A peer remembers Will Koch

June 14, 2010
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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."

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