Monday, October 31, 2011

Safety and Advocacy Education Opportunities Abound at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011 is just around the corner (it starts two weeks from today)! Here are some can’t-miss Safety and Advocacy-related education sessions:

The recent adoption of recreation rules to the Americans with Disabilities Act has left facility operators with lots of questions. The good news is IAAPA is here to help. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Attractions Industry session (Tuesday, Nov. 15, 3:30 p.m.) will cover miniature golf courses, amusement rides, water attractions, play structures, and other elements commonly found in attractions facilities. There will be an ample Q&A period, so bring your most challenging questions for our experts.

Want to learn more about legislative and regulatory challenges facing the J1 Summer Work Travel program and the H2B Temporary Foreign Labor program? Consider attending our Immigration and Employment session (Thursday, Nov. 17, 3:30 p.m.). A panel of industry members and government officials will discuss the cultural benefits international Summer Work Travel students can provide your facility. Also learn about recent restrictive regulatory changes to the H2B temporary foreign worker program, and the current legal challenge to fight them.

You know the impact increased regulation can have on your business. The Safety and Regulations session (Thursday, Nov. 17, 3:30 p.m.) will provide you with information on what’s coming next from OSHA and other regulators so you can be ahead of the curve.

At the Legal Roundtable (Thursday, Nov. 17, noon) we will discuss recent case law and its effect on the attractions industry, including Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, LP, which has the potential to impact not just the attractions industry in California, but across the country. You won’t want to miss this discussion.

A crisis can happen at any time, in any place. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will present free toolkits, training, and information that will help you get your facility prepared for natural disasters, active shooters, or acts of terrorism during Hot Topics in Government Relations (Thursday, Nov. 17 5 p.m.). During this session we will also discuss the recent repeal of the interpretative definition of "unblockable drain" under the VGB and what that means for the industry.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

H-2B Update

On Jan. 19, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor published a Final Rule that revised the methodology by which the Department calculates prevailing wages under the H-2B program. As the result of a court case, on Aug. 1, 2011, the Department amended that rule to make wage rates established under this new methodology effective for wages paid to H-2B workers and U.S. workers recruited in connection with an H-2B labor certification for all work performed on or after Sept. 30, 2011.

However, on Sept. 28, 2011, the Department announced in the Federal Register a 60-day postponement of the effective date of the Wage Final Rule to Nov. 30, 2011. This delay will permit the various courts involved in litigation relating to the Wage Final Rule to determine the appropriate venue to resolve all claims and to allow the Department to avoid the possibility of administering the H-2B program under potentially conflicting court orders.

To learn more about the new prevailing wage rule, and the various legal challenges, be sure to attend the Immigration and Employment session at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011. The session will be held Thursday, Nov. 17, at 3:30 p.m. at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CPSC Repeals Definition of Unblockable Drain

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted to revoke its previous interpretative definition of an unblockable drain under the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (VGB). This action means that a blockable drain cannot be made unblockable by use of a cover alone.

Background
The CPSC approved the following interpretation of an "unblockable drain" on April 27, 2010:
A suction outlet defined as all components, including the sump and/or body, cover/grate, and hardware such that its perforated (open) area cannot be shadowed by the area of the 18" x 23" Body Blocking Element of ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 and that the rated flow through the remaining open area (beyond the shadowed portion) cannot create a suction force in excess of the removal force values in Table 1 of that Standard. All suction outlet covers, manufactured or field-fabricated, shall be certified as meeting the applicable requirements of the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 standard.

Under this interpretation, when a drain cover meeting certain specifications was attached to a drain, the covered drain constituted an "unblockable drain." As an unblockable drain, this drain did not require a secondary anti-entrapment system.

As a result of the vote, a drain cover can no longer be used to convert a blockable drain into an unblockable drain. Drains that are blockable require a secondary anti-entrapment system.

Secondary systems permitted under the VGB include:
• Safety vacuum release system
• Suction-limiting vent system
• Gravity drainage system
• Automatic pump shut-off system
• Drain disablement; and/or
• Any other system determined by the Commission to be equally effective as, or better than, the enumerated systems at preventing or eliminating the risk of injury or death associated with pool drainage systems.

Compliance with this change is required by May 28, 2012.

Prior to the vote, IAAPA submitted a letter to the CPSC, outlining the waterpark industry's issues with repealing the interpretative definition. However, in discussions with the CPSC, we learned the vote was pre-determined, and was held to allow Commissioner Bob Adler to change his previous vote in favor of the definition.

Comment Period The CPSC will accept comments on the compliance deadline for 60 days. The comment period will close Dec. 12, 2011.

When an agency opens a comment period, it must address all comments submitted, so waterpark operators are encouraged to submit comments outlining all concerns with the revocation of the CPSC’s interpretation.

More information IAAPA staff and industry experts will lead a discussion of this most recent VGB action at the "Hot Topics in Government Relations" session at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011 in Orlando. The session will take place Thursday, Nov. 17, at 5 p.m. in the Orange County Convention Center.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Markey re-introduces federal ride safety bill

Yesterday, Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) reintroduced his legislation that would bring fixed-site amusement park rides under the jurisidiction of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The bill number is H.R. 2861.

This morning, IAAPA President and CEO Chip Cleary released a statement opposing the legislation. The attractions industry is already safe and well regulated. Congressman Markey's legislation would do nothing to improve the strong safety record of amusement park rides in the United States.

We will continue to monitor this legislation closely.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Resources for U.S. FECs

I just posted the new ADA white paper for miniature golf courses and supplementary small business primer on our ADA web page.

Together, these materials cover the 2010 Standard and compliance strategies for both new and existing miniature golf courses, as well as barrier removal obligations and general nondiscrimination requirements.

Compliance with the 2010 Standard is required for courses built or permitted after March 15, 2012. Compliance with general nondiscrimination requirements, such as service animals is already required for recreational facilities. Barrier removal obligations are ongoing, but IAAPA recommends facility owners begin assessing their courses and formulating a barrier-removal plan as soon as possible.

There are still some outstanding questions about the new rule's application to miniature golf courses, and IAAPA is in contact with the U.S. Department of Justice on these issues. As we get answers, we will update the whitepaper and notify members. If you have questions that you would like us to ask DOJ on your behalf, please contact us at gr@IAAPA.org.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The end of employment background checks?

On July 26, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a meeting to discuss the use of criminal background checks in the hiring process. This is thought to be the first step in the process of changing the current guidelines on background checks. The EEOC left the hearing record open for 15 days after the meeting so that interested parties could file comments on the issue.

The ability to ask an applicant if he or she has been convicted of a felony then run a background check if necessary can be an important HR tool for IAAPA members. IAAPA filed its own comment letter on the issue, as well as signing onto the letter from a coalition of businesses that rely on background checks to provide customers with safe products and services.




It is unclear whether the EEOC will continue with this guideline change after considering the comments it receives or what exactly the new guidelines will say. IAAPA will continue to monitor this issue and alert members as needed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Congress passes CPSIA Reform

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed H.R. 2715, which will offer manufacturers of children's products a bit of relief from some provisions of the CPSIA.

A quick summary of provisions that will impact IAAPA members:

Lead Limit
• Includes categorical exclusions for ATVs, dirt bikes, bicycles, and printed materials
• Removes the lead limits for “used children’s products”
• Applies prospective limits from the point of manufacture

Third-Party Testing
• Requires CPSC to seek public comment on ways to reduce burden and cost, specifically requesting information on redundancy with existing testing standards
• Includes testing exceptions for small-batch manufacturers

Phthalates Limit
• Includes an inaccessibility exclusion for phthalates

Database
• Requires CPSC to stay publication for five additional days when the commission receives notice of materially inaccurate information
• Requires CPSC to attempt to get model/serial number or a photo of a product in question

The legislation now goes to President Obama for his approval. Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE: President Obama signed the legislation into law on August 12, 2011. It is effective immediately.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

IAAPA Second Vice Chairman Will Morey to Testify Before House Committee Tomorrow

On Thursday IAAPA Second Vice Chairman Will Morey will testify before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives. The hearing, titled "Impact of Obamacare on Job Creators and their Decision to Offer Health Insurance", begins at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

Will's testimony will focus primarily on the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on seasonal employers, and the administrative and financial challenges those employers will face if a "fix" is not put in place.

