such changes must take place at least every three years to keep the park fresh and new, he said, and the 10-acre park has room.
This year, the park-goers will find a gift shop and an island with cabanas.
The park features two, four-story curving water slides, a 25-yard beginner's pool and 50-meter competition pool, interactive water playground, and a 750-foot lazy river for inner tube floating. Happily for the bottom line, it attracts a wide age range rather than just young families, and brings in residents from nearby Port St. Lucie. The park reopens March 22 and will stay open until about Labor Day.
Last year, the park didn't have much business after kids went back to school so this year it will open after Labor Day only for special events. A swim meet in late September is expected to bring in 1,700 swimmers and produce 1,500 overnight stays, Abbate said.
"We had a big season last year, and we're expecting an even bigger one this year because now we have an active list of former season's pass holders to market to," Abbate said.