A peer remembers Will Koch

June 14, 2010
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

One of the best ongoing business stories in Indiana has been the success of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus.

A million visitors a year four years running, a highly rated roller coaster, clean grounds, consistently friendly employees—it’s all there. Name another company in a remote outpost generating as much friendly news coverage in Indianapolis. When Holiday World adds an attraction, someone here reports it. That kind of good will cannot be purchased.

Holiday World lost a big chunk of its brains and energy with the unexpected overnight death of CEO Will Koch. He was only 48, and until more is known, the family is left to speculate that his diabetes was the cause.

Koch will be badly missed, says the owner of a smaller amusement park and water park in Kentucky. But he also predicts Holiday World will soldier on.

Dallas Jones, who runs Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, notes the park still has Will’s mother, “Miss Pat,” an operational genius in her own right. The park also has many veteran employees inculcated in the family-friendly culture that draws flocks of parents, many with younger children in tow.

“It all boils down to management,” Jones says. “They managed that park. And they managed that park with some sense. They’re an excellent operation. We kind of watch what they do.”

Talk about understatement. Jones says he makes a point of picking the minds of the Koch family and other members of the Holiday World management team when he sees them at meetings. Holiday World may be the best-managed park Jones is aware of.

“They were a down-to-earth, hometown park. Their people are hands-on every day,” he says. “Holiday World is going to make it. They’ll come out of this thing OK.”

What are your thoughts about Will Koch and Holiday World?

  • Will Koch's death
    The Koch's are like family to us. We live 5 hours away and have season passes to Holiday World. How many parks can you go to where the owners recognize you when they see you in the park. Our hearts grieve for the family.The Koch's are good people and well respected.
  • Will Koch, and his family
    It was my privilege to know and do business with the Koch family in 1997 and 1998. Will's passing is very untimely and his smile, ethics and character will be sorely missed by anyone who ever encountered him. He was a visionary, for sure, but moreover he was an exemplary human being who understood that if you concentrated on the "little" things, the "big" things would take care of themselves. His legacy will be the smiling faces of every child that visits his family's park.
  • In Memory of
    A little more than twelve hours after returning from another amazing trip to Holiday World, I read the stunning news that the president and owner, Will Koch, had passed away. The news was completely shocking and surreal to me. I just saw him in the park on Saturday, checking out the operations on his newest creation, Wildebeest, and making sure all the guests in line were staying hydrated and cool. Now he is gone.

    Saying hi to Will in the park was like an attraction all on its own. He was the Walt Disney of our time. Holiday World has the best public relations and customer service of any park I've ever been to, and that comes straight from the top.

    I saw Will's mom, Pat, outside the front entrance on Saturday and Sunday morning and to hear that she was in the exact same place on Monday morning after all this, wow, just wow.

    I will greatly miss his passionate video explanations of how his rides worked. A fellow coaster enthusiast and engineer, he touched many lives. Today, I find myself asking, how can I be more like Will? How can I help as many people as he has? How can I make as many people smile as he did?

    "If you hear thunder today don't worry, it's just heaven's new wooden roller coaster."

Post a comment to this blog

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............