As you may remember, although every legislator we talked to expressed empathy on the seasonal worker issue, the PPACA does not include an exemption for seasonal workers. As the law stands, employers will have to offer health insurance to "full time employees" (those working more than 30 hours/week) after 90 days. There is a regulatory proposal to give employers up to a year to determine if an employee is consistantly working more than 30 hours per week, but that proposal has not yet been adopted.

UPDATE: The video of the hearing is now available on YouTube:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Upcoming CPSIA Deadline: Are you ready for lower lead levels?

On Aug. 14, 2011, it will be illegal to manufacture, import, or sell children's products with more than 100ppm of lead.

When the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act (CPSIA) went into effect in 2009, the amount of lead allowable in children's products was reduced to 600ppm. Six months later, it was reduced to 300ppm. The final reduction under the CPSIA will occur in August. Just like the previous reductions, there will be no grandfathering or safe harbor for existing inventory.

There is currently legislation before Congress that would provide limited relief from the lower lead content levels for a select group of children's products such as ATVs and bicycles, where lead is absolutely necessary. However, that legislation is currently stalled due to partisan opposition, so it is unlikely it will be enacted before the lower lead levels take effect. IAAPA members should start checking their inventories to make sure they will be compliant next month.

Friday, July 8, 2011

IAAPA Submits Comment Letters on Proposed Visa Program and Menu Labeling Rules

While the U.S. Congress continues to debate budget issues, the Executive Branch is active and releasing proposed rules and other regulatory policies that could impact the attractions industry. In the past few weeks, IAAPA has submitted comment letters on the J1 Visa Summer Work Travel program, and menu labeling provisions under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The interim final rule on the Summer Work Travel program incorporates many of the changes seen in the pilot program announced late last year, including pre-placement, employer verification, and prohibited job placements. In our letter to the U.S. Department of State, we explained the importance of the J1 visa program, not only to attractions and their employees but also to the surrounding communities, and how the changes made by the interim final rule will address some of the negative publicity the J1 program has recently received. The interim final rule is effective July 15, 2011. It is unlikely the state department will finish reviewing all of the comments before then. Once the review is complete, State may offer a revised final rule, or just allow the interim final rule to stand indefinitely.

IAAPA felt the proposed rule implementing the menu labeling provisions of the PPACA was favorable to the attractions industry. In our comment letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), IAAPA agrees with the FDA’s definition of retail food establishment as “an establishment whose primary business activity is the sale of food to consumers,” and the FDA’s example that, generally speaking, amusement parks are not restaurants. Since this was a proposed rule, the FDA will now consider feedback and publish an interim final rule at some point in the future. The PPACA dictated the Secretary of Health and Human Services implement this provision by March 23, 2011, so already the rule is delayed. My educated guess is we'll see a final rule by the end of the year.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Astrid Lindgrens Värld Unveils New Matt's Forest


Our IAAPA Europe colleague Jakob Wahl sends this update from Sweden:


Friday, June 17, saw the official opening of the new Matt’s Forest section of Astrid Lindgrens Värld in Vimmerby, Sweden. This new land is the biggest investment in the theme park’s history, according to Managing Director Mikael Ahlerup, and is home to an outdoor theater and a a 300-square-meter (3,229-square-foot) rock castle, which is home to the Ronja character from Astrid Lindgren’s last book. 


The performers “live” in the castle and the adjacent forest during the day, and invite visitors to play and interact with them. Several times a day they play smaller chapters of the book in shows of around 10 minutes; the major show takes place late in the afternoon, when the story of Ronja is told in further detail, including the happy ending. 


Meanwhile the rock castle serves several functions: a huge stage with impressive special effects; a “home” to the actors; an explorer playground for the kids on four different levels; and a cellar, where the park can host special VIP events. An extensive tunnel system under the scenery enables the actors to move, unseen by the visitors, from one part of the scene to another one.


The creative team and the entertainment department of Astrid Lindgrens Värld brought the story to life in a way that visitors of all ages can spend time playing on their own, interacting with the actors, and enjoying the shows.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

IAAPA Submits Comment Letter on Health Care Reform

Last week IAAPA submitted a letter to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in response to the IRS's Request for Comments on Shared Responsibility for Employers Regarding Health Coverage. In the letter, which is available on the IAAPA website, we agree with the IRS's proposed look-back/stability period that employers can use to determine if an employee regularly meets the criteria frequently enough to be considered "full time" under the new health care law, and thus is eligible to enroll in the employer's health insurance plan.

As is the case in many seasonal industries, businesses in the attractions industry rely on seasonal employees who may work more than 30 hours per week, but only do so for a short period of the year. The attractions industry was disappointed that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not address seasonal employees under the Employer Responsibility provisions, leaving a lot of human resources professionals in the industry questioning how this law would impact their businesses.

The Request for Comments was the first time the government attempted to address seasonal workers and their treatment under the PPACA. Now that the comment period has closed, the IRS will consider the comments it received and move forward with a rulemaking process. We hope the IRS follows the Administrative Procedures Act and puts out a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which will provide the industry with another opportunity to offer comments. We are watching for that notice, and will alert members when it is released.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

U.S. Health Care Reform: Beginning to address seasonal employees

Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury, Department of Labor, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a “Request for Comments on Shared Responsibility for Employers Regarding Health Coverage,” which solicits input on several issues regarding the employer responsibility provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The intent is to use the comments it receives from this request to shape the rules it proposes on the employer responsibility provisions.

This is the first opportunity the attractions industry has to solicit clarification on the full-time vs. seasonal employee issue. As you may remember, during the legislative debate IAAPA tried to clarify the differences between full-time, year-round employees and seasonal workers who work more than 30 hours per week for a few consecutive months.

The Request for Comments addresses the following issues:
• The definitions of employer, employee, and hours of service (Section III)
• Determination of whether an employer is an applicable large employer (Section IV)
• Potential methods for determining full-time employees (Section V), including a possible “look-back/stability period safe harbor method” – MORE BELOW
• How provisions of PPACA that establish assessable payments for not offering minimum essential coverage to eligible employees will be interpreted and applied, and situations where appropriate exceptions should be provided (Section VI(A)).
• The 90-day limitation on wait periods and how it applies in certain situations (Section VI(B))

Look-Back/Stability
Under the possible look-back/stability period, an employer would determine each employee’s full-time status by looking back at a defined period of three to 12 months, as chosen by the employer, to determine whether the employee averaged at least 30 hours of service per week (or 130 hours per calendar month). If an employee met this obligation during the look-back period, then he would be treated as a full-time employee during a subsequent “stability period,” regardless of the number of hours of service he worked during the stability period, provided he remained an employee.

The business would be required to enroll the employee in its health insurance program or pay the penalty during the stability period. The stability period could be longer than the look-back period, but not shorter. The look-back/stability process would continue on a rolling basis.

IAAPA intends to submit comments in response to this request, but we need to know how these proposals would work for member companies. Comments are due June 17, so please email us your thoughts by June 10.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

URGENT MEMBER ALERT: CPSC Recalls Pool/Spa Drain Covers

We just received word that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) held a press conference today and announced the voluntary recall of pool and spa drain covers from eight different manufacturers. Click here for a copy of CPSC’s press release with the highlights and photos of some of the recalled covers.

The release does not provide specific model numbers for the recalled covers and the photos included do not represent all of those recalled. If you have drain covers from one of the manufacturers listed, we recommend you contact the manufacturer directly to see if your covers are included in the recall.

Also, please note the “Remedy” section of the press release which states:
Remedy: Pool owners/operators and consumers who have one of the recalled pool or spa drain covers should immediately contact the manufacturer to receive a replacement or retrofit, depending on their make and model. Except for kiddie pools, wading pools and in-ground spas, retrofit or replacement of installed covers are not required in pools with multiple drain systems or gravity drainage systems or for covers installed before December 19, 2008.”

This recall may generate press coverage since the CPSC issued the press release two days before the Memorial Day weekend. We recommend you survey your pools and spas to understand the extent to which this recall may or may not impact your facility and be prepared to respond to inquiries from the press, employees, or guests.

The IAAPA Government Relations team continues to monitor this issue and if additional information becomes available we will share it with you.

Thank you for your ongoing support of IAAPA and best wishes for a safe and successful holiday weekend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Setting the Record Straight on ADA

Yesterday's News Flash (IAAPA member login required) featured an article about a county-operated miniature golf course in North Carolina that will be forced to close if it cannot comply with the new ADA regulations when they become effective next spring. There has been some confusion about this issue, and I wanted to set the facts straight:

"Grandfathering"
The article is inaccurate when it states that up until now, miniature golf courses have been "grandfathered" into compliance. IAAPA members know recreation facilities were not included in the 1991 Standard (however certain elements present in a recreation facility, such as parking lots and bathrooms, were included). Until the 2004 ADA Accessibility Guidelines were published, there were no federal standards for miniature golf courses, swimming pools, or amusement rides. The 2004 Guidelines were not law until adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice last summer, and are not effective until March 15, 2012. Having said that, since the 2004 Guidelines were released IAAPA has encouraged its members to incorporate them into new construction or alteration, as we knew they would eventually be adopted as law.

For elements that were included in the 1991 Standard (such as bathrooms, service counters, and parking lots), there is a "safe harbor" in the new regulations, provided those elements are compliant with the 1991 Standard. This means a business does not have to change these elements to comply with the 2010 Standard.

Title II vs. Title III
The miniature golf course at the Dan Nicholas Park is operated by Rowan County; it is not a private business. Government facilities such as the Dan Nicholas Park are subject to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Commercial businesses (which make up the vast majority of IAAPA members) are subject to Title III of of the ADA. Both titles were updated in the rulemaking that came to an end last fall, but the rules are slightly different.

Both Title II and Title III reference the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design. Both sets of rules have the same effective date for compliance with the 2010 Standards for new construction and alteration, and barrier removal: March 15, 2012.

The major difference lies in the barrier removal obligations. Under Title II, state and local governments do not have the "flexibility" that is provided under Title III for "readily achievable" barrier removal. Under Title II, state and local governments must provide access to programs, and each program is evaluated on the whole. If Rowan County has only one miniature golf course that is not accessible—and cannot be made accessible—and the county cannot afford to build a new, accessible course, then its options are to close the course or wait for legal activity.

A commercial business is required to do barrier removal to the extent "readily achievable," which means "easily accomplishable without much difficulty ot expense." IAAPA encourages miniature golf course operators to survey the accessibility of their courses and develop a response plan to remove barriers on the course. The response plan might not make a course fully accessible by March 15, 2012, but ideally it would show step-by-step how an operator plans to make his or her facility accessible as resources allow.

More Information
Watch your mailboxes for the July issue of Funworld, IAAPA's monthly magazine, which contains an article explaining the new ADA rules for recreational facilities. To provide members with more in-depth information on the 2010 Standards, IAAPA is publishing a series of white papers, which will be available soon. If you have more questions, please don't hesistate to contact us.

Friday, May 13, 2011

U.S. State Dept Issues Interim Final Rule on J-1 Visas

Late last month, the U.S. Department of State released an interim final rule with request for comments on the J-1 visa Summer Work Travel (SWT) program. The rule will go into effect July 15, 2011, and the Dept. of State will accept comments until June 27.

This rule stems from reports of exploitation of SWT students (not in the attractions industry). Last fall the Dept. of State announced a pilot program that would make changes to the SWT program for students from six countries (Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine). The pilot program served as a basis for this interim final rule.

The rule modifies the Summer Work Travel regulations by establishing different employment placement requirements based on the students’ countries of citizenship and by requiring sponsors to fully vet the job placements of all program participants. It also clarifies that only vetted U.S. host employers and vetted third party overseas agents or partners (i.e., foreign entities) with whom sponsors have contractual agreements may assist sponsors in the administration of the core functions of their exchange programs.

IAAPA knows its members provide a good experience to SWT students. Last month IAAPA met with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange Stanley Colvin to discuss the attractions industry’s use of the SWT program and the new rule. During the meeting Deputy Assistant Secretary Colvin expressed interest in visiting amusement parks to see the positive stories our industry has to tell. If your facility is interested in hosting State Department officials this summer, please contact us.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Consumer Protection Update: VGB & CPSIA

On April 5, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hosted a public meeting on the testing and certification procedures under the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB).

The VGB requires pools and spas in the U.S. to be engineered to prevent entrapment drowning. There are several ways to accomplish this: in large pools or water attractions like those found in waterparks, the drains are usually large (18”x 23” or larger) and therefore physically unblockable*. For smaller drains, VGB-complaint drain covers are commercially available. The meeting only focused on the smaller, commercially-available drain covers, not on large, unblockable drains.

The meeting was part of an ongoing investigation by the CPSC into the methodology and results of the various organizations that certify drain covers as VGB compliant. The procedure for certifying is described in the ANSI/ASME A112.19.8-2007 Standard referenced in the VGB. However, upon investigation, the CPSC has found seemingly slight variations in the testing procedures, which are leading to varying results for the same product. The CPSC would like to clarify the testing procedure so a uniform method is used by all certifying labs, and the results of those tests are within an acceptable margin of error.

The meeting was broadcast live over the Internet, and the archived footage is available on the CPSC website. The first panel was composed of representatives from the three certifying organizations (Underwriters’ Laboratories, NSF, and IABMO). The second was drain cover manufacturers, and the third was the chairman of the A112.19.8 committee, who discussed the standards-creation process, and the committee’s work on the successor standard. The meeting was pretty technical, so waterpark operators might want to have their technical staff review the archived footage. While it doesn’t appear to directly impact waterparks, IAAPA is continuing to monitor this issue.

* These are not the only ways to be compliant with the VGB.


CPSIA Reform Legislation Considered
Earlier this month the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing on proposed legislation to make several reforms to the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act (CPSIA).

As the attractions industry knows, the CPSIA had good intentions that came along with a slew of unintended consequences. Since the enactment of the CPSIA, our industry has been calling for an amendments bill to address these consequences. A bill was introduced and heard by the Energy & Commerce committee last session, but it failed to move past the committee stage.

This hearing focused mainly on the proposed legislation, which lowers the age in the definition of “children’s product” from 12 to 7, narrows the scope of the Consumer Product Database, makes changes to the provisions addressing lead limits, and creates exemptions to the testing requirements for small-batch manufacturers.

Having discussed the reforms, the subcommittee will now create and mark-up a bill that can be voted on. Committee staff indicated the committee is looking to get this bill out of committee during the summer. Of course, timetables are never firm in Congress, but perhaps by fall we will see some CPSIA relief.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MAHC Ventilation Module available now

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) is a project being spearheaded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that when completed, will serve as a model and guide for state and local agencies to use when updating or implementing regulations governing the design, shape, construction, operation, and maintenance of swimming pools and other treated recreational water venues. The MAHC is being developed by the aquatic industry leaders across the country. Several IAAPA members serve on the steering and technical committees.

The MAHC is being created in modules, which are released as they are available, instead of waiting for a final document to be prepared. This allows the committees a lot of flexibility in drafting and updating the MAHC as needed. An outline was released in 2008 for those interested in seeing what topics the MAHC will address.

