The Eastern Shore of Virginia gets its first waterpark, Maui Jack’s Waterpark, thanks to the efforts of a father and son development team.
Jack Burbage, Co-Owner of Blue Water Development, has committed much of his life to creating places where families of all types can enjoy the company of others and the outdoors, make memories and establish traditions that will last generations.
He and his son, Todd, have worked to do so since 2002, acquiring and improving water-accessible properties up and down the East Coast. To date, their portfolio includes five luxury RV resorts and eight hotels offering affordable getaways in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia. Blue Water also co-owns and operates the Sea Rocket, a highpowered speed boat that tours the coastline of Ocean City, Md.
When Blue Water purchased a 50-acre campground and 150 acres of surrounding land in Chincoteague Island, Va. in 2015, Jack and Todd did what any good pair of water-loving real estate developers would do: they decided to build the first waterpark on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Fortunately for both campground guests and waterpark visitors, they also decided they’d make it a premier facility with top-notch amenities and attractions.
Getting the design started
To kickstart this project, Jack and Todd asked Michael O’Neill, President of Waterpark Consulting, LLC based in Berlin, Maryland, to serve as the chief architect of Maui Jack’s—a name Jack had used in the past for a Hawaiian-themed clothing store he operated and thought quite appropriate for the colorful, family-friendly Hawaiian-themed waterpark he envisioned.
O’Neill, a longtime Berlin resident with more than 30 years of amusement industry experience, jumped at the opportunity to design and build a waterpark from the ground up, so close to home.
“The Shore is a beautiful place, and getting the chance to create a brand new attraction where people of all ages, from both near and far, can create memories and have fun was a dream come true,” said O’Neill.
With free rein over the waterpark’s design, O’Neill, who’d visited more than 50 waterparks over the years “to do my homework,” had a pretty good idea of what specific features would provide the type of experience—or experiences—that every type of guest might look for at Maui Jack’s.
Selecting great attractions
Retracing his travels and many impromptu discussions with waterpark visitors across the country, O’Neill began his blueprint by focusing on the respective must-haves of parents and children: an exceptional leisure river and a slew of slides.
With plans to add a two-slide tower to the waterpark in the future, the blueprint
- “The Lazy River” – What O’Neill proudly deems “one of the nicest lazy rivers I’ve ever seen” measures 620 feet long, 14 feet wide and 42 inches deep. Complete with beachside entry, it’s powered by three 25 horsepower motors that provide tube-riders with a variety of speeds in just one visit.
- “The Banzai Racers” – At 42 feet, this pair of open-air speed slides not only give riders a high-speed rush but also allows them to race against each other and challenge themselves to set distance records when they hit the water.
- “The Snakes” – Each 32 inches wide and enclosed for the majority of their length, the “Typhoon,” “Pipeline” and “Diamondhead” slides provide plenty of twists and turns.
- “North Shore Beach” – Described by O’Neill as “the ultimate under-48-inch waterpark experience,” this colorful playground includes a tipping bucket, small enclosed and open-air slides, spray toys and interactive toy elements. All of this sits atop a one-foot deep play pool, which is perfect for the little ones.
To ensure that guests would have anything and everything they might desire when looking to relax outside of the water, O’Neill surrounded his blueprint’s main attractions with amenities including:
- Keko’s Bar & Grill, offering food ranging from hamburgers and hotdogs to crab cakes and roasted pork, as well as adult-friendly libations including the signature Maui Jack’s cocktail.
- Maui Jack’s Store, which offers snacks, Maui Jack-branded souvenirs and clothing and more.
- Large, handicap-accessible men’s and women’s restrooms with rinse-off showers and lockers available for daily rental.
- Thirteen poolside Maui Island cabanas that can be rented for the day and provide comfy, couch-like poolside seating and privacy veils for ultimate relaxation.
- A group pavilion for birthday parties, family gatherings, reunions and the like.
- Complimentary sunscreen to ensure sun safety for all patrons with dispensers located throughout the waterpark to encourage reapplication.
