When to Put Down the Pencils and Pick Up the Shovels in Destination and Theme Park Construction

Before theme park construction begins, make sure to address all critical details as the cost of change rises significantly after shovels go into the ground.

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Developers of theme parks and destinations are fueled by ideas and innovation. For that reason, it’s only natural to have new ideas all the way up to Opening Day.

The challenge, however, lies in determining when new ideas are valuable, and when they become costly or detrimental to the development process.

One fact is clear: as soon as shovels go into the ground, the cost of change rises significantly.

For this reason, there is an imminent need for meticulous planning and thorough communication leading up to the crossing of Gate 3. This is when the team must determine: is the project buildable?

Throughout Gates 1 and 2, the primary stakeholders and development team have committed only about a third of total project cost.

The ramp-up to Gate 3 is when that investment deepens. After crossing this Gate, the remainder will be spent. For that reason, Gate 3 is truly the point of no return. It is at this point that pencils are put down, and shovels picked up.

To begin this phase, all scope details must be confirmed and aligned with the Program Book*. This is the time to do what has been decided and agreed upon in earlier development stages.

Before shovels hit the dirt, it’s essential that all critical details have been addressed by the architect and engineers of record. Design documents must be aligned between teams, ensuring that vendor input for all show and ride distribution and structural loads are fully coordinated and reflected in completed documents for all civil, infrastructure, and foundation work.

For example, ride systems require a tremendous amount of electricity. Before crossing Gate 3, the development team and local utility provider must ensure that electric panels are sized to carry the load required.

While some elements will still be in progress – such as tertiary distribution and interior design plans within attractions and tenant spaces – the foundational elements that cannot easily change must be confirmed.

Next, construction strategies must be agreed upon in accordance with the Delivery Plan*, and carefully calculated in tandem to ensure that the process stays on schedule.

Many first-time themed destination developers underestimate the complexity of this coordination. This is understandable – in traditional construction work, there are approximately 33 distinct divisions. In specialty construction, there are at least 113.

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A clear operations plan is the key to navigating these complexities at this point in the process. Designs will be conformed to this plan to ensure that all elements match.

This is also the stage at which most projects go public with their messaging. Thus, the operations plan should address a plan for marketing and communications to external audiences.

A field management protocol that conforms with the Implementation Manual will be created, outlining site access. From there, the program management team will lock in the procurement strategy, ensuring that design packages are aligned with procurement, and that tender documents are aligned with design packages.

The key here is to ensure that all parties understand how the work will be divided. Each team – from ride systems to control systems to audio visual to special effects to show systems, and many more – must know exactly when their work ends and another party’s work begins. This is all clarified via matching package documents.

Onsite and offsite logistics of who and what goes where on the development site during the construction phase site must be laid out in the field management protocol.  Site office locations should be optimized so that no team or sub-team compromises another’s space or schedule. Integration of elements to specialty construction into foundations and rough in for infrastructure must be coordinated. There must be continuity of work to limit overtime or lagging.

There must also be a set process for getting materials from Point A to Point B. For example, when a large part arrives at a site, there should be a set access path and process in place to get it where it needs to be.

All teams involved in a themed destination’s development at this point must be able to view the construction process holistically, in order to see how each component impacts the others. Site access, utilities, and site remediation will all be addressed, and shovels will be at the ready.

Only then can the team as a whole pass through Gate 3 and begin the deeper work of taking all the drawings, ideas, and processes into a vertical construction phase that is well-planned, well-executed, and finely aligned to ensure the project makes it across the finish line.

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*The Road Map is comprised of three baseline documents: the Program Book, the Delivery Plan and the Implementation Manual, all deliverables as part of nFusion’s proprietary process. Each document within the Road Map is an integral part of the program’s delivery, with success determined by its alignment to the Road Map throughout the project lifecycle. Contact us to learn how we can help your project succeed.

  1. Tablet Drawing Photo by Howard Lawrence B on Unsplash

About nFusion

nFusion is a Program, Cost, Design, and Specialty Construction Management firm that specializes in destinations, attractions, and experiences including theme parks, resorts, mixed-use properties, cultural exhibits, brand experiences, family entertainment centers, themed restaurants, and retail centers. The firm’s primary objective is to deliver destinations. From the figment of the imagination to the fireworks on opening day, nFusion’s expert program managers develop and manage the roadmap, fuse diverse talents to align the program and team, and guard the viability of each project’s vision. World-class clients include Disney, SeaWorld, Halul Real Estate, Fort Edmonton Park, and CJ Entertainment. Contact nFusion at https://managedbynfusion.com/contact-us.

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