Last summer, the CDC released the Operator Training Module for public comment. IAAPA notified waterpark members of their opportunity to submit comments to the CDC on this module. The CDC considered the comments and earlier this month posted the revised modules on the MAHC website.

The CDC also released the Ventilation and Air Quality Module for a 60-day comment period ending June 12, 2011. The Ventilation Module contains requirements for new or modified construction that include:

1. Increased make-up air required in addition to that required in the ASHRAE 62 standard for indoor pools.
2. Determination of the extra make-up air needed based on the indoor venue water use type (e.g., flat water, agitated water, or hot water) and venue or deck patron density (square feet/person).
3. Inclusion in calculations of additional make-up air from surge tanks or gutters that introduce fresh air.
4. Development and implementation of plans to reduce combined chlorine compounds in indoor aquatic facilities and information for facility patrons about their impact on building air quality.

To comment on the Ventilation Module, complete the official comment form, and e-mail to the CDC. If there is interest, IAAPA will submit a comment on behalf of the industry. To be included in that process, please send us your comments.

Monday, April 18, 2011

ADA Amendments Act Final Rule Published

Late last month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released the final rules implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). The regulations apply to employers with 15 or more employees, employment agencies, labor organizations (unions), and joint labor-management committees. The ADAAA was enacted Sept. 25, 2008, and became effective Jan. 1, 2009. The ADAAA overturned a series of Supreme Court cases, expanded the number of workers who are considered disabled under the ADA and increased the number of employers who must make reasonable accommodations for these employees.

The regulations retain the ADA’s definition of the term “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record (or past history) of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability. But the regulations implement the significant changes that Congress made regarding how those terms should be interpreted.

The regulations implement Congress’s intent to set forth predictable, consistent, and workable standards by adopting “rules of construction” to use when determining if an individual is substantially limited in performing a major life activity. These rules of construction include the following:
  • The term “substantially limits” requires a lower degree of functional limitation than the standard previously applied by the courts. An impairment does not need to prevent or severely or significantly restrict a major life activity to be considered “substantially limiting.” Nonetheless, not every impairment will constitute a disability.
  • The term “substantially limits” is to be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA.
  • The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity requires an individualized assessment, as was true prior to the ADAAA.
  • With one exception (“ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses”), the determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures, such as medication or hearing aids.
  • An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
  • In keeping with Congress’s direction that the primary focus of the ADA is on whether discrimination occurred, the determination of disability should not require extensive analysis.
The regulations make it easier for individuals to establish coverage under the “regarded as” part of the definition of “disability," however an individual must be covered under the first prong (“actual disability”) or second prong (“record of disability”) to qualify for a reasonable accommodation. The regulations clarify that it is generally not necessary to proceed under the first or second prong if an individual is not challenging an employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC has information the regulations available on its website, including a fact sheet, general Q&A document, and a Q&A document for small businesses.

Friday, April 15, 2011

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011 Space Allocation: Day 2—Final Thoughts

So that's it. Months of work and preparation unspool in the span of a hectic 30 hours or so. The Space Allocation Committee was as dedicated as ever to creating the best possible show floor; they spent more time in front of their computer screens than I think they have in my four years of covering this process. One glance at the interactive floor plan will tell you all that was accomplished here.

As of now, there are 669 booths on the floor covering 357,000 net square feet. That's more than 60 exhibitors and 55,000 square feet above where we were after Space Allocation last year.

Ray Zammit of Nanco said he was pleased with the new interactive floor plan system and that he's thrilled to see how much of the floor is already spoken for. He feels it speaks to improving economic conditions and positivity in the industry.

"It's encouraging," agreed Committee Chairman Jack Mendes. "People are feeling positive and they're showing a bit more. There's some momentum going, and that's a good thing."

While Space Allocation is a ton of work, it's exciting, too. The meeting is like the unofficial kickoff not only for IAAPA Attractions Expo, but our other two shows, as well: Asian Attractions Expo this June in Singapore, and Euro Attractions Show this September in London. Thanks to those of you who followed along who will exhibit at all of those shows this year; we very much appreciate your participation.

And thanks to everyone who clicked on this little corner of the Internet over the past two days. I hope it was helpful, and I hope you have a great Expo in November.

From here on out, if you have any questions about your booth contact the IAAPA sales team at exhibitsales@IAAPA.org.

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011 Space Allocation: Day 2—Morning Session

12:46 p.m.: OK, so there are two or three booths hanging around still. But my previous statement otherwise remains the same.


12:45 p.m.: DONE! All booths are assigned. The committee will hang around for a few minutes in case there are any move requests, so get them in ASAP.


11:54 a.m.: The committee just placed QiQi Inflatable Co., No. 620, which marks the end of our returning exhibitors. Everything from here on out—45 companies—are first-timers.

The committee is going to go grab some lunch while the IAAPA sales team assigns the first-time exhibitors. Committee members will be back about 12:30 p.m. to handle any final booth moves. If you have a request, send it to exhibitsales@IAAPA.org right away. The committee probably won't be here much past 1 p.m.


11:29 a.m.: While the committee continues to deal with booth moves, let me take an opportunity to give you faithful readers a heads-up for great content elsewhere on the blog. My colleague Stephanie See, IAAPA's manager of government relations and safety services, has been blogging like crazy over the past several weeks, providing updates on all sorts of U.S. government-related issues. Look down on the right of this page and click the "Government Relations" tag to find this valuable information.


11:11 a.m.: Another milemarker! Seniority No. 600, Fathom It Distributing, just went on the floor. The committee's really trying to push through and get everyone on the floor by 12:30 today.


10:54 a.m.: 575 booths on the floor. Steelman Partners just got assigned. Less than a hundred to go! Pace has slowed significantly the past half hour as a batch of booth moves came in.


10:30 a.m.: The committee is back from break, working on a few booth moves before resuming new assignments.


10:20 a.m.: I've kinda been buried in my laptop for most of this process, so for some reason I hadn't gotten a good look at how the floor is shaping up until now. I'd encourage you to go look at the interactive floor plan, because I was shocked at how full the floor looks already. It's very exciting to see that and try and picture what it will look like in person seven months from now.

Speaking of, Space Allocation has its own language it seems like at times. Terms like "full back wall," "island," "end cap," "split" and more fly around the room with hardly any words in between because everyone in here speaks the same dialect. It's impressive how the committee and the IAAPA exhibit team can visualize in three dimensions what they're seeing in 2-D on the floor plan, right down to envisioning how columns will affect people and where companies who need proximity to water drains can fit.

The last booth assigned was Inforesight Products, No. 563, and the committee is taking another short break before the final push to the end.


10 a.m.: Showtime Pictures LLC was just assigned, which means we now have 550 booths on the floor. Getting close now! A little more than a hundred to go.


9:51 a.m.: During the break I had a quick chat with Jeff Hudson, president of Skee-Ball Inc., who's marking his 10th year on the committee this time around.

From my observations in the back of the room, Jeff has been quite active during this process, as he handles all the gaming and plush companies, as well as basically any other companies affiliated with family entertainment centers. He's also been helping acclimate some of the new committee members, and based on his experience is one of those who helps assign booths that may not have a specific committee member assigned to them.


"The first meeting I was very lost, but by the second meeting I kinda got the hang of it—knowing to look ahead and see how it all flows," he said. 


Jeff said the key is, like anything else, being prepared. Over the weekend he went through the entire list of Space Allocation companies and color-coded those he's responsible for so he knows exactly when they're coming up in this fast-paced process. When he has a span of time between those companies he's identified ahead of time, that's when he starts scanning the pages for other booths he can help assign, if need be.

9:30 a.m.: The committee is back from break.


9:18 a.m.: The committee is taking a 10-minute break for some well-earned coffee. Moving at a really good clip this morning. Last booth assigned was No. 517, Theming and Animatronics Industries.


