Will Koch, owner and president of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana, passed away June 13 at the age of 48. His brother Dan has been named the park’s new president and CEO.
Will died at his home from what his family believes to be complications from diabetes.
“Will was not only our leader, he was our dear friend,” says Holiday World spokesperson Paula Werne. “Our park family is in mourning for this sweet man who worked tirelessly to bring fun and happiness to so many families in the 20 years he ran the park.”
Born and raised in Santa Claus, Will Koch attended Heritage Hills High School in Lincoln City and graduated with honours from the University of Notre Dame in 1984 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. In 1986, he received a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Southern California.
Under his direction, the park followed an aggressive growth plan including the addition of not only the waterpark, but also three major wooden rollercoasters, The Raven, The Legend and The Voyage, plus the world’s tallest water ride and longest waterslide coaster. Each year since 2006, annual attendance has topped one million visitors.
In 2004, Will Koch received the Applause Award from his amusement industry colleagues. He also served on the board of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the administrative council of the Santa Claus United Methodist Church, and as president of the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association.
Will is survived by his wife, Lori, and three children, Lauren, Leah and William. He is also survived by his mother, Pat, and siblings Dan, Kristi, Philip and Natalie.
Dan, who is 46, is a partner in the law firm Koch & Trushin in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and stresses that the park will continue to be owned and operated by the Koch family “into perpetuity.” He plans regular trips to Santa Claus and daily communication with management.
“Will and I have been business partners for decades,” says Dan. “I consider it an honour to step in as president and continue the expansion plans my brother and I crafted together. In the meantime, Will’s three children will have time to finish their education and learn more about the family business before they decide how they would like to be involved in the future of the park.”
Koch says his mother, Pat, will continue as the park’s “director of values,” greeting guests at the front gate and providing motivation and guidance to the management and staff.