Arizona Boardwalk managing partner Ran Knishinsky says guests are vital to his destination spot for reasons that go beyond the obvious.
“It’s important for us. It’s important for the animals to see guests so we can continue to run and to continue to operate,” he says.
Arizona Boardwalk reopened May 21, just in time for Memorial weekend. The attractions in the Arizona Boardwalk entertainment destination that reopened include OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Laser + Mirror Maze, Surprise Your Eyes, and Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs with updated safety protocols. Restaurants including Johnny Rockets, Nékter Juice Bar and Pizza Time opened their doors as well.
“We have never been in a position where we have been close to full since opening. People are more cautious about going out now,” Knishinsky says.
Businesses such as the OdySea Aquarium and the Butterfly Wonderland exhibit are open but refraining from interactive experiences. The Surprise Your Eyes Selfie Instagram Experience is completely open.
Knishinsky says it is “remarkable” how the attendance changes so much from day to day, even though they have not met their new capacity limit since reopening.
The boardwalk abided by Gov. Doug Ducey’s “shelter in place,” where only essential businesses remained opened. “Unlike offices, we have got really, really high stakes costs to running an aquarium,” Knishinsky says.
The aquarium has 7,000 animals to feed and care for. The butterfly exhibit has over 3,000 butterflies from more than 20 countries, along with reptiles and bees. As well as a large amount of staff and security, the exhibits cannot just close and come back after the pandemic.
At the moment, the aquarium and butterfly exhibits are focusing on simply covering costs.
The Arizona Boardwalk was closed for two months. “We’ve integrated a lot of new operational plans so that we could be really cautious about our opening, so we could keep in mind guest safety, as well as the safety for our employees and our animals,” Knishinsky says.
The attraction is using “timed ticketing” to limit capacity in the buildings. Most of the purchasing for tickets has moved online. Social distancing signs are put up around the place, along with markers on parts of the floor to show 6 feet spacing.
Increased cleaning is also in effect, particularly in “high-touch areas,” Knishinsky says. New sanitizing stations have been installed. Knishinsky says health inspectors have visited to review the Boardwalks protocols, too.
The butterfly exhibit has a cap of 80 people, with 45 in the conservatory. Capacity checks are every hour.
OdySea Aquarium caps at 30% capacity or about 420 in the building at a time. The aquarium is 200,000 square feet. The interactive exhibits in the OdySea are closed. Those include the stingray feeding station, swimming with the penguins, the kids cove area, behind-the-scenes tours, and the sea truck experience.
“Our No, 1 objective is the health and safety of those animals,” Knishinsky says. The boardwalk will continue to gauge the situation.