9:03 a.m.: It's cliche, I know, but I can't believe how fast time flies. The committee just placed Chuck Wagon Old-Fashioned Soda, No. 489, who has four years' seniority. If you'd asked me five minutes ago, I never would've guessed Old-Fashioned has been with us for that long; I interviewed owner Terry Schaeffer during his first Expo in 2008 because he was having such a great show and I remember it like yesterday. Terry, glad to see you've stayed with us!

Just assigned No. 500, Spin-T LLC.


8:29 a.m.: 475 booths on the floor now, as Garner Holt Productions just went on.


8:13 a.m.: The booth moves are wrapped up and now the committee is assigning new booths. I wanted to remind you to check out this page, which gives estimated times for assignments. The page was updated last night to reflect the most accurate estimates for today's timing. Remember, this is in no way 100% accurate, but at least it'll give you a feel for whether you should be watching a 9 a.m. or 10 a.m.

Good morning! The Space Allocation Committee members are filtering into the room, getting ready for an 8 a.m. start. They have about a dozen booth move requests to handle first, and then it'll be on to No. 457, Barron Games International. There's still more than 200 exhibitors to place today, and the goal is to be done by about 1 p.m. EDT.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011 Space Allocation: Day 1—Afternoon Session

7:40 p.m.: All right, whew, the committee's called it quits after the longest day I've spent with this bunch in four years of doing this. As of now there are 461 booths on the floor covering 292,000 net square feet.  About 380 booths were assigned today.

Space Allocation will begin bright and early tomorrow at 8 a.m. EDT (an hour earlier than originally scheduled). First booth assigned will be No. 457, Barron Games International.

Like I said, today was a major-record day for traffic on the blog, so thanks for following along and hopefully this was helpful. Good night!


7:20 p.m.: SHOUT OUT to Kees Albers of Unlimited Snow-Tape My Day, who e-mailed me today from the Netherlands to say he was staying up WWAAAAAYYYYY late to watch for his booth assignment, even though there was no guarantee he'd make today's cut. Well, congratulations, my friend, your sleep deprivation paid off! At No. 447 you're gonna be one of the last booths assigned today. Thanks for staying up with us.


6:53 p.m.: Today IAAPA's new president and CEO, Chip Cleary, has watched Space Allocation from the sidelines, soaking up the process. He listened a lot and talked to committee members when he could catch them away from their monitors (which hasn't been often on this hectic, strenuous day!). I asked him for a quick comment about what he's observed today, and here's what he said:

"When you come to IAAPA Attractions Expo this November you might wonder how this all comes together. In my many years of involvement with IAAPA I had never seen the Space Allocation Committee in action. Twenty-five computers, 16 big monitors, 15 committee members, eight IAAPA team members, six contractor team members, and lots of coffee and commitment. The floor slowly appears on the big screen but the commitment of our volunteer committee members and the IAAPA team members is inspiring to see."  

The last booth placed was Soundtube Entertainment, No. 416. Really making up some ground now.

6:44 p.m.: Just hit No. 400! Milspec Industries is on the floor.


6:20 p.m.: The committee assigned its 300th booth a few minutes ago. We're more than halfway home now, and the second half always goes quicker because the booths are typically smaller and options on the floor start to lock in a bit more.

Last booth placed, Midway Stainless Fabricators, No. 387.


6:09 p.m.: So while I'm communicating on the busiest day in this blog's history, I figure what better time to talk about something I'm quite proud of: The cover story of this month's Funworld magazine. A couple months ago I was invited to Six Flags' corporate headquarters in Arlington, Texas, to interview the company's new CEO, Jim Reid-Anderson. He was good sport enough to don a hard hat for our cover photo, and then talked to me about basically every aspect of his plan for helping Six Flags' continued recovery from bankruptcy.

It was a great discussion, one I was privileged to have, and I think all of you out there could get something out of it. You can read it via Funworld's digital edition by clicking here.

BTW, the last booth placed was Trendy—LLC, No. 375.


5:51 p.m.: The committee decided to extend today's meeting an extra hour to approximately 7:30 p.m. EDT. The last booth placed was No. 357, Randolph Rose Collection.


5:11 p.m.: SHOUT OUT to my peeps at Mini Melts Inc.! They e-mailed me today to say they've been following along to see when/where they were placed with seniority No. 336. Welcome to this year's show, guys!


5:06 p.m.: Right on time … back and placing once more. Just added True Food Service Equipment at 331.


4:56 p.m.: The committee's taking a 10-minute break. Hardly any of these today as the members have been working relentlessly to get these booths assigned and catch up on the goal for Day 1. Just did Aerophile at No. 327.


4:53 p.m.: Just hit No. 325, International Cordage Inc. I don't want to jinx anything, but the committee's hitting a stride of late. Pace returning to normal over the past hour or so.


4:37 p.m.: There we go! Booth No. 300 is on the floor now that Magnet World Inc. has been assigned.


4:28 p.m.: I was trying to wait for an update at a big ol' round number, but it's been too long since my last post so I'll just go with No. 291, Leisure Craft, which was the last booth assigned. Pushin' on to 300 …


3:44 p.m.: We've already set a one-day record for traffic on the blog, so thanks to all of you who are following along. I hope it's helpful to you. E-mail me at jschoolfield@IAAPA.org if there's anything I can help you with.

Toy Factory, No. 268, was just assigned.


3:10 p.m.: Committee's restarting now. Assigning International Laser Tag Association, No. 242.


2:53 p.m.: Short break as we address a couple redraws on the floor plan. Keep an eye on that interactive website.


2:48 p.m.: Sorry this post disappeared momentarily, folks. The committee's been moving pretty well this afternoon. Last booth that was assigned was Ninja Jump, No. 241.


2:17 p.m.: This is my fourth Space Allocation live blog and I just had something happen for the first time: A blackout!

OK, not really. But as you may have seen in the pics I posted this morning, we have quite a bit of equipment in this meeting room, and out of nowhere half the room's computers and extended paraphernalia lost power. Cool thing was, because the new assignment system is entirely web-based we were able to keep the meeting going without missing a beat thanks to laptops and Wi-Fi.

I don't know exactly what happened, and everything got back up and running pretty quickly, but it was an interesting 30 seconds of … "Huh?" What did we ever do before laptops, wireless Internet, and web-based interactive software programs. Really.


1:42 p.m.: Just placed booth No. 200! MedTech Wristbands just went on the floor. What a difference some food makes, huh? Committee's picked up the pace after lunch nicely.


1:36 p.m.: I spoke with Committee Chairman Jack Mendes briefly during the brief lunch break. He said part of what has the committee a little behind this year is learning a new computer system for assigning booths. He thinks it's just taking everyone—both the committee members and those running the system—a little time to get up to speed, but that will come with time.

This is our second consecutive year in Orlando for Expo (the second of a 10-year run, as we announced last year), but that doesn't mean the show is the exact same every year. Different companies come in and out of the show, he said, and those who are in change their sizes and sometimes their locations, which means it's like starting fresh every year. So what makes the show so exciting year in and year out also makes it challenging to plot out.

"We're trying to make sure the floor flows nicely and we don't create any dead-ends," Mendes said.

The committee is getting back to assignments now, starting with No. 181, NAARSO. They also have a couple booth moves to handle, as well.

To this point, 180 exhibitors are on the floor, covering a total of 124,000 net square feet.

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011 Space Allocation: Day 1—Morning Session

12:39 p.m.: The committee just placed its 100th company of the day, AIMS International (seniority No. 180), which includes creation of the AIMS Pavilion on the show floor. The committee is breaking for a 30-minute lunch now. We're running an hour behind, based on where we expected to be, so hopefully we can make up a half-hour and return to estimated assignment times this afternoon.


12:17 p.m.: Sorry for the lack of updates over the past 45 minutes or so, but it's been a little slow of late so not much to report. There have been some alterations to the floor, so be sure to keep refreshing that page. The last booth placed was Sega Amusements, No. 161.


