This is an exclusive interview with Bob Williams, Assistant General Manager and Marketing Director of the popular Calaway Park where he discusses the joy that this local popular attraction brings to many people.
GRV: Bob, it’s my understanding that you have been involved with Calaway Park for several years. What areas of responsibility do you have with the daily operations at Calaway Park?
BW: I have been with Calaway Park for 22 years. In my 22 years, I have managed and worked with every department (excluding finance and maintenance). Now, I am the Assistant General Manager and I oversee the complete park operation. I love coming to work every day, it truly is satisfying to put smiles on guests’ faces as a career.
GRV: Is Calaway Park a private enterprise or a public company?
BW: Many people think that Calaway Park is public however, Calaway Park is a private company.
GRV: When and how did the idea for Calaway Park come about and why did you choose to have an RV Park on the property alongside of the amusement park?
BW: Calaway Park opened its doors to the public in 1982. We opened the campground in June of 1992 to provide accommodations for Calaway Park guests. This has proved to be a great success over the years.
GRV: What was the Grand Opening date? It must have been quite an event for Calgary. Can you give a few details of that event?
BW: Calaway Park opened its doors to the public on Saturday, June 26, 1982. It was a great event for Calgarians, as Calaway Park would have been the first and only amusement park in Calgary.
GRV: Calaway Park has become a landmark of sorts. People either know about its existence, they have been there or they can tell you how to get there. The location seems so ideal. How did this location get chosen and why?
BW: We chose this location because the land was available at the time. It was on the TransCanada Highway which was an ideal place to capture guests who were on their way to Banff. We wanted to create a family attraction that made guests feel as if they were on vacation, even though they were still in town. This is how the name Calaway Park came to be – a mix between ‘Calgary’ and ‘away’.
GRV: During the ‘open’ season, what types of rides and entertainment are available at Calaway Park? What are the hours of operation, and when do you open and close the park during the year?
BW: During our operating season, there are 32 rides, attractions such as Cinemagic 3D, and live entertainment that are included in a day admission. Every year we operate from the Victoria Day long weekend to the Thanksgiving long weekend. This year, our operating hours are as follows:
- Spring: Saturday, Sunday, and Holiday Monday, May 18 – June 23, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Summer: Daily June 28 – September 2, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Fall: Saturday, Sunday, Holiday Monday, September 7 – October 14, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
GRV: Bob, can you give us a general breakdown of the different types of Park passes or choices available for day use or other uses?
BW: At Calaway Park, we want to give guests the best value for their money. There are several different passes for Calaway Park:
- 2 years and under – FREE
- 3-6 – $29.00 +GST
- 7-49 – $35.95 +GST
- 50+ – $27.00 +GST
- Family of 4 – $89.00 +GST (additional family members $22.00)
- After 2 p.m. rate – $20.95 +GST
- Single – $89.95 +GST
- Family of 4 – $299.80 +GST
- Calgary Co-op Advantage Ticket – $20.00 +GST
- Playcation Discount Ticket Package (online only) – $84.00 +GST for 4 day passes (additional tickets $21.00 +GST)
- 50% off Monday – Thursday coupon (in various print publications and at: www.calgaryattractions.com – Valid for 50% off up to 4 regular admission rates Monday – Thursday only.
- RV Having Fun Yet Packages – Starting at $109.00 +GST. Includes one night stay at the Calaway RV Park & Campground and 4 day passes to Calaway Park.
GRV: Specifically related to rides and entertainment, what variety do you offer and does it appeal mostly to the very young or pretty well appeals to the whole family?
BW: As we are a family-oriented amusement park, we have rides and attractions for all ages! For example:
- Children less than 28″ tall can go on 12 different rides with an adult, including our newest mini rollercoaster, Mini Express.
- For those looking for something more thrilling, we have big ticket rides such as Shoot the Chutes (our log ride), the Vortex (our rollercoaster), and Mindblaster.
- Rides aren’t the only thing appropriate for the whole family. We have two new live entertainment shows each year, performed by our own Calaway Live dancers. The shows are 20 minutes long and are a great addition to your day. Currently we are running Kids of the Future and Party in Wonderland. In addition, our newest attraction, Cinemagic 3D is a great experience for the whole family. It is currently playing the film “The Little Prince”.
