Friday, February 27, 2009

Introducing … IAAPA – Small Parks and Attractions

The purpose of these "Membership Minutes" is to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting when you join or renew your IAAPA membership—and why it’s even more essential to stay connected to the industry as we all head into what will be a challenging economic year. This week's post focuses on what IAAPA provides to our Small Parks and Attractions members.

Put Your Committee to Work!
Earlier this week, I had the priviledge of meeting with the members of the Small Amusement Parks and Attractions Committee. We focused our agenda on developing the education track for Small Parks and Attractions attendees at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009. During our time together, I listened to the committee talk about the need for partnership and sharing among this particular community. At one point, I suggested that we offer each of the committee members' contact information to prospective and new members—creating an "ad-hoc" mentor program. I was thrilled when they ALL said "Yes! Sign me up!"

I encourage you to take advantage of this valuable resource. If you own, operate, or work at a small park or attraction and need to reach out to someone in the industry, simply contact one (or all) of these incredibly talented committee members. They are happy to listen, offer their advice, and their expertise. You just have to ask!

Education & Training
Have you thought about how are you going to train your staff this year? Do you have all the education resources you need? IAAPA has a whole bookstore full of training tools offered at affordable prices for members. Take a look at the First Steps or the Skill Builder series for economical training ideas that can really come in handy as you start building your staff. In addition, as a member you can log in to the Member Center and get access to previous IAAPA Attractions Expo education session handouts and other information which may serve as your connection to out-of-the-box ideas. These could turn out to be lifelines as you come up with new ways to meet your monetary goals.

Government Relations
Our team is constantly monitoring issues that affect small parks and attractions. Your membership dues guarantee you have two dedicated full-time IAAPA staffers in Washington, D.C., working to protect your business interests. Your IAAPA GR team has worked tirelessly on the recent phthalate ban and provided our members with updates and education throughout the entire process. And we’re not just limited to federal issues; we have worked on a variety of state legislative initiatives as well. As a member, if you EVER need any support regarding a government relations issue, all you have to do is ask! Go ahead, it’s easy:

And of course, I would like to give a shout-out to FUNWORLD, our award-winning monthly magazine. The February issue is PACKED with ideas for ways you can drive your business and tips for how to succeed in this tough economy. A subscription is included with your membership!

What else do you need from IAAPA? Let me know what you think and if there is anything else we can do to help support you. My e-mail address is and I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

March FUNWORLD Roars to Life

The new issue of FUNWORLD is out, and it's noteworthy for, as far as I know, being the first one to ever feature a live bear on the cover. As you can see from the photo above, that's a grizzly in the background over Minnesota Zoo CEO Lee Ehmke's shoulder.

The cover story this month, written by my colleague Marion Hixon, focuses on big-budget installations at zoos, highlighting the $24 million "Russia's Grizzly Coast" at the Minnesota Zoo. Lots of awesome grizzly photos in this issue!

Other good stuff in the March pages:

• An examination of how attractions are capitalizing on the growing trend of "celebration vacations."
• A report from Latin America on how aquariums are dedicated to preserving marine life.
• One expert's opinion on how the current financial crisis will affect the attractions market.

Finally, we're trying something brand new this month on the back page of the magazine, where News Editor Keith Miller shares an extraordinary experience he had in Orlando following last year's IAAPA Attractions Expo. Let us know if you'd like more pieces like this, or—better yet—if you'd like to write your own first-person account of a great industry experience for a future issue.

And remember: If you can't wait for the print version of FUNWORLD to arrive in your mailbox, click over to our new digital edition and start reading right away!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Introducing … IAAPA – Manufacturers and Suppliers

I have written several of these posts now, so I will spare you the full introduction, but basically, the purpose of these "Membership Minutes" are to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting when you join or renew your IAAPA membership—and why it’s even more essential to stay connected to the industry through us as we all head into what will be a challenging economic year.

This week's post focuses on why IAAPA is essential for the manufacturers and suppliers who serve the attractions industry.

IAAPA is the worldwide leader in the attractions industry with expos in the United States, Europe, and Asia that connect the key professionals, products, and knowledge in the business.
You must be a member to exhibit at IAAPA Attractions Expo and you save if you're a member and you exhibit at Asian Attractions Expo or Euro Attractions Show. I did the math and the savings is anywhere from €225 to $459 depending on the show and your booth—which almost pays for your membership for the entire year.