11:56 a.m.: Recent assignment: Alcorn McBride, No. 156.


11:22 a.m.: The committee will only break for a 30-minute lunch today instead of an hour, since we're running a bit behind so far today.


"We'd rather rush lunch than rush the process," said BSR's Jack Mendes, the committee chair.

I will of course update you when the committee breaks for lunch.


11:17 a.m.: For those familiar with the NCAA men's basketball tournament, the people who put that bracket together each year have a "war room" of sorts, where they watch all the games and collect all the data to determine the 68 teams who get into the field for the Final Four.

That's the comparison that comes to mind sitting in the Space Allocation room. The members are arrayed around a large U of tables with big screens in front of them displaying the interactive floor plan. Here are a few photos:



Just placed Royal Train Rides, No. 134.


11 a.m.: Committee's coming back. About to assign No. 124, Innovative Concepts in Entertainment.


10:51 a.m.: The committee is breaking for 10 minutes as IAAPA's VP of exhibit sales Pete Barto works on a sizable redraw of the floor plan. Keep refreshing this site AND the floor plan to keep an eye on the proceedings and get a look at what the floor looks like when this little process is done.


10:34 a.m.: As a refresher, here's how the Space Allocation process works:

There are 15 members of the Space Allocation Committee from all different sectors of the M&S community. Thus each member watches over the exhibiting companies in their respective areas of expertise. For example: Monty Lunde (Technifex) and Keith James (JRA) handle theming and design companies, Vittorio Fabbri (Intamin) and Sophie Bolliger (B&M) keep an eye on ride manufacturers, etc. Their job is to be prepared with a booth assignment when their companies come up.

Each exhibiting company submits booth number requests. Early on, typically those requests are relatively easy to accommodate since there are so many spaces available on the floor. But as the show fills up, companies' requests start to disappear. That's when the committee members really kick into action. They'll make recommendations for new booths, oftentimes talking with the exhibiting company directly to work on a solution. The key to this selected group is their knowledge of two areas: their industry sector AND experience exhibiting at IAAPA Attractions Expo; both sides of that coin factor into the decision as the committee members try to get their companies the best position possible.

Sometimes the booth assignments just flow right along, but elsewhere there is significant discussion as members take into account proximity to competitors and maintaining the layout and integrity of the show floor. It can get complicated, that's for sure.

The last booth assigned was SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment at No. 111.


10:08 a.m.: REMINDER: The online interactive floor plan is live this year, so you can see booths immediately as they are assigned. The key is: remember to REFRESH YOUR SCREEN (sorry for the all-caps, but this is important!). The last booth assigned was Severn-Lamb, No. 102.


9:43 a.m.: And they're off! Space Allocation is officially under way. BJ Toy Manufacturing Co. was just assigned (seniority No. 82).


9:12 a.m.: Still doing updates and housekeeping stuff. I will post as soon as we get started. Just a reminder: booths are assigned based on seniority (number of years exhibiting at the show). Anyone with 25-plus years' seniority is placed ahead of this meeting, so there are 80 or so booths on the floor already.


9:02 a.m.: Committee Chair Jack Mendes from Bob's Space Racers is addressing the committee, laying out the process. We'll be starting soon.

Good morning, everyone. I'm back for another year of wall-to-wall coverage of Space Allocation for IAAPA Attractions Expo. Over the next two days the Space Allocation Committee will put 588 exhibitors on the floor for our trade show in Orlando this November.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m., but there are some housekeeping items to take care of before booth numbers start flying at 9:30 a.m. (All times I give are EDT.)

Keep refreshing this page, as I'll just update this post periodically, rather than starting a new one every time. If you have questions about your booth, e-mail exhibitsales@IAAPA.org immediately. If you have a question for me, you can post in the comments section or e-mail me directly at jschoolfield@IAAPA.org.

Thanks for following along today. Space Allocation is always one of our highest-trafficked days, so I hope this is helpful to you as we start working toward Expo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Space Allocation Meeting Coverage Begins Thursday, 9 a.m.

For the fourth consecutive year I'll be live-blogging IAAPA Space Allocation, where booths for this year's IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando are assigned.

If you've followed along in previous years, you probably have an idea for what's coming: My job is to be a fly on the wall while the Space Allocation Committee shapes the show floor. You can keep refreshing the blog to get updates on the committee's progress, as well as a sense for how the process works and what it's like to put together the industry's biggest exhibition.

Kevin Rohwer, vice president of sales and marketing for S&S Worldwide, is new to the committee this year, so I asked him what he thinks about the whole process as he's getting ready to join us in Virginia for the two-day event:


"I’m excited that I was asked to be a part of the Space Allocation Committee. I have always enjoyed my interaction with IAAPA, and this will be my 15th consecutive showing at IAAPA Attractions Expo. I’ve been a recipient of good from IAAPA and I’m honored to give back to IAAPA in whatever form my energy and experience can provide. To be trusted by IAAPA and my peers is an honor—one I will not take lightly. What makes IAAPA great is that there are those willing to give of their time and talents in hopes of making our industry, better."


This year I'll be doing double duty, providing Twitter updates, as well, so whichever version you're more comfortable with, you'll never be lacking for updates on how the meeting is going. At the same time, I'd recommend keeping an eye on the interactive online floor plan. This site is updated in real time so you can see how the floor is taking shape as your time for placement comes up.

If you have any questions about the process, e-mail my colleagues on the IAAPA Exhibit Sales Team at exhibitsales@IAAPA.org; if you have any comments/suggestions for what you'd like to read about during the meeting, e-mail me at jschoolfield@IAAPA.org.

See you Thursday!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Health Care Update: FDA Food Labeling Rule & 1099 Repeal

Some good news out of Washington last week: both the House and the Senate passed H.R. 4, which repealed the 1099 provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

IAAPA members may remember the PPACA expanded the 1099 reporting obligation as a revenue-raising measure to pay for the legislation. Previously corporations needed to file a Form 1099 with the IRS when they purchased more than $600 in services from an independent contractor, or other unincorporated business. Under the PPACA, beginning in 2012, 1099 reporting was expanded to include the purchase of goods over $600 and payments to corporations (except non-profits).

If the repeal is signed by President Obama, the rules will revert back and a 1099 will only be necessary if a business is buying services from an unincorporated business. Stay tuned for more information.

FDA Labeling Proposal Released
Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released proposed rules on the menu labeling provisions of the PPACA. The PPACA requires restaurants with 20 or more locations, serving substantially the same menu, to provide nutritional information on the menu or menu board. The rule was supposed to be out by March 23, but it got held up in the regulatory process.

There are two proposed rules: one for menu labeling, and one for vending machines.

Overall, IAAPA’s Government Relations department thinks the rules are good for the industry. We are also pleased the rules are in the proposal stage and that there are 60 days to offer comments. But this is where we need your help: tell us if the proposed rules will work for your facility. If they won’t, what changes can be made to them? IAAPA intends to file a comment with the FDA, so if you would like us to include your input, please let us know by May 30!

Monday, March 28, 2011

CPSC to Hold Pool Safety Hearing

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will hold a hearing on pool drains on Tuesday, April 5, at 9 am EDT. The hearing will be broadcast live on the CPSC's webcast website (please note, the website is inactive when there is not a live hearing).

The hearing will focus on a CPSC investigation into the adequacy of testing procedures used to determine the flow ratings of some Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB)-compliant drain covers. The investigation has revealed that the testing protocols used by some laboratories may have been improper and, as a result, some covers certified by these laboratories may not comply with the VGB.

