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Water Safari Resort’s new owners promise no big changes

By Traci DeLore (tdelore@cnybj.com)

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Water Safari Resort — which includes Enchanted Forest Water Safari, Calypso’s Cove, Old Forge Camping Resort, and Water’s Edge Inn — has new owners as it heads into the 2024 season. The new owners stress they will not be making any big changes at the resort. PHOTO CREDIT: WATER SAFARI RESORT

OLD FORGE, N.Y. — The Water Safari Resort in Old Forge may have new owners, but fans of the popular water and amusement park in the Adirondacks don’t need to fear sweeping changes, both the new and the prior owners say. 

K&K Old Forge, Inc. and the Noonan family announced the sale of the resort — which includes Enchanted Forest Water Safari, Calypso’s Cove, Old Forge Camping Resort, and Water’s Edge Inn — on March 1 to Innovative Attraction Management (IAM) of Windermere, Florida. The company manages a number of amusement and water parks across the U.S. and several other countries.

Water Safari is the company’s first venture into owning a park of its own, IAM President Mike Friscia tells CNYBJ. Typically, IAM takes over management of a park for the owner, often when the park has been struggling financially, and works to turn things around.

“We’ve always wanted to migrate toward the owner/operator,” Friscia says of himself and his business partner James Harhi, IAM’s CEO. The two met when they both worked at Walt Disney World for nearly a decade.

When the opportunity to purchase Water Safari came along, Friscia says they jumped on the chance.

Katie Wojdyla, one of the Ks in K&K of Old Forge, says she and her sister, Kelly Greene, began talking a little over a year ago about the possibility of selling the resort.

“We’re second generation in the industry,” she says. The original Enchanted Forest roadside attraction opened in Old Forge around 1956. Wojdyla’s father, Timothy Noonan, purchased it in 1977 and continued adding on.

“We both worked here pretty much our entire lives,” Wojdyla says. The sisters bought the hotel and campground from their father in 2012, and transitioned ownership of the water park a few years later. 

With a 13-year age difference between them, the sisters recently found themselves at slightly different career stages, with Greene eyeing retirement in the less-distant future, Wojdyla says. While there is a third generation that is involved in the business to some extent, none of them have an interest in taking it over, she says, leading to the decision to sell. “I think we just felt it was time.”

The sisters talked to a bunch of companies looking for the right fit before they found IAM, she says. They liked that the company founders have worked in the amusement-park industry and shared the same focus and values on making the customer experience great.

Both Wojdyla and Greene will still be on site this upcoming season to help ensure that great experience. While the sale is final, both are maintaining a role at the organization. Greene will work at least through this season, Wojdyla says, while she may stay for a few more years. The resort’s year-round staff of between 60 and 70 employees are also staying, she adds.

Friscia stresses that IAM does not plan to make many, if any, changes this summer season. This first season is really about learning, he says, and while he understands the fears fans of the resort may have, he wants to allay those fears.

“We don’t have any plans to change prices,” he adds. The same goes for just about every other aspect of the resort — no big changes planned. They would like to encourage more purchases of season passes, so they might tweak offerings there, he notes.

IAM hired a new employee that will serve as president of Water Safari Resort. That employee is a Central New York native with lots of experience after 38 years of working for Disney, Friscia says. He and Harhi also plan for one of them to be on site once a month throughout the season.

“I love that it’s a legacy for a lot of folks,” he says of Water Safari. The goal, he adds, is to continue that legacy.