Leaving no detail uncovered, O’Neill completed his work of art by surrounding Maui Jack’s structures with plenty of landscaping, enormous shade-providing umbrellas and, “to make sure guests know they’re in a special place,” the very best deck furniture possible: mesh-sling chairs with powder-coated aluminum.
Constructing and marketing the waterpark
Breaking ground in November 2017, Blue Water used local contractors and local suppliers, as it does with all of its projects, to make O’Neill’s blueprint a reality.
And while the Eastern Shore’s always-unpredictable weather and the uniqueness of waterpark parts presented some challenges throughout the construction process—the first step, raising the entire site two anda- half feet to improve storm water runoff. This involved bringing in more than 1,000 dump trucks of fill dirt during a very rainy fall season. The final step, which was putting together North Shore Beach, was delayed by the decision to upgrade to a larger APU structure. Still, Maui Jack’s opened just ahead of the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day weekend.
Blue Water knew when it came to drawing crowds to Maui Jack’s that the old cliché of “if you build it, they will come,” is more commonly not a reality and especially unlikely when marketing a relatively rural area.
“We knew that getting the word out about Maui Jack’s early and often was essential,” said Deserie Lawrence, Blue Water’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We employed a wide array of traditional and not-so-traditional methods to market the waterpark to audiences both near and far.”
For starters, Blue Water developed a website for Maui Jack’s as soon as the blueprint was finalized so people could get excited and see what was coming. It then began carrying out a boots-on-the ground strategy in the local community, visiting and forging faceto-face partnerships with local restaurants and other businesses that agreed to offer their clients consignment passes to Maui Jack’s in exchange for on-waterpark property advertising of their business. Additionally, they took advantage of partnering with the neighboring Chincoteague Island KOA campground and advertised its offer of 25 percent off admission for all guests through physical collateral and online marketing as soon as the campground opened in March 2018.
Branching beyond Chincoteague Island, Blue Water also developed consignment pass partnerships with larger businesses, primarily hotels and motels, located within a 90-minute drive of the waterpark, and invested in physical mailers, roadside billboards and radio spots targeting specific areas within this region based on population and socioeconomic data.
Finally, Blue Water applied its forward-thinking social media marketing by regularly posting images and videos of the waterpark’s progress on Facebook and Instagram as soon as construction was underway, offering followers a chance to win season passes, day passes or branded swag as the waterpark neared completion. To keep the fun going, they continued these contests after opening day and encouraged the waterpark’s earliest guests to post about and share images of their experience, thereby raising awareness of Maui Jack’s.
Delivery the Maul Jack’s promise
Of course, all the marketing in the world wouldn’t draw visitors to Maui Jack’s if they didn’t see value in the experience, so owners made sure to develop a pricing plan that would offer guests many attractive, budget-friendly options when deciding when to visit the waterpark, which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
The waterpark began by offering (and quickly selling out of) season passes, which have already delivered tremendous value to the lucky folks who got their hands on them and, to Blue Water’s benefit, assured early attendance and brand awareness. In addition, Maui Jack’s offers threeday, late-day and full-day passes, all with different prices for seniors, those over and under 48” and those under three years of age (free), so that guests can get the most bang for their buck. Looking to further satisfy all guests—and, of course, generate additional revenue Maui Jack’s also offers group rates, party packages and locker and cabana rentals!
Within the park, guests will not be charged for sunscreen, children’s life jackets or tube use, which is just one small aspect of the Maui Jack’s experience that Blue Water hopes will keep guests coming back. The larger aspect, and one that Blue Water prioritizes above all else at all of its properties, is exceptional customer service: from the initial reservation to the ticket window to every employee-guest interaction. Maui Jack’s currently employs 40-50 daily employees, the vast majority of whom are from the local community and are certified lifeguards, a certification that is not required by Virginia law.
So far, if the number of daily visitors and images shared on social media are any indication, Maui Jack’s is delivering the value and experience Blue Water, and specifically “Maui Jack” Burbage himself, had hoped.
To learn more about Maui Jack’s Waterpark, visit https://www.mauijacks.com/.