IAAPA Hall of Famers Pass Knowledge on to Next Generation of Industry Leaders

by Mike Bederka

With more than a century of combined industry experience on the stage, five IAAPA Hall of Fame members—including two newly minted inductees—shared their knowledge and wisdom with tomorrow’s leaders in Tuesday’s “IAAPA Hall of Fame Panel Discussion: Insights and Lessons Learned.”

Bob Rogers, founder and chief creative officer of BRC Imagination Arts and 2010 IAAPA Hall of Fame inductee, moderated the far-reaching conversation, asking the panelists about some of the toughest decisions they made.

Tim O’Brien, a veteran industry journalist, former vice president of Ripley Entertainment, and 2016 IAAPA Hall of Fame inductee, shared how he quit his hated job in management to become a reporter. “I wasn’t having any fun,” said O’Brien, author of 17 books with three more in the pipeline.

Dick Kinzel, former president and CEO of Cedar Fair and 2006 IAAPA Hall of Fame inductee, discussed how they battled back from the recession of 2008 after being “up to our eyeballs” in debt.

Much of the panel also covered lessons learned and how to avoid common mistakes, licensing intellectual properties, the start of the “roller-coaster wars,” and general advice for attendees.

For instance, employees need to have the guts to express their opinions and not worry about getting chewed out by their bosses, said Dick Nunis, a 2007 IAAPA Hall of Fame inductee from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

“Was I always right?” he said. “No, but I have a good batting average. You go up to bat every chance you get.”

Roland Mack, co-founder of Europa-Park, past IAAPA chairman, and 2016 IAAPA Hall of Fame inductee, agreed about the importance of being steadfast in your beliefs. Rogers noted how Europa-Park’s senior-friendly location in ­Germany and even the park’s name made it a risky proposition at the time.

“The banks said it was going to be the biggest failure ever,” Mack explained. Obviously, he proved them wrong, as the facility celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

“When you make a decision, you have to go,” Mack said.

Kinzel, who made cotton candy at his first job at Cedar Fair, said patience will help lead to success: “If you believe in your company, it will grow.” 

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