Gravity drainage systems and large, unblockable drain covers, like those commonly used in waterparks, are not part of this investigation. However the investigation did include the smaller, "off-the-shelf" drain covers. CPSC is undertaking this effort in order to identify covers that have improper ratings and provide important safety information about drain covers to the public by Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

IAAPA Submits Comment on H-2B Wage Rule

Earlier this week IAAPA, through the H-2B Workforce Coalition, submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on an H-2B rulemaking. The letter can be viewed in the GR Archive section of the IAAPA website.

The rulemaking concerned the implementation of a recent controversial rule on wage methodology for H-2B workers. In its letter, the Coalition requested that DOL rescind the rule as a means of complying with President Obama’s Jan. 18 presidential memorandum that expressed the administration’s commitment to eliminating excessive and unjustified regulatory burdens on small businesses.

As members of the attractions industry know, during busy seasons companies must supplement their full-time staff with temporary seasonal workers. Unfortunately, even in today’s tough economic climate there are sometimes not enough local workers available to fill all the temporary seasonal positions. As a result, the attractions industry sometimes uses the H-2B program to find seasonal workers.


Now that the comment period has ended, the Administrative Procedure Act dictates that the Department of Labor will consider the comments it received, and produce a final rule that takes those comments into account. However, for political reasons, it is highly unlikely the DOL will heed our suggestion and rescind the rule.

Friday, March 18, 2011

First IAAPA Leadership Conference Wraps in Spectacular Fashion

It's safe to say the 2011 IAAPA Leadership Conference was a big hit.

I've just returned to my room here in San Diego after a long, exhausting, GLORIOUS day visiting three wonderful SoCal parks, culminating with a viewing of Disney California Adventure's "World of Color" as a fitting exclamation point to a fantastic week.

Today was filled with behind-the-scenes access as we traveled up I-5. At Legoland California we got to see the surefire soon-to-be hit Star Wars Miniland in construction; Knott's Berry Farm gave us a look at its operations in food & beverage, entertainment, and maintenance; and Disney took us where almost no outsiders have gone before: behind and below the screen of "Soarin'" and out onto a balcony of "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" for a spectacular view of the construction going on at Cars Land.

I'll have much more to come in the May issue of Funworld—including some great photos from the entire week of activity—but right now I have to start packing so I can get to the airport in, oh, five hours. But before things wrapped tonight I spoke with several IAAPA officers as well as other attendees, and everyone is already looking forward to doing this again next year.

For the many I met this week, thanks for spending time letting me get to know you. And for those who didn't make it this year, I hope I'll get to meet you at an IAAPA Leadership Conference in the future. This certainly was an event I will never forget.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

ADA Primer Now Available

The new ADA rules for public accommodations went into effect on Tuesday (March 15, 2011). This means businesses now must comply with the ADA's general nondiscrimination requirements, including provisions related to policies and procedures and effective communication. The deadline for complying with the 2010 standards, which detail the technical rules for building accessibility, is next year (March 15, 2012).

The U.S. Department of Justice recently published a free guide, ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business, to assist in navigating the recently updated rules for public accommodations. The title suggests the guide is only for small businesses, but after reading through it, I think the information presented can be useful to any business.

The primer addresses (in relatively plain English) both the requirements that are effective now, such as service animals and mobility devices, and the 2010 standard, but it does not address rules unique to the attractions industry such as those on miniature golf courses, amusement rides, and pools. In order to provide our members with more information on the regulations for those facilities, we are preparing a series of white papers that will assist members in developing their compliance strategies. In the next few weeks, look for more information from IAAPA on the new ADA rules. And, if you are in New England and have questions about the ADA, I'll be giving a presentation with IAAPA FEC Committee Chairman Tim Sorge at the NEAAPA Annual Meeting, March 29-30, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Inaugural IAAPA Leadership Conference Debuted Today

Day 1 of the new IAAPA Leadership Conference is in the books. Today attendees got a real flavor for what an industry hotbed San Diego is with visits to three vastly different facilities: Boomers!, a family entertainment center; Belmont Park, which offers the feel of a traditional seaside park; and SeaWorld San Diego, a big theme park experience. Here are a few pics from the day (photos by Robert Benson):




I don't appear in any of those photos because I wasn't there. Instead, I spent my day split between two committee meetings: Zoos & Aquariums, and Museums & Science Centers. I was so impressed with the intensity these groups brought to their respective tasks and to plan their dedicated education days at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011 this November in Orlando. I can't divulge any specifics of what they have planned since it all has to be finalized, but I can tell you both groups have big plans to make their own tracks special—must-do experiences for their attraction communities.

Tonight I joined several of those same committee members along with the rest of the conference attendees for an exclusive dinner at SeaWorld San Diego (my first trip to this park). After reconnecting with some old friends and meeting some new ones—and a trip through the "Wild Arctic" attraction (uh, yeah, that walrus is so huge it boggles the mind!)—we all settled into Shamu Stadium for an after-hours showing of "Shamu Rocks!," the park's nighttime whale show. The big guys were kind to us and didn't splash our group in the chilly weather. Doesn't he look cool under the lights?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

IAAPA Committees Gather in San Diego Ahead of Leadership Conference

The first IAAPA Leadership Conference officially gets under way Tuesday here in San Diego, but there was quite a bit of work and activity happening already.

Today seven IAAPA committees held their annual face-to-face meetings, many of them focused on this year's education planning for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011 this November in Orlando. I sat in on three different meetings throughout the day: Amusement Parks & Attractions, Waterparks, and Communications.

It was a pleasure for me to be a "fly on the wall" (although I couldn't keep my mouth shut entirely!) listening in on the conversations among these experts about trends and challenges they're facing back at their parks and attractions, and how they want to address these issues during Expo. Whether it's social media, government relations/compliance, or discussion of the latest technology, I'm looking forward to researching these topics further in the pages of Funworld, as well.

I was also impressed with the dedication of these volunteers, some of whom flew halfway around the world to sit in on these meetings and share their expertise and experience. In one day alone, I met with industry folks from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. The committees had packed agendas and the discussion was enlightening.

And this is just the preview. Starting tomorrow the IAAPA Leadership Conference officially starts with tours to Boomers!, Belmont Park, and SeaWorld San Diego. The goal for this new association event is to give attendees behind-the-scenes access to exemplary attractions, as well as numerous networking opportunities with colleagues; with those two components in place, essentially the learning never stops. Later this week we'll be visiting Knott's Berry Farm, Legoland, and Disneyland, among others.

I'll be in more committee meetings tomorrow, but the Leadership Conference runs through Thursday so I'll have further details later this week and then a full report in the May issue of Funworld.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CPSIA Database Launches Friday

If you manufacture, import, or even put your logo on a children's product in the U.S., and you have not already registered your company with the new CPSIA database, stop reading this blog and do it now!

A controversial part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act was the Publicly Available Consumer Product Safety Information Database, where individuals can post safety complaints about consumer products. Manufacturers who register with the database will be given 10 days' notice to respond to these complaints before they are posted on the Internet. If a manufacturer is not registered, the complaints will still be posted in 10 days. It's important to remember that the CPSIA expanded the definition of "manufacturer" far beyond the colloquial usage. Importers, retailers, and private labelers can now be held liable if the product does not comply with the CPSIA.

IAAPA has many issues with the final rule regarding the public database. As we said in our comment letter, we disagree with the expansion of the provisions explaining who may file and what information will be published online. We are also concerned about how the CPSC will handle situations where both a manufacturer and a private labeler are identified. The manufacturing community as a whole is concerned with the potential for abuse and fraud.

Last month, freshman Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS), introduced an amendment to the budget Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) that defunded the CPSIA database until certain issues were addressed, but ultimately the Senate voted down the bill, so the database is set to launch later this week.

IAAPA members can register to be notified of a product complaint at SaferProducts.gov.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Do State Budget Shortfalls Mean Trouble for the Attractions Industry?

