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Economics

What are the real costs to build and operate a surf park?

Let’s Talk About Total Cost of Ownership

Any successful business needs to determine how their invested capital is paying back. A surf park is no different. Serving as the anchor to the venue, the surf pool is likely the most expensive and undoubtedly the most important component of the venue. In order to ensure successful ROI, developers and investors must look at the Total Cost of Ownership of their surf pool.  Too often when we make a purchase, we look at ticket price, not factoring in ongoing costs. Buying a car is a perfect example, as people oftentimes forget to factor in high fuel and insurance costs, or even expensive maintenance services. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), in the world of surf pools can be summarized as the costs incurred to purchase the pool technology, plus the what it takes to construct and continually operate the pool overtime.

Upfront costs like the equipment itself and construction of, can differ depending on what the needs of the surf venue are. Often, size is the major factor in these cost estimates, as developers need to navigate size (pool footprint) vs. performance (wave quality, ride time, etc.) in order to find that “sweet spot.” A surf pool should be large enough to satisfy surfers wave-wise but small enough to provide a lower TCO and higher ROI money wise (Read more here on why Size Matters!). Operating costs on the other hand are ongoing and cannot be avoided. In contrast to the upfront costs, there is not much shopping around when it comes to these costs that are highly dependent on the pool technology that has been chosen. Ultimately, TCO has many levels to it and the savings (or losses) start right when you break ground on a new development. Let’s dive deeper…

Construction

First things first, a surf park needs building. No matter the size and scale of the venue, building a surf pool is quite literally no small feat. Some of the leading technologies for example require a minimum footprint of at least 4 acres, with a few technologies requiring over 20 acres! (Examples of real footprint sizes here)

A construction site with bulldozers

Common sights during a surf pool’s construction. Photo: Shane Mclendon

Many elements of construction need to be considered if you have made it to this stage of the development process, most notably including:

  • Excavation
  • Soil sealing,
  • Concrete
  • Filling the pool with water

These construction processes are certainly not cheap, so why not save money on costs AND gain increased pool performance capabilities? With a compact and scalable footprint, Endless Surf consistently builds for 1/3 less than leading competitors. Less size translates to less land needed and less construction to be completed, not to mention less impact on the environment, but more on that later.

Maintenance and Operations

Ultimately with Endless Surf technology, many areas of cost savings from construction translate to more, on-going savings within maintenance and operations. Once waves start to roll out toward the edges of the pool, although surfers may disappear into the barrel, the visibility of operating costs will become very apparent. Plus, costs associated with maintaining your newly acquired equipment cannot be avoided.

Ongoing operations costs include but are not limited to things like:

  • Energy
  • Filtration
  • Pool Chemicals
  • Water
  • Routine Maintenance

When it comes to that size and performance “sweet-spot,” a slightly smaller footprint will be beneficial toward cost savings. To sum this up, less of a footprint without the loss of wave making capabilities, translates to a significantly lower TCO.

A major area of many surf park’s maintenance costs comes from the revenue loss associated with the need to drain the pool. Out of all the surf pool technologies to choose from, most require pool draining time and time again in order to upkeep mechanical parts that are submerged under water. Consider this… the park will need to close for at least three days (a very conservative estimate) in order to drain the pool on day 1, make all necessary repairs on day 2, and refill the pool on day 3. All in all, that’s at least 3 days of lost revenue, AND some huge environmental costs associated with all that water use…

The good news is that certain technologies ARE more operationally friendly than others. Pneumatic technology for example boasts incredible reliability and longevity, not to mention, all its mechanical components are conveniently located outside of the pool on dry land, saving surf parks from astronomical maintenance costs and revenue losses. Finally, even if a pneumatic chamber were to fail, mechanical redundancy is built into the system, thus allowing other chambers and fans to make up for it.

Pipes, pumps, and machinery

A glimpse into the many nuances that make water move

Flexibility

Another critical piece to consider is operational flexibility. Although developers and investors would love to believe that wave deprived surfers will consistently be lining up to visit their venue even on a Tuesday morning in January, the reality is that there will be plenty of off-peak times. When capacity is low, the waves must keep pumping, even for the handful of expert surfers (paying customers) who traveled to surf a world-class wave on command. In these off-peak scenarios, it might seem surprising how any surf park could make money to offset the energy costs incurred to produce a powerful, expert-approved wave. However, the offsetting can in fact be successful with features unique to Endless Surf.

Endless Surf’s innovative technology offers flexibility unlike any other surf pool on the market. With a patented heart shape design offering mirrored zones, operators can turn off or lower the intensity on only one side of the pool for when park capacity is low. In addition, the seemingly infinite variety of wave types that our pneumatic technology offers, provides park operations with the option to run waves that fit the surfers in the pool, as not all wave types consume the same amount of energy. Just like a cars fuel economy performs differently when driving in the city vs on the highway, a surf pools energy consumption will vary as well, with most energy claims being made based on unrealistic scenarios (More on that here).

Environment

As an extra tier to TCO, environmental costs need to be factored in, although they are indirect to developers themselves. Surf pools are not likely to be carbon neutral without offsetting commitments. Unfortunately for surf pools, in direct relation to their size and depth, they require massive amounts of:

  • Excavation and Soil Sealing – requires massive transportation capacities to move the excavated soil and increases soil degradation
  • Concrete – whose manufacturing is the leading contributor of greenhouse gases
  • Water – often scarce in places like the Middle East, Arizona, Palm Springs, etc. and valuable nonetheless
  • Chemicals – needed for sanitation and often not environmentally friendly when improperly disposed of or spilled
  • Energy – do we need to explain this one?
Saguaro cacti and a fragile desert environment

The environment is fragile in places like this, where surf parks are in high demand! Photo: Tanner Wilson

Building surf pools does not have to be a death sentence for the environment, because there are ways to lessen our impact by choosing the right surf pool technology. Endless Surf’s compact size and flexibility offers operational freedom to help you use less and save more over time, ultimately benefitting both your wallet and the environment. This is something consumers and surfers in particular care deeply about. Expect this not only to come up in planning requirements and approvals but also will need to be answered in your marketing to reassure your target audience they can surf your pool with an untroubled conscience.

A lower TCO equals higher ROI

When taking this comprehensive bird’s eye view of surf pools, it becomes apparent that you need to see your investment over the long term to truly understand the costs and therefore, the payback. Being able to save money from the start of a project without sacrificing product quality and performance is hard to achieve. However, with Endless Surf we’ve done it. From the build to the day to day operations, Endless Surf’s key features drive venue success in some impressive ways, not to mention wave programming capabilities will keep stoked surfers coming back for more time and time again.

 

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