Year of Sustainability - February 2019

SKYnext participants ready to tour “Infinity Falls” construction site at SeaWorld Orlando.  (Credit: Skyline Attractions)

Growing the Leaders of Tomorrow

By Scott Fais

AT AGE 3 WHEN DAN MUELLER saw SeaWorld Orlando’s “Kraken” for the first time, he became captivated.

“I was in awe watching the ride for hours,” Mueller recalls. The spark provided by Bolliger & Mabillard’s floorless roller coaster ignited a passion.

“Now I want to design roller coasters,” says the civil engineering major at The Ohio State University (OSU), who also chairs OSU’s student-led Theme Park Engineering Group. 

Mueller is the face of young professionals working towards a career in the attractions industry, where sustainability doesn’t just encompass environmental initiatives; it also guarantees the attractions industry will remain solvent.

“Sustainability is about thinking long term when it comes to all aspects of the industry, including how the industry secures and develops the next generation of professionals,” says Andreas Andersen, CEO of Liseberg and chair of IAAPA’s new sustainability task force.

Get started

The Council for Corporate & Schools Partnerships offers ideas when forming alliances with educational groups:

  • Write a proposal for working with a school, then host a discussion with educators. 
  • Identify who within your organization can be a mentor or share their experiences in a classroom.
  • Establish structure, ensuring both sides maintain constant communication. 
  • Develop activities that align with the school’s goals and your attraction’s culture: host educational behind-the-scenes field trips or offer gift certificates for a school reading program.

In December, as WinterFest extended the shoulder season at several Cedar Fair parks, the company also extended its stake in the future. Cedar Fair announced a partnership with Bowling Green State University (BGSU) to support a new bachelor’s degree program that will train future leaders. BGSU worked with Cedar Fair and IAAPA to compose a curriculum. In an unprecedented move, Cedar Fair will also construct and finance a new five story building for BGSU across Sandusky Bay from Cedar Point.

“By partnering with BGSU in a co-op based program, we are able to provide students with both field and classroom experiences to develop the skills our industry needs,” explains Duff Milkie, executive vice president and general counsel for Cedar Fair.

The attractions operator will own the 78,000-square-foot building in downtown Sandusky, Ohio, which will be home to classrooms, offices, and 80 apartments for the first students arriving in 2020.

The new BGSU school joins the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, Florida, the Academy for Leisure at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, and EuroCollege University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, among others offering education in attractions management. The IAAPA Foundation supports future professional growth and awards scholarships annually to students enrolled at UCF’s Rosen College. 

IAAPA’s manufacturer and supplier community is also developing leaders. Nasal, US Thrill Rides, Ride Entertainment, Rocky Mountain Construction, Great Coasters International Inc., WhiteWater, Sally Corp., and Premier Rides have participated in SKYnext, an annual networking and educational event hosted by Skyline Attractions for engineering students.

“SKYnext places participants in front of industry giants, with the focus of developing the young professional,” says Skyline Partner and Vice President Chris Gray.

Representatives from Universal Parks & Resorts, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Six Flags Entertainment Corp., and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment have also made presentations, while Skyline gets an early look talent, some who have become Skyline employees upon graduation.

In the front row of SKYnext last year: Dan Mueller.

“I am inspired by how everyone is ready to help us move along,” he concludes.

Learn more about the IAAPA Foundation at

Making a difference? Let Funworld Managing Editor Scott Fais know. Contact him at