Arnolds Park Amusement Park Builds New Dormitory for Seasonal Employees
A beautiful new three-story building has arisen from the old Parkside Cottages just south of Historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park. On Friday, May 19, the community and park staff met to celebrate the completion of the new dormitory for the park’s seasonal employees.
Many in the community would have thought it impossible for this large building project to be completed so fast. However, Arnolds Park Amusement Park CEO Jon Pausley said Eagle Construction out of Sioux Falls made the job top priority and pulled out all the stops to complete the 61-room dormitory in such a short timeline.
“They did a fabulous job of making this job a priority and getting it done on time and within budget,” he added. “At times, they pulled materials off their other jobs or called in favors to get the dormitory completed on time for our seasonal staff. Eagle Construction created a beautiful building for us!”
Needing Housing for Employees
All summer long, smiles abound and laughter is heard throughout Arnolds Park Amusement Park. Several hundred staff members are hired each year to help maintain a safe and fun environment for the thousands of guests who visit each season.
To help with a staffing shortage, in 2005, Arnolds Park first hired J1 international students and H2B workers, allowing them to increase their staffing options.
“It’s awfully hard to run the Park without the program; we have found we rely on them so much,” Marketing Director Paul Plumb said. “The local workers are great but there aren’t enough of them available to split between all of the different places, especially with the influx of guests from outside the area.”
In 2005, the Park hired six students who came from different countries. Almost twenty years later, the program has grown to where just Arnolds Park Amusement Park brings in 122 students from countries like Jamaica, Columbia, and Turkey. In the past, students have also come from Russia and Ukraine.
“These are some of the brightest students you can find; I only speak English, some of them know two or four languages,” Plumb said. “Some of the students are studying to become doctors, engineers and lawyers in their homeland. They are smart kids who really appreciate the value of our area.”
In the last 18 years, as more students have been hired, the issue has arisen of having enough quality housing options. The students have often stayed in old cottages or rentals throughout the Iowa Great Lakes area. While they are given bikes for transportation, Jon said this isn’t always a safe option for getting around the area.
“We had a vision for creating a safe and comfortable spot near the Park for our international workers,” he shared. “We want to treat them with dignity and create an environment that is in close proximity, because in the past, it wasn’t always an ideal circumstance. We also know when you have happy employees, you tend to have happy guests. Our staff that is back from past years is blown away by the new dormitory.”
The project came in just under five million dollars, with two million donated towards the overall venture.
“We are financing the remainder, but if anyone would like to give towards the dormitory, feel free to contact me,” said Jon.
Walking Through the Doors
Once a resident walks through the main doors, there is a line of lockers to the left. This provides a quick place for them to keep things safe for quick retrieval on the bottom floor, as well as a place for Arnolds Park staff to leave packages or mail.
“In other years, we’d collect items in the main office and try to deliver while they were working, since they lived in a variety of places before. This creates a safe place for their items,” Jon added.
Each floor has a large common space for cooking and hanging out, as well as two locker rooms and laundry availability. The east side hosts the women’s rooms, while the men live on the west side of the floor. The rooms host two students and are complete with beds, a desk, closet and small fridge and microwave, and each room has its own climate control, allowing the residents the ability to individually adjust the temperature.
Each floor has a beautiful gathering space with a full kitchen and living area. Every day, Arnolds Park provides their staff with one meal. In the past, the workers would receive a box lunch and enjoy it throughout the Park. With the dormitory so close, the meal options are endless, and workers can return for a break away from the amusement park.
“We will have a staff member make meals and give the seasonal employees a chance to step away from the Park. We can provide healthier options as well,” Jon added. “In their own time, they will use the kitchen to make authentic food from their country. They are really excited to enjoy the kitchens for cooking and baking.”
Each floor hosts a resident assistant, a past staff member, who will help oversee the dormitory. Two men and women will be the first line of assistance to help with any issues that may arise.
Tashalee Cole from Jamaica is a RA this year and starting her third season at Arnolds Park. She is excited for the new space and loves having a kitchenette, proper lighting and laundry onsite.
“I’m really excited as a RA to get to know everyone and get to know each other’s cultures,” she shared. “Plus, just having washers and dryers available, so we can do laundry whenever it works is so nice.”
Aaliyah Forrester, who is also from Jamaica, lived in a three-bedroom apartment with eight other international workers last season.
“This space is wonderful, and we can sleep at night comfortably with only two to a room. It’s such a big difference from past seasons, especially when each person has their own furniture and the kitchens are very nice,” said Aaliyah. “Even better, there won’t be any long lines for laundry.”
“They treat us like family at the Park and we just feel like we belong,” Cole said. “We also enjoy the Global Friends activities provided every week. We love coming back each season!”
Sylvester Brown is starting his fifth season at Arnolds Park and used to live in a small house near Captains. He’s a biochemist from Jamaica who enjoys coming to the area every summer.
“It’s hard to describe the words for how fantastic our new space is to live,” he shared. “It’s a big upgrade. We love it; the space is amazing, and the people here are great!”
Nayda Diaz is from Columbia and starting her second season at the park. She’s studying to be a civil engineer and enjoys the break from her studies in the Iowa Great Lakes. “It’s so quiet and beautiful here. It’s so different here than my country,” she shared. “The dormitory is really good, and my bed is my favorite. Last year, I stayed in a small house with three other workers from Columbia.”
Diego is in his first year working at the park and is also from Columbia. He’s enjoying his first days and is enjoying meeting new people.
“The rooms are really good, fresh and cozy,” he said. “I really like how you can meet and talk to others in the common area. We are very appreciative.”
Near the new dormitory is a community park, which Jon said provides beautiful green space and a place for the residents to get outside and enjoy the area.
“You look outside to the south and you feel like you aren’t even near the Park,” he added. “We are so excited that Eagle Construction saw our vision to not just create a dormitory but a place where our seasonal staff can relax after work. They are not just employees, but people, and we appreciate everything they do to help the amusement park have a successful season.”
Tiah Gayle from Jamaica said it perfectly, “It’s like living all summer in our own mini hotel! It’s a beautiful space.”
If anyone would like to contribute to the project, they can contact Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.