Industry Buyers' Guide and Online Membership Directory
All manufacturer and supplier members of IAAPA are listed in the Industry Buyers' Guide. This resource is open to members and non-members alike to search for products and services. We suggest you keep your listing up to date, so people can find your particular product or service. All members also have access to search the Online Membership Directory. Here, you can search for facilities by geographic location, facility type, and more. Once you enter your search criteria, the online tool searches our membership database and provides you with full contact information for you to use to contact potential sales leads.

To update your listing or search the directory, log in to the Member Center and start searching. Let us know if you don't have your login information and we will get it to you!

A Few Other Ideas
Many of our manufacturers and suppliers indicate they use the daily News Flash service to find new business leads and track market trends. If you aren't currently receiving News Flash, e-mail us and ask to be put on the list. Only members receive this valuable resource.

Once per year, IAAPA members can request a mailing list to use for direct mail purposes. Download the mailing list request form and gain access to the list of IAAPA member facilities.

And finally, don't forget to make use of your Manufacturer and Supplier Community page. I posted a variety of links and information that you can use to help drive customers your way.

Am I missing anything? What else do you need from IAAPA? Let me know what you think and if there is anything else that IAAPA can do to help support you. My e-mail is and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome to the Neighborhood, Schlitterbahn

Earlier this month, Schlitterbahn unveiled the waterpark/resort company's official blog, SchlitterBlog. You can check it out here. The site promises to provide "inside scoop and other fun facts that you can't get anywhere else."

This is the latest blog to launch from either an industry facility or manufacturer. I have a small list of links started on the right-hand side of our site here, but I'm sure there are more IAAPA members out there with blogs I haven't seen yet. If you're not listed, e-mail me so I can check your site out!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Disney's 'American Idol Experience'

Disney's Hollywood Studios lived up to its name tonight as, for one day, the phenomenon that is "American Idol" left its Hollywood, California, home and set up shop in Orlando.

Thursday marked the grand opening of Walt Disney World's newest attraction, "The American Idol Experience," at DHS. To celebrate the event, Disney brought in more than two dozen "Idol" glitterati for a "blue carpet" event (blue being the main color of "Idol"). Chauffeured down the park's Hollywood Boulevard sitting in the back of convertibles were the likes of Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest, Carrie Underwood, and the most recently crowned Idol, David Cook.

Disney Imagineers have gone to painstaking detail to recreate the actual "Idol" in a theme park version. Working with the show's original set designer, they've shrunk the traditional "Idol" set to fit in a 1,000-seat theater inside DHS, including the largest curved video wall in Disney World at 35 feet long and seven feet high (see photo above).

Just like the real "American Idol," park guests audition throughout the day and, after several preliminary rounds, the best of the best as chosen by the audiences during the day compete in a finale that night. There are even three judges up on stage who don't pretend to be Randy, Paula, and Simon, but they do emulate their three quite distinct personalities, providing critiques of each "guest performer." Keypads embedded in the audience's armrests allow them to vote, and the winner is guaranteed an audition in front of the real "Idol" judges the following year.

How well did Disney translate the real thing to the theme park? According to the people who should know best, they nailed it. Seacrest helped host the big show Thursday night and he told the audience in one of several candid, off-the-cuff moments: "It really is like being on 'American Idol.'"

Later in the evening I caught up with Season 1 Runner-Up Justin Guarini (who couldn't have been nicer, by the way), and he told me DHS got it exactly right.

"It gives the everyday person the exact experience—in a much shorter form—that we got," Guarini said. "You have to audition in front of casting people and producers, you have to pick a song, you get hair and makeup and vocal coaching, all that stuff. And then, the most exhiliarating part, you get to audition on the big stage in front of hundreds and hundreds of people in the audience. I loved it. When I saw the stage today, I was blown away by how much it looks exactly like the stage they have now [in Hollywood]. An awesome attraction."

"Awesome" is a pretty good way to describe the entire event tonight. I'm not an "Idol" watcher, but even so I could still appreciate that, as Seacrest pointed out, this was the first time all of the show's winners had been on one stage at one time. And the crowd went absolutely beserk when Cook and Underwood performed a song each, then duetted on Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." It was certainly a heck of a way to open a new attraction: "Idol" tested, "Idol" approved.

