Sandy Beach Water Park attendance lower than expected, but reviews favorable

With temperatures hovering near the century mark the past couple of weeks, some Middle Georgians have looked to Macon’s new water park as a way to cool off.

The Sandy Beach Water Park at Lake Tobesofkee is averaging about 300 people a day during the weekdays, and about 800 people a day on the weekends since it opened July 3, general manager Misty Gamble said Wednesday.

Those numbers are lower than what park owner Jeff Franklin hoped they would be. Several weeks ago, Franklin said he hoped the park would draw 1,000 to 1,200 visitors per day once it opened.

Gamble said Wednesday that “things are really great.”

“There’s no better place to be during a heat advisory,” she said.

The park originally was supposed to open in May, but was delayed more than a month because it wasn’t finished. Since it opened, the park has lowered its ticket prices from $15.99 to $12.50 for patrons over 42 inches tall, and from $12.99 to $10 for anyone 55 and over and anyone shorter than 42 inches. There’s also a $1 discount with a military ID. Ticket prices drop to $7 after 4 p.m., according to the park’s website.

Gamble said the late opening, coupled with schools opening next month, has meant fewer people visiting the park.

She said people still are getting used to the idea of having a water park in Macon.

“We want people to know we’re here,” she said. “I’m sure we’re going to do (higher) numbers next summer.”

Sandy Smith of Gray took her daughter, niece and nephew to the park Wednesday and said she didn’t mind not having a big crowd there.

“When (the attendance) is small, it’s not too long a wait to do things,” said Smith, who was making her second trip to the park. “There’s enough to do where you have to keep up with the kids, but there’s also enough for them to do. ... (The park) makes the heat bearable.”

Despite having a pool and living on Lake Sinclair, Tonya Griffin of Milledgeville took her daughter, Shelby, and Shelby’s friend Brigid Lowery to the water park for the first time Wednesday.

“We’re in close proximity to it, and we wanted to see it,” Griffin said. “Even though we live on Lake Sinclair, (the water park) is a little bit different. ... I hope they grow it. I hope they become profitable and add more stuff. It looks like they have the room.”

The park, which already features two slides, a lazy river, a splash pad and a pool, is scheduled to add amenities in future seasons. Those will include a wave pool, which should open in 2016 or 2017, as well as a third water slide.

Even with the water park now open, Macon-Bibb County’s public pools have seen their attendance stay steady over the summer.

“I’m surprised at our numbers, considering the water park is open,” said Robert Walker, a community center manager with the Macon-Bibb County Recreation Department.

Walker said the East Macon pool gets the most people, averaging about 90 people per day. He said that’s probably due to the fact it’s the only county pool with a water slide. The Booker T. Washington Community Center pool has the lowest average attendance at about 25 people a day.

The rest of the county’s pools average anywhere from 40 to 100 people, with bigger crowds on the weekends and on Tuesdays, when the pools reopen after being closed on Sundays and Mondays.

“One of the things I attribute (the higher attendance) to is the heat,” Walker said. “It’s been hot the last couple of weeks. When everyone drives by the pools, they see a place to cool off.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.