Holiday World owner Will Koch dies suddenly

Theme park fans and the attractions industry are mourning the death of Holiday World owner and president Will Koch.

Koch died suddenly at his home Sunday night. He was 48.

“Will was not only our leader, he was our dear friend,” park spokeswoman Paula Werne said in a statement. “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.”

Koch’s family attributed his death to complications from Type 1 diabetes. Koch had been diagnosed with the disease in college, and he worked to raise money for diabetes research.

I visited Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, last fall. I was touched by the people who worked there, and their appreciation for their colleagues and the history of Holiday World. One visit had me convinced that Holiday World truly deserved the multiple industry awards it has won for cleanest park and friendliest staff.

Koch, the grandson of park founder Louis J. Koch, was known internationally as a leader in the attractions industry. He oversaw the addition of the Splashin’ Safari water park in 1993 and numerous roller coasters.

“Will and the Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari team championed industry innovations such as offering free soft drinks, free sunscreen, and free parking for guests,” said Charles Bray, president and CEO of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

“We’ve lost a true industry pioneer and friend in Will Koch.”

Holiday World remains open for business. Park officials say the theme park will remain under the ownership and leadership of the Koch family.