W.A. "Wally" James
Douglasville, Georgia, USA
Leader. Straight shooter. Safety guru. These are just a few of the phrases that could describe one of the waterpark industry’s most prolific and active members, W.A. “Wally” James. For the past forty years, James has been the go-to guy for just about anything you’d ever need to know about waterpark operations and safety.
Born in 1936, James graduated from St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio with a letter in football. He went on to earn a mechani- cal engineering degree from the University of Detroit. Upon graduation, he spent the next 20 years working in the field of metallurgy, designing, building and troubleshooting special high temperature equipment. During this time, he also took his love of skiing to a new level by volunteering for the National Ski Patrol and becoming a certified ski instructor. ￼￼￼￼In 1977, James was hired as Mountain Manager for the Brandywine Ski Center in Ohio. One year later, in response to a challenge made by management to add an alternative source of revenue to the property, James began exploring a new trend in the leisure market: waterparks. Wet ‘n Wild Orlando served as his inspiration to add a few waterslides to an underused beginner hill. In the process of developing this new attraction at the ski center, James became aware of the need for more formal guidelines for waterpark development and operations.
A few years later, in 1980, James attended the first meeting of the American Waterpark Association convened by its founder, Al Turner. By the end of the meeting, James was elected as chairman of the Board of the AWA, now known as the World Waterpark Association. In 1981, James accepted the position of Chair of the WWA’s newly formed Safety Committee, a role which he maintained for the next 20 years. During his tenure, the committee developed the “Considerations for Operating Safety,” a document that was widely used and highly regarded until it was retired by the Board of Directors in 2010. During his time serving the WWA membership, James spoke at nearly every WWA Show and presented safety and risk management seminars alongside Turner in India, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, The Netherlands, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
In 1985, upon semi-retiring from his leadership roles within WWA, James formed ConServ Associates, a consultancy firm for the waterpark industry. In this role, James focuses on the de- velopment of profit through risk management techniques. In 2011, he published “Good and Safe Practices in the Waterpark Industry,” which will soon feature a 3rd edition in late 2014. Throughout his long and illustrious career, James has been honored with many accolades including: induction into the WWA’s Hall of Fame in 2000, two WWA Kelly Ogle Memorial Safety Awards, WWA’s Industry Leadership Award, and most recently, the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Paragon Award for contributions to recreational swimming, In recent years, James is often asked when he will fully retire and his answer is just what you’d expect from a man known for his straight-forward approach: “Just as soon as I’m sure that I know everything about waterparks!”