I'm certainly no paparazzi, but here's a few shots I managed to snap from the blue carpet:

Carrie Underwood faces the photog gaggle …

David Cook makes a friend …

Ruben Studdard is a big dude …

And here's a look down the blue carpet …

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

National Bankruptcy Day

Today is what some are calling "National Bankruptcy Day" because it is predicted an untold number of businesses that manufacture or sell children's products will be forced out of business due to the CPSIA, which goes into effect today. It is still too soon to tell the impact this law will have on the attractions industry, but we would love to hear from IAAPA members about their experiences with the new law.

Last night, the CPSC released the standard operating procedure for testing for phthalates and a small business compliance guide. The compliance guide is basically an FAQ document, but it looks like it could be helpful in answering basic questions about the CPSIA.

The CPSIA has gotten a lot of attention from some major press outlets the past few days. This article on explains how the new law will affect businesses in every state of the union. The Wall Street Journal ran this Op-Ed on the issue last week; and Senator Jim DeMint, who authored last week's CPSIA relief amendment, wrote this commentary for RealClearPolitics. Sadly, it is unlikely Sen. DeMint's legislation will pass, but we are watching it and will notify members if something does happen.

As I said above, if you are willing to share your CPSIA stories with IAAPA, you can e-mail us. We won't make your experiences public, but it will help us with our lobbying efforts and other activities.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

CPSC Issues Guidance for Complying with Phthalates Ban

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will not appeal a federal court's decision and will begin enforcing the CPSIA phthalates ban on Tuesday. The CPSC will release more information on enforcement later this week.

Friday, February 6, 2009

CPSC Lead Enforcement Policy

CPSC released the enforcement policy on Section 101 lead limits this afternoon and an interim rule on exemptions on the lead requirements for certain electrical devices.

The agency also published this press release explaining their enforcement policy. Members may find these documents helpful, especially those who make children's apparel and electronic devices.

With the February 10 effective date approaching, CPSC staff is making daily announcements regarding compliance. We will update this blog as we get information from the CPSC so check back often. (Hint: if you click the "CPSIA" link to your right or below, you can see all of our posts on CPSIA.)

CPSIA Relief in the Form of an Amendment

Last night, a federal court in New York overturned the CPSC General Counsel’s opinion on phthalates in children’s products and ruled that the CPSIA effective date of Feb. 10, 2009, applies to all children’s products, including existing inventory. IAAPA members will need to determine what this means for their businesses and make decisions regarding their existing inventory, consulting counsel if necessary.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced an amendment (SA 270) to the economic stimulus bill that would delay the effective date of the new lead content requirement until Aug. 10, 2009. The amendment also suspends enforcement by CPSC and state attorneys general until the final regulations are in place, waives civil penalties for first good faith violations, and directs the U.S. Small Business Administration to develop a compliance guide for small businesses. Because this amendment was written before the court decision was released it does not contain provisions to delay the effective date for the phthalate ban.

Debate on the stimulus bill continues today and while it is unlikely this amendment will pass without Democrat support, we still feel the Senate needs to hear from members of the attractions industry about the challenges presented in complying with the CPSIA by Feb. 10, 2009.

Please contact your senators today and urge them to support the DeMint amendment and add similar provisions to delay the effect date for the phthalate ban.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Breaking news on phthalates...

A judge in New York ruled in favor of NRDC and Public Citizen in the lawsuit over the CPSC General Counsel's opinion on phthalates.

IAAPA members should watch their in-boxes tomorrow morning for more on this ruling.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What the CPSC Stay of Enforcement Really Means to the Attractions Industry

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted last week to stay the enforcement of testing and certification requirements under Section 102 (a) of the CPSIA, including children's products. While in theory this helps businesses comply with the new law, in reality it grants little relief, confuses the issue, and may wrongly suggest to some that additional relief is no longer necessary.

The National Association of Manufacturers prepared this analysis of the stay.

IAAPA is a member of the NAM CPSC Coalition and last week signed on to a letter from the Coalition to the CPSC, urging a one-year stay of the Feb. 10, 2009, effective date of the lead content requirements of Section 101 (a)(2) of the CPSIA. The CPSC did not grant a stay of the effective date for the lead content provisions. This means any children's product not meeting the 600ppm lead content standard is a banned hazardous product as of next week and cannot be sold. If you remember from November, CPSC General Counsel ruled the lead provisions apply to all merchandise, regardless of date of manufacture.

Put simply: You cannot sell a product with more than 600ppm lead content on or after Feb. 10, 2009.

