Cable Park Consulting & Sales -
Mile High Wakeboarding
Are you looking for information on building a cable park, cable park design, or wakeboard cable systems? Whether you are developing a smaller 2-tower park for your own personal use, or have a grand vision for the ultimate destination with every activity and amenity under the sun...or under a roof, we hope to save you time, money, and energy as you follow your passion. There isn't a lot of free or verifiable information in the cable park industry, so we've assembled some basic information here, to help you out.
Things to Consider
What Can MHW Do For Me & How Much?
What Are The Cable Park Specific Costs?
Please use our contact page for more information. Email is best.
This information is free, but lets' be clear from the start. We are not the first or the most experienced in the cable park industry. Like any business, we learned through making our own mistakes, relying on poor advice, breaking things (breaking a lot of things), talking to other cable park owners, and studying and figuring things out on our own. Our education over the past few years naturally led us to where we are today. Our primary goal as cable park consultants and now, cable system manufacturers, is to help cable park entrepreneurs and investors avoid some of the common pitfalls most wakeboard parks encounter. Do it once, do it right.
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Things to Consider
Setting aside the 2-tower backyard scenario and thinking more about commercial applications for a moment, here are some basic topics to think about as you start off on your adventure.
You've heard this before but location is very important. While some die hard riders may be willing to drive up to an hour to go to a cable park, most of your customers will want to stay within about 30 minutes (or less) of home. There are 100's of studies and variables on this, but in general, the closer you are to the population, the better chance you have of succeeding. Your site should be visible, easily accessible, and convenient for a large segment of the population. Consider the 10/10 marketing rule: for every 10 miles you move out from the center of a population, you lose (at least) 10% of your potential customers. Also, ask yourself, would you join a gym or go to a movie clear across town? If so, how often?
To Buy or To Lease
If money is no object, buy your property. If you are not sure about a location, and want to "test" it before going all in, or for one reason or another, are not able or allowed to buy, lease it. We've done both. In fact, in 2010, MHW was one of, if not the very first cable parks to do a public-private partnership with a government agency. Many others have followed this path and it can save millions in up front expenses. The down side is that you can rarely build a fence around a public park, and this will effect your operations and security. You'll also have payments forever. You'll balance this equation on a site per site basis. If needed and if we are not conflicted out by another agreement, we can help you in selecting the right location, and even help you negotiate or bid on a location.
Water and Water Rights
In every state we've worked in we've heard that "our state has the worst water laws in the nation". We'll it's tough to say which state is the worst, but simply said, the property you acquire needs to have plenty of clean water and the rights to use it to keep your lakes full. No water or bad water equals no cable park / wakeboard park. Our most recent project took nearly six (6) years to negotiate the entire "package" and we highly doubt you'll have to go through what we did. We can tell you when to cut and run, or when to stick it out and fight for what you want.
After years of operating our own cable park and being forced to repair, improve, and re-engineer our cable systems purchased from another vendor, we are obviously a little biased to our own cable systems (available for purchase at some point - but we're still "safety testing"). Out of necessity, then experience, then from an improvement mind-set, we picked apart the good and the bad from every known system on the market and combined it all with our own operational experience, known needs, annoyances, and wish list to come up with what we feel is the best 2-tower system to date. After several years of consistent improvements and testing - in summer and winter - it's probably safe to say that no one else has tested or thought through the various issues you will inevitably incur to the extent we have. We built our systems for our own use, but at some point, when we are happy with the finished product, we'll sell them to the public. Maybe sooner than we think...
The above said, there are several cable manufacturer options out there and all have their pros and cons. Much like buying anything else, you'll want to weigh out the up front costs with long-term factors such as maintenance, replacement parts, customer service, and warranties. In many cases, you get what you pay for, so ask around, talk to people that have the system you are looking at, and evaluate carefully. Price is always a concern, but training and customer service after the sale should be your primary concern. Everyone will tout their own system so we encourage you to do your research and sort through the fluff. Talk to those that use the system you are interested in. Chances are you'll get the real scoop. No matter what cable provider you use, we are happy to help you with consulting to ensure you get the best start possible. We have been involved in several "fixes" behind the scenes so we can pick apart any of the cable systems and help you make your own "upgrades". We also trade-in and resell many of the common cable systems so check with us if we have anything available. Many systems can be made good as new, and you can get them for much much less.
Features (Sliders and Jumps)
We have a hard time drinking the Kool-Aid and buying into the pitch that you have to have XYZ-brand features because they are well known, insurance approved, and well built. (Everyone is not doing it.) These are sales pitches, pure and simple. Some of the pre-made features are junk and will absolutely break, especially if your climate has radical temperature swings. That said, a few are amaze balls and are a total blast to hit.
