Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

A peer remembers Will Koch

June 14, 2010

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?

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