GRV: Are there designated eating areas for families that offer a variety of options, including purchasing meals/food items from approved concession booths?
BW: We have many picnic tables and eating areas around the park for guests to eat. We have also allowed guests to bring their own food to the park. However, many guests treat themselves to the delicious food at our concession stands. We have all of the classic theme park treats – hot dogs, hamburgers, churros, ice cream, mini donuts, and cotton candy to name a few. We are proud to own and operate all of our concession booths and restaurants at Calaway Park.
GRV: Does the future hold any plans to expand either the amusement park or RV Park in order to accommodate the growing population of Calgary and an increasing number of visitors?
BW: Calaway Park executes annual, 3 and 5 year plans. The park continually looks at growing and entertaining our guests. For example, this year our new 3D attraction and mini rollercoaster were investments to expand the park and give guests a more valuable experience.
GRV: What is the main draw to Calaway Park that your customers have shared with you? Do you offer visitors an opportunity to suggest improvements or changes through participative or interactive means such as from your website?
Our guests visit the park for the overall experience of escapism, quality time spent with their loved ones, and to play and laugh like a kid. It’s the combination of the rides, games, food, live stage shows and 3-D attraction that makes Calaway Park the perfect Playcation destination. Guests give us their feedback and suggestions on an ongoing basis through our varied and easily accessible communication channels.
GRV: What makes Calaway Park such a popular attraction for families? Would you say it is on par in popularity with other major Calgary attractions (Calgary Zoo, Science Centre, Recreation Centres, etc.) where many families frequent as well? Do you get visitors from the International community as well as from Canada and the US?
BW: Our primary market targets families in Calgary and surrounding communities. Our secondary market reaches families in the rest of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and south eastern B.C. However, we have guests from around the world who visit Calgary come to Calaway Park. We truly believe our attraction is one of the more popular Calgary attractions, as we are the largest outdoor family amusement park in Western Canada. In addition, we have won many national and international awards in the past 32 years of operation, including the ALTO award (Travel Alberta) for Guest Service and Brass Ring Awards (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) for Marketing Excellence.
GRV: It’s interesting that the RV Park concept has been incorporated into Calaway Park and is alongside the amusement section. Do you have a substantial number of visitors using the RV Park that plan their stay around a visit to Calaway Park?
BW: Definitely. Many guests stay at the RV Park as accommodation while visiting Calaway Park. The Calaway RV Park & Campground completely compliments a visit to Calaway Park; that is the purpose of its existence.
GRV: Is your RV Park a full service Park where RVers have the most options for short or extended stays? When are you open for business in the RV section?
BW: Yes, our RV Park has many full service sites, and can accommodate guests for stays up to 14 days. Each year we are open on the Victoria Day long weekend, and daily starting the week after until the September long weekend. This year we are open daily until September 2.
GRV: How many sites are available for RVers and do you have ‘pull thru sites’ for big rigs?
BW: The Calaway RV Park & Campground has 104 sites, 43 of which are fully-serviced sites and 48 non-serviced or power-only sites. Twenty overflow sites are available. We also have coin laundry, shuttle service to the Stampede Grounds and new washroom facilities. Dumping services are available for guests. We accept INTERAC and major credit cards. Services include PWS, P, N and 15 or 30 amp power. Open May 17 to September 2, 2013.
GRV: Regarding the RV Park, do you offer a reservation section as well as a ‘drive-in’ first come first serve section?
BW: Yes, guests can reserve a site online, over the phone, or in person. However, the sites are reserved on a first-come-first-serve basis, and sites may not always be available for drop-ins.
GRV: Over the several years of your involvement with Calaway Park, how would you measure its success?
BW: We are proud of the 32 years of family fun we’ve provided to guests around the world. Each year we have something new and exciting to showcase, whether it’s a brand new ride, attraction, or live entertainment show. There is always something new for guests who support us year after year. We continually get positive feedback from guests about the great value Calaway Park provides for families looking for a family-friendly attraction. We hear stories about guests who came to the park when they were young, and are now bringing their own families to the park, many years later. We are also proud of our internal guests – the employees. We employ 25 permanent and 750 seasonal employees each year, many who have worked for Calaway Park for several years.