Features are something that your core riders will want to hit (a small but important percentage of your total business) so be smart when planning these and don't go too big, too soon. The crazy hard, off the wall ideas are only fun for about 1% of your core riders so most of your features need to be fun for the average rider.
We nearly always recommend building your own features. You will need to learn about materials, plastics, plastic welding, fasteners, and such, but you can save $1000's by doing it yourself. As long as you follow our guidance, anything you build can also be 100% insurance approved.
Cable Park Amenities
Not everyone wakeboards. Your park should have several "things to do" for anyone and everyone. We have a master list of every idea you've ever thought of (and many you haven't) so you don't have to be too creative. We know what works, have tested business models, and can point you in the right direction.
In terms of the cable park itself, a common item that is overlooked is water-breaks or wave attenuation. One of the selling points of a cable park is to provide smooth water. If you don't have an island or something to break up the "toilet bowl" effect, people will not like your park as much. Rough water is not cool.
Another item most often forgotten is shade. We all need shade. Enough said on that.
Lake Size & Cable Dimensions
Another common question we are asked is; "How big should the lake be?" This will vary based on your site and geography, but we'll put some basic information here. We also created a math cheat sheet (with various formulas you will use) that we can utilize to help you plan your site, and calculate costs.
2-Tower Cable Lake
Each 2-Tower Cable uses an area of approximately 100' wide x up to 700' long, or just shy of 1.4 surface acres. (30 meters x 183 meters). Ideally, we like to have air and learning cables be in the 400' to 550' in length, and no closer than 50' to any shoreline or the maximum reach of another cable footprint. Feature cables can be longer, up to 700' long, and need a little more space on each side, or approximately a 75' minimum. While some of the newer cable systems (like ours) can operate at longer distances, we don't recommend going longer than 700' or so. It's difficult for your drivers to see much further than that, and it can create a looser/sloppy feeling cable, especially on some of the popular systems, and with those that don't have the "feel" of riding cable quite yet. It's a different ride than the boat and is very dynamic (but a total blast once you figure it out).
Full Size Cables and Lakes
FSC's vary in shape and size but we've really grown to like six (6) sided cables in the past few years. The turns are easier, making them much more user friendly. A typical footprint for this type of cable can vary radically based on the site, your wishes, and how creative you want to be. (For example some people only care about features, and others want to calculate space after a corner for air tricks.) A safe estimate is 500' wide x 1100' long, or 12.6 surface acres. (152 x 335 meters) but this is only a rough number to help you with special needs on your site. When someone comes out with a FSC system that can be longer, with 8 sides, and 2 starting towers, we can talk about larger cable system footprints.
Legal and Insurance
From participant liability, to theft, to vandalism, to acts of nature, you want to be insured properly and prepared to handle whatever might come up. There are obviously things you can do to reduce your risk, losses, and liability, but rest assured, at one point or another, someone will try to rip you off or sue you for something. Expect it, prepare for it, and do everything you can to prevent and protect yourself.
While we feel the rest of the industry is still playing catchup, we have what we would argue, are the best tasks, processes, checklists, waivers, and signage in the industry, all created from scratch (prior to day one) and endorsed by our insurance company. And while anyone can talk about waivers, materials, and signage, we feel it is your day to day activities that really matter. It is still shocking to us that we were one of the first cable parks, if not the very first, to require an actual safety orientation for all participants, on their first visit. Not just a "hello, here is your waiver, there are the rules" but a real explanation of what to expect on property, and how things operate. As cable park expert witnesses, we hope to ensure you are on the right side of a situation if we are called in to give our opinion. People will absolutely try to sue you so do your safety checks, don't be negligent, and do everything in your power to ensure your staff and participants are safe. If you've done your best to prevent something, or if it's some outrageous claim, we are your greatest asset when needed. If not, it won't bode well for you if we believe in the other side's case. We call it like it is without exception, and we will ensure that your issue or negligence isn't a reflection on the rest of the industry. Simply said, with proper training and procedures, the potential for an injury can be significantly reduced. So do your best and you'll be fine.
Start Up and Operating Costs
Each unique location has it's own start up and operating costs, so we'll only list a few items here to get your wheels turning. This list is merely an example of what one could expect. We know what you need to be successful and as one of our services, we are happy to help you plan, select and prioritize the needs for your specific site(s) based on your budget and site needs.
Here are some common items to expect.
Site Acquisition and Prep
Permits and Licenses
Landscaping, Fencing, Lake and Water Improvements
Concrete, Electrical, Water/Sewer/ Utility Lines
Buildings and Restrooms
Retail Fixtures and Counters, Displays, Etc.
Cable System(s) and Features
Shade Structures and Other Park Amenities
Banking & Merchant Services
Payroll and Payroll Taxes
Repairs and Maintenance
Taxes and Licenses
Advertising (Marketing, Website, Media, Collateral, Etc.)
