A while back I wrote about the impending closure of Dino Town, which was once Chilliwack’s Bedrock city. It turns out there was more to that story than was told in that Vancouver Sun Article. The paper had sugarcoated the truth a bit, as newspapers are sometimes wont to do. Bedrock City wasn’t a lost battle in the on-going generation war. The loss of the license that turned it into “Dino Town” wasn’t even an attempt by Time Warner to reel their brands in. Bedrock City lost the Flinstone license because it was contractually bonded to the man who originally built the park, Bob Ell. Soon after I had posted my article on Dino town, Bob got in touch with me over Twitter. He had left his number, so I phoned him up. This is what he had to say.
In Bob’s opinion, the park closed due to poor management and a lack of investment in the park itself. He had faced the same issues of declining attendance in the early 80’s. After 10 years, it was difficult to maintain interest in the park. So, he enlisted the help of Mike Vance, Dean of Disney University and a consultant for companies like Kraft, Mars and General Electric. They created new attractions every year using some of the first computer aided storyboarding software on an original Macintosh computer. Through this cycle of constant re-invention, kids could join the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, join the Bedrock fire department, steer a rock barge, and even control a brontosaurus.
Bedrock was serving 100,000 customers in its heyday. Entrepreneurs were coming from miles around to the park’s office literally begging to buy a license to build more parks. When the park was sold in 1994, the new owners saw the yearly updates as a waste of money. Attendance frittered away to a mere 40,000.
There is an important lesson in this story. We would have still had Bedrock City, or at least a decent place to take our kids, had the owners of Dino Town kept up with the culture of innovation and hard work that made the park so popular. This same lesson applies to any business in your own backyard. There are too many operations out there where the owners and employees have just given up. They may be in charge of an unassailable franchise, or inherited the family business, but either way consumers suffer for it. It doesn’t have to be this way. These so-called institutions are nothing but fair game for people with the passion and persistence to build something better. Take a good look around. What are people in your town missing? What would it take to give them what they want? What would you build?