Amusement, or theme, parks feature rides, games, and entertainment options in an outdoor or indoor venue. Customers typically pay a single entry fee for access to the entire park. The successful amusement park model focuses on the customer's entire experience, offering a wide range of services and entertainment options including parking, trams, restaurant options, water parks, roller coasters, live animal attractions, stage shows, arcade games, attractive interactive landscaping, and family friendly fun. The larger the property you own, the more entertainment choices you are able to offer your customers.
Learn how to start your own Amusement Park and whether it is the right fit for you.
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Start an amusement park by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Amusement Park
- Form your Amusement Park into a Legal Entity
- Register your Amusement Park for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Amusement Park
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Amusement Park
- Get Amusement Park Insurance
- Define your Amusement Park Brand
- Create your Amusement Park Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your amusement park. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Amusement Park Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening an amusement park?
Even if you are opening a 5,000 square foot indoor facility that offers entertainment like bounce houses, arcade games, and pizza, you are looking at a significant investment of at least $250,000 for the building, design, and installation. If you are seeking to open a major amusement park featuring roller coasters, waterparks, and live entertainment you may be looking for investors interested in a multi-million dollar opportunity. You will need about 200 acres of land that is able to be developed for your purpose and local infrastructure ready to support the anticipated traffic.
What are the ongoing expenses for an amusement park?
Operational expenses are significant and must be part of your annual budget. They begin with but are not limited to:
- Property/Ride maintenance
- Operation of restaurants and gift shops
- Development of new rides and attractions
- Licensing, taxes, and liability insurance
Who is the target market?
This depends largely on the theme of your park. Some parks focus solely on family friendly entertainment, others work best for teens and young adults, and real-life adventure parks like zip-lines, go-carts, and mixed athletic challenges can target adults.
How does an amusement park make money?
The general income is created through the standard entry ticket price. However, add-ons are where the real profit is found and those can include premium prices charged for additional services like food, T-shirts, collectibles, framed photos, and other valuable items. The rides or theme are the attractions that bring customers to your door, but it is the extras that bring you the money.
How much can you charge customers?
Most small entertainment venues anticipate their customers visiting for two to three hours. For an arcade, you can charge $10 to $20 for a flat entry fee while more complicated indoor parks may charge $20 to $50 per person. A large amusement park can charge between $40 and $100 per person, depending on variety of amusements and size of the park.
How much profit can an amusement park make?
A busy small indoor park can see profits of $100,000 to $200,000 per year while the large outdoor venues can generate millions in revenue during the season.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Offer premium services for an additional cost. These services may include no-waiting for rides, collectible drink cups, photo-ops, loyalty programs, and season passes. If you see a service that a customer may want, they are probably willing to pay for it.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your amusement park is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In most states, it is necessary to obtain an amusement park license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an amusement park business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, amusement parks should have their clients sign waivers.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your amusement park when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Certificate of Occupancy
An amusement park is generally run out of a large outdoor space (though they can be indoors). Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an amusement park business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your amusement park will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Amusement Park needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Amusement Park.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market an amusement park
Marketing for this project needs to flood all media channels including television, radio, traditional print, overactive social media presence and grassroots promotion at community fairs and activities. An extra push should be scheduled around popular holiday periods like the 4th of July, Christmas, and school vacations when families are searching for entertainment options.
How to keep customers coming back
You will attract your first customers through constant and consistent advertisement in the community with initial entry fees that offer value for the dollar. A tent-pole attraction like new roller coaster or familiar theme-based entertainment creates more initial interest. Customers will keep coming back when they have an extraordinary experience from the moment they buy their ticket until they leave the parking lot.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
You must be a highly motivated individual ready to sink a large initial investment into the concept, design, and implementation of your amusement park. You may need extensive knowledge in the operation of rides, restaurant and guest services, landscaping design, business practices, and have significant leadership skills.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at an amusement park?
Even if you are opening an small, indoor theme park, you will still need to have knowledge and understanding of all of the following tasks:
- Preparing/cleaning property, restrooms, and buildings to welcome guests
- Selling tickets for entry to the park
- Addressing concerns and issues presented by customers that can include service problems, health issues, lost children, found articles, quality of product, etc.
- Maintaining rides and games to ensure fair and safe operation
- Proper food handling and safety practices to provide a healthy restaurant experience
- Money handling
- Coordinating with wide range of vendors that help to maintain and repair the facility
- Developing and training of staff
- Developing a management team able to step in when you are not present
- Hiring of entertainment talent for live shows
- Caring for live animal attractions and exhibits
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful amusement park?
For the person looking to open a new amusement or theme park, you will need to have a wide range of skills or the ability to hire a team with them. These skills might include:
- Keen eye for the missing entertainment need in your target market
- Solid understanding of excellent management practices
- Strong leadership ability
- Excellent ability to address and respond to customer service concerns
- Attention to detail able to identify areas of the operation that require cleaning, maintenance, and repair
- Creativity and desire to re-imagine offered rides, amusements, foods, and added-value products on a consistent basis
- Knowledge of popular trends and emerging technology that may be able to be included in your park
- Ability to build and maintain a strong staff ready to support you and the park at all times
- Good understanding of profit and loss and the ability to adjust the business model as needed
What is the growth potential for an amusement park?
If you create a unique experience for your customers that cannot be found in any other entertainment facility, there is the possibility of franchising your amusement park format and expanding the business model over time. If you are building a theme park featuring roller coasters and other large rides, your expansion may be restricted by the size of the property that you have. When you create a destination-park, to which customers travel from far away for their vacation, you need to be able to offer an experience that is difficult to consume in a single day, generating return business.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an amusement park?
As an entrepreneur, indoor family-focused amusement parks are becoming more popular as parents look for new ways to keep their kids active and healthy. Research your local community and find the niche market that your idea will fill, such as laser tag, trampolines, indoor mini-golf, or other activities that encourage physical interaction. For a large scale project, you will need a theme that focuses on an emerging pop-culture connection that is now found in other accessible entertainment venues but lacks a supersized experience ready to be consumed anywhere nearby.
How and when to build a team
You will need to start utilizing experts from the very first moment. Park designers can help you hone the theme and targeted audience. Once construction begins, you will need to start hiring your management team with skills in restaurants, entertainment, property management, and specialized skills for rides and games.
- Franchise opportunity for a children’s amusement park
- International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions