#284. Loss at Holiday World

Posted on | The Agurban

Loss at Holiday World

It is a sad time for many in the Southern Indiana town of Santa Claus. Will Koch, owner of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, passed away unexpectedly last week from complications of diabetes. He was 48.

Will Koch (pronounced “cook”) took over the family business in 1990. (His grandfather founded Santa Claus Land, one of the nation’s first theme parks, in 1946.) He quickly set about to expand the park by adding new rides and attractions. Will was an engineer, and took great pleasure in helping to design new rides at the park. Under Will’s leadership, the new Splashin’ Safari water park was added, along with three world class wooden roller coasters, and numerous other rides for visitors of all ages. He also hit on the idea of offering free unlimited soft drinks and free sun screen to all guests.  Will’s vision is paying off, as more than a million guests visited Holiday World last year.

Back in 2002, when we were deep in our research for Boomtown USA, our researcher, Lisa Huston, secured a personal interview with Will Koch. Will shared with Lisa how his dad, Bill Koch, was a one-man economic development  dynamo, as he was responsible for building the first subdivision in Santa Claus, bought and moved a bank into town, started the town’s shopping center, and built a golf course. Will shared his father’s entrepreneurial spirit. Success for Holiday World meant success for Santa Claus. In addition to over one million visitors, Holiday World hires more than 2,000 workers each season. One of Will’s greatest pleasures was being present in the park and visiting with guests.

We extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Will Koch. His vision and leadership will not be forgotten.