Equipment (New and Replacement)
Water & Other Utilities (Phone, Electric, Garbage, Internet)
There are too many specific topics to list here but a business (operational) plan doesn't even touch on what the realities are of the day-to-day operations. We know how to develop, build, and operate a cable park, and can teach you what to expect. We can also help with daily tasks, checklists, how to's, and preparedness in every single category from safety to marketing to keeping the books to what to look for in an employee.
The most common questions we receive are: How much money will this cost? What’s the ROI? and What kind of income can we expect? Well, most of that information is going to be highly confidential but if nothing else you read or hear sticks in your brain, (from us or anyone else) remember this: Do not trust information coming from anyone that is not a cable park owner, or hasn't done what you are trying to do. It is also wise to remember that every market is slightly different; what works in Florida may not work in Canada. Today, we know the numbers as good or better than anyone in the industry and can tell you we have seen the numbers forecasted by others for many projects. To say that they are unrealistic would be a wild understatement. Many cable parks have failed, or will fail because they didn't plan income accordingly, were under funded, or have inexperienced management. Income is the single most important issue for your long term success! Don't muck it up by being unrealistic or hopeful.
Access to Money
Traditional methods of business financing are becoming easier, especially if you have good credit and/or existing company assets. However, you will be limited in what you can borrow. (Even the SBA won't lend you 5 million+ to do it all.) If you are willing to tie your home or other substantial personal asset(s) to a loan, it's more doable from a bank's perspective, but the areas of accessible money will most likely be in angel or other private investments. Without getting into too much detail, money can be one of the biggest hang ups, and the ROI (you should know this term) is good, but longer than you will think. Most investors can make a much easier return in any number of ways so your market of potential investors is very slim. (Easier, meaning passive with no risk.) That said, depending on your location and some other factors we deem important, we may be able to help you raise financing or even fund some or all of the project internally.
Unless you have access to unlimited funds, building and operating a cable park is a full time job with zero pay for at least 2-3 years. Until you open and make that first sale, your income with your project is also absolute zero - and could stay minimal for the first 3-5 years. If you are doing this for a paycheck, you should reconsider and at least have some alternate sources of revenue to live on in the short term. We don't want to discourage you but the idea that you will be any different from the many other projects we've seen and been involved with would be naive. Not one single owner has ever "retired rich" from the wakeboard industry, and many (most) parks have been built with money that doesn't need to be paid back in a short time.
Stay Focused - Don't Get Distracted
It's easy to get wrapped up in the 100's of cool ideas or others opinions on what you should do, but don't get distracted from "getting it done" by being a democracy or focusing on items you can do later, if you get that far. If you choose to work with us, we can help you prioritize and task what's really important now and later. Many parks have failed before they got off the ground because the scope of the project grew too large.
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What Can MHW Do For Me & How Much?
After you have done your homework and are ready to move on to the next step, here are some things we do exceptionally well and can help you with. Our prices are not set in stone but should give you an idea of what to expect, depending on our time commitment.
You must have a solid presentation to quickly convey your message, and sell your cable park idea to others. This is especially important if you are working with those that have no idea what wakeboarding is and have no interest in learning about it or what you have to offer. We can create or help you create presentations and talking points to capture the attention of decision makers, and help you pitch your project. If there is one thing we excel at, it is getting projects approved, and this is a good place to test our abilities. Presentations cost $500 to $750, depending on the level of detail. Once you've seen our presentations and understand the common discussion areas and topics, we can create a template for you and your area, to build from.
Many parks have failed before they started, because a "wakeboard dreamer" (*hey, we're wakeboarders too so don't get in a ruffle just yet) wasn't properly prepared to pitch a project or stand in front of 10 or 1000 people and articulate words to people. You may need to pitch your idea to a City, Town, or County at any and all levels, and we can assure you that there are very few things we haven't heard at least once, and can't prepare you for. We are very capable of any presentation you may need done, at any level, with anyone, period. And if this is the one -do or die- presentation to make or break your project, you want to make sure you have the right people standing next to you.
Also, be careful promoting yourself as an cable park expert if you are clearly not. A single question you don't have a ready answer for can undermine your credibility with others - especially if its "off the cuff" in a public meeting. This can ruin your project location. It's OK to not know the answer and have to call someone but don't try to be something you are not. In short, don't bs anyone! It's bad for all of us in the industry that do know what we are doing. :) Actual presentation costs are usually on a flat-rate + travel basis, and vary based on the time commitment from us. We understand how important some of these meetings and presentations can be so we're not out to make millions in this area. We'll do our best to keep costs reasonable.