So what if you have an item at your redemption counter or on the shelf in your souvenir shop and you don't know its lead content? Well, you're still going to have to either test it or ask the manufacturer to certify it meets the 600 ppm standard, even though technically enforcement of the testing and certification provisions doesn't start for another year.

Even Chairwoman Nancy Nord agrees this is a less-than-perfect fix:"The stay of enforcement does not provide relief for the charities, thrift shops, resellers and small retailers who are impacted especially hard by the retroactive effect of the lead ban to existing inventory. While these groups do not have a legal requirement to test their inventory, they must meet all standards enacted by Congress. Thrift shops, charities and other sellers will have to decide whether they will continue to sell children's clothing and other products that have not been tested, even though no one has suggested that they are unsafe."

Another issue that arises from this stay is it has no legal effect on the ability of state attorneys general to enforce the testing and certification provision. The CPSIA gave a lot of enforcement power to the state AGs. Now, an AG in one state may choose to respect the CPSC's stay while in a neighboring state, the AG will enforce the Feb. 10 effective date. For companies that operate in multiple states, this creates a real headache.

The bottom line is this: technically, you do not have to go through testing and certification until next year if you are 100 percent positive your merchandise meets the new lead standards but if you are wrong, this stay does not absolve you of responsibility.

At this point, a legislative solution is the only way to provide actual relief to businesses struggling to comply with the new law. This will be difficult as no elected official is particularly willing to stick his or her head up and risk being painted as "against safety."

For more information and updates as the issue continues to develop, visit our Toy Safety page.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Introducing … IAAPA – Family Entertainment Centers

My job is to market IAAPA, so I want you to know exactly what you’re getting when you join or renew your membership—and why it’s even more essential to stay connected to the industry through us as we all head into what will be a challenging economic year. A lot of our benefits are intangible or immeasurable, but even if you just use ONE of them, your membership will undoubtedly pay for itself. Each week, I will update the blog with a post about what IAAPA can do for a specific attractions community; some of the benefits will be the same across the board, some will be specific, but all of them will be things you can use or learn from to improve your business.

This week, my topic is: family entertainment centers and IAAPA.

IAAPA has made a significant commitment to the family entertainment center (FEC) community. FECs make up about one third of IAAPA’s facility membership and have an incredibly active committee that works throughout the year to plan education programs and support IAAPA’s government relations and safety efforts.

FIRST! Things First
IAAPA has joined forces with American Specialty Insurance & Risk Services to offer members FIRST!, an IAAPA-sponsored insurance program exclusive for IAAPA FEC members that provides a powerful combination of quality insurance, competitive pricing, valuable risk management tools, and a collective industry voice.

Some members have reported saving thousands of dollars through this program, so that in itself more than pays for your IAAPA membership. For more information on FIRST!, please visit the FIRST! web site or contact American Specialty at +1 800/245-2744 and let them know you want to take advantage of the great benefits of the FIRST! program for FECs.

If you're looking for something FREE, we also offer more than 90 FREE education sessions at IAAPA Attractions Expo for IAAPA members.

The FEC Committee will plan several of those sessions that will focus entirely on the issues effecting FECs. If you have ideas for what you would like us to cover during these sessions let us know (just shoot me an e-mail; we are just starting to work on the sessions for 2009.

In the meantime, however, members can log in to the Member Center and get access to past session handouts and other information. These sessions are your connection to out-of-the-box ideas and will be a lifeline to you in coming up with new ways to meet your monetary goals.

Meet Ben
In spring 2008, IAAPA hired Ben Jones to serve as the association's FEC Specialist, providing outreach, support, and assistance to IAAPA’s FEC community. An industry veteran, Ben offers members his advice and counsel on a variety of issues. He is at your service, so feel free to e-mail him with your questions about your FEC!

Did you know that if you had an issue at your facility and needed help with the press, IAAPA’s staff provides you with FREE crisis communications support? That alone is worth the price of admission (or membership!). Just call the IAAPA offices and we will put you in touch with all the right people.

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention FUNWORLD. Our monthly magazine is FILLED with articles, ideas, and stories about people just like you working in the attractions industry. Each month we have a section focused ENTIRELY on FEC operations, which can offer you insight and experience you will not find elsewhere.

Am I missing anything? What else do you need from IAAPA? Let me know what you think and if there is anything else that IAAPA can do to help support you. My e-mail is and I look forward to hearing from you.