I’ve been on the road a lot lately, visiting associations for state and regional attractions. Two weeks ago, I was in Austin, Texas, to participate in the Texas Travel Industry Association's Unity Dinner and give a presentation on federal health care reform to TTIA members. Earlier this week, I attended the Pennsylvania Amusement Park Association’s Spring Meeting in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Later this month I will be in Providence, Rhode Island, at the New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ Annual Meeting.

Some years state-by-state issues vary greatly, but right now I hear similar themes in every region I visit: the recent economic troubles have left many states with budget shortfalls. Decreased property values and business revenues, coupled with unemployment means states are not getting the tax revenue they are used to. Some states relied on one-time stimulus payments to fund ongoing expenses. One of the things I learned in Texas is that with the appropriations currently in place (meaning no new spending, and no inflation adjustments), the state is facing a $4.3 billion shortfall.

Just like a business does when revenues are less than expenses, state governments are looking at ways to cut spending and/or raise revenue. How they go about this is something members of the attractions industry should pay close attention to.

Most states have agencies dedicated to promoting travel to the state. These agencies are funded in different ways, but in most of the agencies I am familiar with it's through taxes on hotels, rental cars, and other travel expenses. In Texas, 1/12th of the revenues generated by the state's hotel occupancy tax are dedicated to state travel promotion.

Travel promotion is a great return on investment for states: promoting travel to a state is like free advertising for the attractions within the state. The attractions get more visitors, who generate revenue from sales, hotel stays, admissions, and other taxes, which is money for the state and its residents.

Unfortunately, when there’s a budget shortfall everything’s on the table, including state tourism promotion in some states. While I am generally in favor of reduced government spending, cutting state travel promotion actually costs the state money: In a year after defunding its state tourism promotion program, Colorado lost tax revenues that totaled 11 times the amount of tourism promotion funding the legislature cut. Years later, Colorado is still fighting to regain its footing in the tourism market.

If your state tourism bureau is facing budget cuts, speak up! Call your state representative and senator—or, better yet, set up a meeting with them. Don’t know your state elected officials? Look them up on IAAPA’s website. Tell your elected officials not to cut funding for the state tourism office. Explain how it’s a great return on investment, and remind them of the Colorado mistake. For more talking points, or if you need help, contact me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ASTM Update

Recently I attended the ASTM International F-24 Committee meeting in New Orleans. Although I talk about safety standards and ASTM all the time, this was my first time actually attending a meeting—and I was in awe over not only the amount of work that got accomplished in such a short timeframe, but also at the talent and passion committee members have for the attractions industry.

More than 125 individuals from eight countries attended the F-24 committee meeting, which lasted three days. I personally attended meetings on water attractions, terminology, restraint systems, and a Canadian harmonization session, but there were many other meetings on topics such as ziplines, ropes courses, and challenge courses; fall protection; training, and certification; and, my favorite name for a task group: Gravity or Patron Controlled Non-mechanical Spherical Devices.

One of the highlights of the meeting was when Walt Disney Imagineer Mike Withers was presented with ASTM’s highest award, the ASTM Award of Merit. Mike is only the second member of the F-24 committee to receive this honor, which makes him a “Fellow” of the ASTM society. I have worked with Mike regularly during my time at IAAPA, and can personally attest to why he is deserving of this award, but I think the Awards Task Group’s nomination remarks describe Mike’s talent and passion so much better:

“[we] nominate Mike for this award for his technical expertise combined with his engaging personality, his reputation for integrity, fairness and openness, and his unique ability to solicit compromise between opposing views that have led to increase the standing and relevance of Committee F24 and ASTM in the global marketplace. The work that he has shepherded, participated in or successfully incorporated in regulation has set the bar for safety that will allow for countless happy experiences for generations to come. His contributions have made ASTM the leader in standardization in our industry and have helped us all to address our single most important responsibility – safety.”

The next ASTM F-24 Committee meeting will be held Oct. 13-15, 2011, in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Valley Ho Resort. If you are passionate about safety in the attractions industry, you should definitely check it out. Membership on ASTM Committee F-24 gives you the opportunity to work with industry and technical experts from around the world in the premier ASTM standards development forum. You’ll help craft the standards that support the global amusement ride industry and promote safety for ride and park visitors everywhere.

For more information on the fall meeting, or becoming a member of the F-24 committee, check out ASTM International’s website.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Maximize F&B Sales at Your Waterpark

Now is the time to fine-tune your plans for maximizing revenue, guest satisfaction, and attendance. This month’s IAAPA webinar, set for Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. EST, focuses specifically on how waterparks can boost food and beverage sales, but any park with concessions can learn from our experts. Ken Whiting of Whiting’s Foods/Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk shares some insight into what participants can expect from the session.

What are the key areas of focus during this webinar?
We’ll address some current trends and strategies that work for all food and beverage operations in the attractions industry, as well as some waterpark-specific areas, including:
- cabana sales
- maximizing beverage revenue
- cashless payment systems
- healthier food options

Can you share a challenge waterparks face in refining and updating F&B offerings?
The spending patterns within waterparks are different than in a dry park. Being in bathing suits without constant access to money limits spending. Aligning their operation with services, menu items, and payment methods that enhance and encourage spending is key.

What types of information can participants in this webinar implement immediately?
There will be best practices and strategies shared that work in our industry. Menu item development, peak sales period management, and staff motivation ideas are typically low cost, easy to implement, and able to be acted on right away.

What is the most appropriate audience for this session?
Anyone with food service, retail, or general management responsibilities at a waterpark attraction will benefit from the information.

What can small/independent operators with tighter budgets glean from this session?
Many operators believe they have to spend big for large returns. Often that just isn’t the case. We’ll provide many proven tactics that are low cost, high return, and industry specific. Even with little or no budget, significant gains can be had. Everyone who participates in this webinar will leave with ideas that will work for them.

To learn more about IAAPA’s free member webinars and to register, click here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New CPSIA Resources

Product Safety Daily is a free daily e-mail publication that focuses on global consumer product safety news. Consumer product safety has been a hot topic in the U.S. for the past several years, with the passage and implementation of the Virginia Graeme Baker Act and the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act, but there have also been major consumer product safety reforms in other parts of the world, such as Canada and Europe. If you’re not already receiving it, I recommend you sign up for Product Safety Daily.

Speaking of the CPSIA, its implementation has been a difficult-to-follow process. Provisions are stayed and stays are then extended, making it can be difficult to keep track of what parts of the law are in effect now. CPSC has created a chart of CPSIA requirements and their stays of enforcement—such as the recently extended Section 102 Testing and Certification requirements. IAAPA members can reference this chart to review the status of the many CPSIA provisions that impact the attractions industry.

You can find the chart and other CPSIA resources over at IAAPA’s Toy Safety webpage.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Start Planning: National Tourism and Travel Week Is Coming!


Every year the first full week of May is recognized as National Travel and Tourism Week in the U.S. During this week cities, states, and travel businesses nationwide sponsor rallies and other events to celebrate the power of travel.

The week began as National Tourism Week, and was established by Congress in 1983. In a 1984 White House ceremony, President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation urging citizens to observe the week with “the appropriate ceremonies and activities.” Since its establishment, the U.S. travel community has collectively marked the event in a number of creative ways, from staging local rallies and conducting media outreach to securing proclamations and resolutions from local legislative bodies.


This year, the event will be May 7-15, with the Travel Rally Day occuring May 10.


Travel Rally Day is a concerted effort to demonstrate travel's impact on local workers, businesses, and economies. Individual events are staged in cities nationwide during National Travel and Tourism Week. The goal of Rally Day is to unite a community's travel workers and supporters and publicly represent the industry to media, elected officials and residents with a message that travel matters to this nation and to local communities.


Now is the time to start planning for National Tourism and Travel Week and the Travel Rally Day. Our friends at the U.S. Travel Association have compiled a website of helpful tips and tools to help you plan. Your local visitors bureau or state tourism agency may already have something in the works, so you may want to combine forces with them, or start your own!


If you are planning to participate, tell us, so we can help promote your event.