*We are all riders, but your typical wakeboarder or dreamer is certainly not going to convince a city official that you are the right person for a project if he or she thinks you are an inexperienced, young punk kid. (Hint: know your audience and try to remove all reasons for people to prejudge you. Use common sense and dress appropriately, cut your hair, remove all facial hair and visible jewelry, and cover any tattoos. Something as simple as bad breath could kill your presentation.) We hope even having to say this was annoying to you but we're sure you get the point.
Financial plans are usually one of the major parts of the business plan and take the most time and research and complete. The financial's are also the most interesting to investors (we really love numbers too) so take the time to ensure your information is accurate. We can absolutely assure you that some of the projections we have seen from others border on the insane - so without preaching, do this right so you don't have any surprises 2 to 4 years down the road.
The financial's cover all of the related income and expenses and can be as detailed as you need to make it. Most projections are just that, an educated (or non-educated) guess; but we can help you focus on what to really expect for P&L and help you plan accordingly based on real experience and knowledge. We are armed with an incredible amount of private data from various parks so our numbers are always safe and achievable. Financial plans from us can cost between $3,500 and $10,000, depending on the level of detail. We won't sell you on how important this portion is, so if the cost scares you, this is probably not the business for you.
Business (Operational) Plans
What exact prices do you have? What do your people do if you are "slammed" and there is a line and upset people? What happens if (when) your cable system breaks and you have downtime? What products and amenities will you have outside of the cable? Do you really understand where your money comes from and who your real customers are? What are the daily procedures and itemized checklists for your staff? How and when does your staff get paid? Security for your retail shop and cable park? (Better have video!) Insurance? Legal budget when someone stubs their toe and wants to sue you? You are probably starting to get the idea and we've only slightly touched on this area. We can save you many man hours on this alone and can virtually guarantee we have the best systems, practices, procedures, checklists, and how to's of anyone out there, bar none. The devil is in the details.
There is no point in recreating the wheel and most, if not all of this information exists in a format you can simply copy and learn from. We can work with you on templates and other options to save costs and time in this area. $2500 to $3500 is a safe estimate for a typical business plan. SBA lenders and some cities like to ask for this so unless its asked for, you'll learn most of this for free, going through the process with us.
Marketing is one of our favorite topics and we can really help guide you on the best methods and ROI for your advertising campaigns. We have a list nearly every idea you can or will think of with exact ROI percentages to back it up, but in short, don't underestimate the power of marketing. Also, depending on the goals and branding for your park, marketing can be slightly different from cable park to cable park. A marketing plan takes 12 to 20 hours of phone time and collaboration to create a solid plan. Expect $1500 to $2000 for us to help you with this.
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What Are The Cable Park Specific Costs?
We will update this component as needed to include more detail, but below are some approximate and realistic numbers to have in mind for building out a small or large cable park. Know and understand these figures before jumping in. The numbers never lie, so if you are "not a numbers guy" or leave that to someone else, get with the program and learn to be involved (unless of course, you are infinitely wealthy, have grandma's money, or have people that do this for you). There are many considerations and each project is different so these numbers are only to be used as very rough guidelines.
Each 2-tower system will end up costing you up to approximately $70,000 to get up and running. This will get you a 2-tower system ($35,000 to as high as $80,000 depending on the brand), the needed concrete or other anchors ($3000 to $10,000), and the electrical ($10,000 to $50,000) depending on what is needed for your site.
This estimated cost does not include permits, land, docks, water, lake or site prep, features, buildings, improvements, payroll, taxes, rental equipment, insurance, or anything else - just one 2-tower system that functions.
Each 5 or 6-tower (full size) system will end up costing you approximately $400,000 or more. This cost will vary wildly depending on the brand of system used, the land and lake requirements, whether or not there is land or docks around the perimeter of the cable for the walk-back, whether or not you have an island or another water break in the middle and on exposed sides, and whether you need to place towers and anchors in the water or on land.
With either type of cable system, the 2 tower cable system or the full size cable system, if you are "crazy" enough to slap a building over the whole thing and make it year round, the price will be slightly higher...
Features (Sliders, Rails, Kickers) can vary wildly in cost, and can cost as much as $50,000 for one single feature that is custom made (no joke). If you build your own, use wood or aluminum (our preference) for your skeleton, are conservative, and learn about plastics and plastic welding, you can reduce and/or offset the costs considerably. A safe estimate is to plan up to 10k per regular sized item, and 20k to 30k for the really cool pools, gaps and other features that the big boys will want to jib on. There are various opinions on what's better but the basics are a made up of boxes, kickers and inclines (single and double sided), rails (flat, rooftop, rainbows, a-frames), funboxes and transfer boxes (multi level and/or multi directional hits) and a smaller versions of each to learn on. The key words to remember here are variety and fun.
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