Wave of change

New Braunfels family sells Schlitterbahn water parks in $261 million deal

New Braunfels family sells Schlitterbahn water parks in $261M deal

Schlitterbahn water park New Braunfels tubing 2015
Schlitterbahn has been purchased by an out-of-state company. Schlitterbahn New Braunfels/Facebook

An Ohio company is making waves with its $261 million purchase of the family-owned Schlitterbahn water parks in New Braunfels and Galveston.

Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., owner and operator of several amusement and water parks in the U.S., said June 13 that it’s buying the Schlitterbahn water parks in New Braunfels and Galveston from the Henry family of New Braunfels. Some details still must be ironed out before the deal closes.

“For the past 50 years, the Schlitterbahn family has focused all its resources, talent, and energy into building Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts into an iconic Texas brand,” the Henry family said in a statement. “It is now time for the company to enter a new and brighter stage of development and growth.”

While the New Braunfels and Galveston properties are changing hands, members of the Henry family will retain ownership of the Schlitterbahn water park on South Padre Island. That park eventually will be rebranded. The Corpus Christi water park will remain under the Diamond Beach corporate umbrella.

“Cedar Fair is a dynamic, brand-oriented company. Under Cedar Fair’s leadership, the Schlitterbahn brand will have an opportunity to grow and expand like the early days when the sky was the limit,” the Henry family said. “While it’s a difficult decision, after several challenging years, we believe that our team, communities, guests, and fans are going to enjoy what lies ahead.”

In a release, Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair’s president and CEO, said both properties “represent new markets for us with attractive demographics in the growing Central Texas region, and they align with our strategy to identify compelling opportunities to accelerate our growth and profitability.”

The two Texas water parks and the New Braunfels resort welcomed 1.2 million guests in 2018 and generated revenue of about $68 million.

The Henry family opened the flagship Schlitterbahn park in New Braunfels — the world’s first water park — in 1979 with just four water slides. The park sits on more than 70 acres along the Comal River. The Galveston park, encompassing 26 acres, opened in 2006.

Schlitterbahn cofounder Bob Henry died in 2016 at age 89; a year later, his wife, Schlitterbahn cofounder Billye Henry, died at age 87. They were survived by three children: Gary Henry, Jeff Henry, and Jana Faber, all of New Braunfels.

Aside from the New Braunfels and Galveston properties, Cedar Fair secured the rights to a property in Kansas City, Kansas, that had been a Schlitterbahn water park.

Cedar Fair already owns and operates 11 amusement parks, two outdoor water parks, one indoor water park, and four hotels. The New Braunfels and Galveston properties would represent Cedar Fair’s first presence in Texas.