Spokane Journal of Business

Silverwood Theme Park tracks record

Strong early ticket sales bode well for theme park

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-—Silverwood Theme Park
While Silverwood Theme Park didn’t add any new attractions for the upcoming season, it made some infrastructure improvements, including upgrades to its roller coasters.
-—Silverwood Theme Park
Silverwood Theme Park includes about 70 attractions, including the AfterShock roller coaster, pictured above. The park draws visitors within a 350-mile radius that includes a large chunk of Montana and Idaho to the east and most of the Seattle and Portland areas to the west.

Silverwood Theme Park is gearing up for an anticipated record attendance this season, which will mark the theme park’s 30th year in operation, says Mark Robitaille, spokesman for the park. 

The optimistic outlook is based in part on strong early season pass sales, Robitaille says.

“Season pass sales thus far are an indicator of an excellent year, and they’re pointing to a record year,” he says.

Silverwood has tallied attendance of about 650,000 in each of the last couple of years, he says.

The theme park had a record attendance of 679,000 in 2013.

Located about 15 miles north of Coeur d’Alene via U.S. 95, Silverwood opened Saturday for weekend operations, drawing about 6,000 visitors over the first two days of the season. The park will begin daily operations on Memorial Day.

Silverwood’s water park, Boulder Beach, will open on June 10. When in full operation, Silverwood has more than 70 attractions, including four roller coasters and multiple water slides.

Not counting Scarywood, last year’s summer attendance at Silverwood exceeded attendance the previous summer by 3 percent, Robitaille says.

Attendance at Scarywood, Silverwood’s Halloween-themed fall season, however, was down in 2016 compared with 2015 attendance, making the Silverwood’s 2016 overall attendance barely above 2015 attendance, he says.

The park debuted Scarywood in 2009 as part of a season-extending strategy, and had built attendance to over 60,000 before last year, he says.

Silverwood was able to increase summer sales despite terminating a relationship with its largest vendor, Costco Wholesale Corp.

“We eliminated ticket sales from Costco and did online and other good marketing efforts, replacing 140,000 (Costco) ticket sales,” he says, asserting, “It’s a good indication of our online following. People found the best ticket prices on our website.”

The park is projecting an increase in attendance even though it didn’t add any new attractions for the upcoming year.

Following the debut of the Riptide Racer water slide in 2016, this will be an off year for new attractions at Silverwood, Robitaille says.

“We took the off-season to enhance infrastructure and rides,” he says. “We did some track work on the roller coasters, and we did refurbishing among other rides throughout the park.”

He says the park historically has added major attraction every couple of years.

“We’re looking to the future for some things that are yet to be determined,” he says.

Silverwood has a lot of room for expansion.

It occupies 221 acres of land with another nearly 400 acres available for future development.

For this year, general admission is up about $1 a ticket, compared with last year’s pricing, Robitaille says. In some cases in August, admission will be up $2 per ticket.

“We have a tiered pricing structure based on attendance,” Robitaille says.

To begin the 2017 season, full-priced tickets are $38 through June 9. Then, full-priced tickets bump up to $48 starting June 10. Ticket prices tick up to $49 on July 15 and again to $51 for Aug. 1-Sept. 4 sales.

The park has discounts for youths ages 3-7 and seniors 65 and older. Kids under 3 are admitted free.

Online prices are discounted $3 to $7 dollars depending on how far in advance they’re purchased.

Through May 31, an online promotion is offering tickets for any date in the season for $39.

Silverwood also offers promotional discounts surrounding certain events throughout the season.

“One price gets you in both parks. A lot of parks around the nation have separate admission for water parks.”

Entrepreneur Gary Norton, founder of Spokane-based high-tech company ISC Corp., opened Silverwood in 1988 as a museum to display his collection of historic airplanes, antique automobiles, and a vintage steam train.

Since then, Silverwood has grown into the largest theme park in the Pacific Northwest.

Robitaille says Silverwood has hired 900 seasonal employees and plans to ramp up to 1,200 employees by the peak of the season.

Silverwood has about 95 year-round, full-time employees, including grounds crews, maintenance crews, and marketing and sales staff.

“We have several year-round operational employees,” he adds. “We have a lot going on all year.”

Robitaille says a study conducted by the Idaho Department of Commerce a few years ago determined Silverwood’s annual economic impact approaches $80 million.

“That puts us right up with the top industries, especially in entertainment and recreation,” he says.

Robitaille contends Wild Waves Theme Park south of Seattle doesn’t compare to Silverwood in size and attendance.

“We get a lot of people from that area visiting us with rave reviews,” he says.

When Boulder Beach is open, it can be a challenge to experience all of Silverwood in a day, Robitaille says.

“The word we get is it takes two days to get the best experience,” he says. “Some people will do one day in the theme park and the other day at Boulder Beach.”

Robitaille says Silverwood’s primary market area includes the population within a 350-mile drive of the park, including most of the Seattle-Portland area.

“We have marketing efforts getting into British Columbia and into Calgary,” he says, adding, “We’ve been branching out farther into western Montana and down to Boise,” he adds.

Closer to home, Silverwood has more than 40 hotel partners.

“They purchase tickets from us at reduced rates and provide packages for their guests,” Robitaille says.

Mike McLean
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Reporter Mike McLean covers real estate and construction at the Journal of Business. A multipurpose fisherman and vintage record album aficionado, Mike has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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