Anyone who knows Roger Hurick, knows he likes kids. Just speak with him for five minutes, you’ll catch it, too!
He enjoys mentoring, and that is part of what he does at work, where often teens are having their first taste in the work force at Visalia’s Adventure Park, where Hurick is manager and general partner. Part of a team of investors that opened Hanford Adventure Park in 1995 and the Visalia park in 2005, he remains one of two remaining partners.
Hurick was formerly employed by Shell Oil, when he considered the possibility being prodded by a friend.
“The opportunity came to where I could own my own, and I took that opportunity,” he said. “Twenty-one years later, I’m still here.”
Although born in California, Hurick doesn’t sound like a native. When his mother was pregnant with him, she contracted German measles. It affected his hearing, and subsequently his speech.
“In grammar school, for six years I went to a speech therapist, and that speech therapist was from Atlanta, Georgia,” he said.
Thus, his southern drawl.
Hurick has about 90% hearing in one ear and “next-to-nothing” in the other, he said. He has a hearing aid, but it doesn’t work in his business because of all of the background noise.
Hurick’s father was in the navy. They moved a bit while he was growing up, including a time in Japan, but not as much as some military families, he said. For the most part, the Hurick children grew up in Kings County, out in the country in between Lemoore and Armona. His father was an integral part of the Lemoore Naval Air Station’s history.
“The neat part is what brought us here,” he said. “My father opened up one of the four charter squadrons in Lemoore,” he said.
The family later moved to Visalia as his father later worked for the US National Park Service at Ash Mountain, while his mother worked in Kings County as a nurse.
Hurick continues to call Visalia his home. He and his wife of 29 years, Shelley, live there, and so does his mother, now 89 years old. He attended College of the Sequoia, and received his degree in social sciences from Fresno State.
The switch from working for Shell to opening Adventure Park, while a big difference, was something Hurick does not dwell on much.
“It was completely different – out of the box,” he said. “One of my best friends is the one who kind of talked me into and said, ‘with your background, why don’t you run the day-to-day.’”
“The rest is history,” he said. “It was a no risk – no glory-type deal. I am a risk taker to a degree.”
“The interesting thing was that before I came on – they were already working on and had been turned down by the City of Visalia,” he said.
The investment group was looking to build Adventure Park in Plaza Park.
“That was a blessing, because Plaza Park wouldn’t have worked. The size just wouldn’t have worked,” Hurick said.
So, the group starting working with Hanford, with the thought of expanding into Visalia later.
“Part of the lure was we were going to do more than one,” he said.
There it worked out and the park was developed and opened in July, 1995. Hurick was the general manager, but he also had an onsite manager, so he wasn’t there day-to-day, he said. He answered to a board of directors.
When the Visalia park opened in phases starting in the spring of 2005, Hurick went back and forth, managing both, while still having a Hanford manager under him and a few onsite managers in Visalia. The group looked to expand the Hanford park and purchased seven adjoining acres to build a water park, but in working with the City of Hanford and others, it just never came to fruition.
“We just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger,” Hurick said.
And, then the recession hit, taking the Hanford location with it, in 2010.
“The Great Recession had taken the toll on cash flow,” Hurick said. “Sadly, for Hanford we were equity rich, cash poor. But, then it came down to we were competing against ourselves. This [Visalia] was newer, bigger.”
Visalia was doing about 2 ½ times the business that Hanford was, he said, although it also had a greater overhead.
The Hanford property has since been sold.
“Everyone was affected by the Great Recession – we were 38% down in sales,” he said. “We had to figure out real quick, just how are we going to do this? What turned things around for us, we were able to refinance our business loan to a cheaper rate – the economy started changing and we changed some of the things that you need to do in business to stay in business.
“Business has picked up – we’re not back up to the 38, but probably 25% back.
“The bank refi was huge! Huge! And, like most businesses, the top has to take a pay cut. I took a pay cut to save a couple jobs – key people jobs. We started looking at what was costing us the most money, why, what can we do? How do you change it?”
Visalia Adventure Park closed down its buffet meal operation in March, 2013. It now maintains a pizza parlor and snack bar. The buffet, Hurick said, was not making money, and in fact was costing money to run.
Last year, the park closed down its FastTrack attraction.
“That really was a combination of insurance, because of the speed of those cars, and we were always scared to death we would have a major injury,” he said.
Adventure Park still maintains its Family Track of electric karts, where children 54” or taller can drive and speeds can reach 18 miles per hour.
“Shockingly, we are making more money, or have a better bottom line,” he said.
“We are a disposable income business,” he added. “What has helped us over the past couple of years is the energy savings off of gasoline that the average person is getting. They’re spending that money. That has clearly helped us.”
Another cost-saving measure for the park was the installation of solar in April, 2015. The company is saving about 40% in electricity while receiving tax credits, Hurick said. Right now the park is run on about 65% solar with plans to add and complete the solar units for 100% efficiency next year.
Hurick is a board member with the Visalia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The park is a Visalia Chamber member and recently joined the Tulare-Kings Hispanic Chamber.
Adventure Parks partners with many area schools and has a Pass for Class program in which teachers can award students with Adventure Park rewards.
But Hurick wishes he had even more time to give back to the community then he does.
“The biggest thing that the average person doesn’t realize, is that when you’re a business owner – it’s not just you that you have to worry about – you have to worry about your 50 employees,” he said. “I work six days a week. That’s my MO. I get that [work ethic] from my parents.”
Hurick finds that keeping up with governmental standards is the hardest part of his job.
“At one point, 25% of our employees were high school kids and I loved it. Two years in high school and two years at COS [they would work for the park], but with labor cracking down on hours they can work, times they have to be off work – it just doesn’t fit for us,” he said. “So, we’re 18 years and up now.”
“I have one employee who has been here 10 years, and three who have been here for 9 years. But, our business is a high turnover, about 35%,” he said. “Before the recession it was closer to 45%, then people figured out – you get a job, you keep that job.
“And now we’re seeing people working two jobs. I can’t pay for medical. $15 an hour – we’re going to have to grab how we can do that as well. We’re not a gas station – we’re not a grocery store. We’re not a need – so the challenge ahead is how to we keep up with the growing cost of business and we’re in California.
“Washington, DC and the state of California don’t care about the Central Valley, if they did, we wouldn’t have a water problem. If they did, I wouldn’t be paying the same rate that LA is going to pay for labor.”
On the plus side, Hurick said, “I do have some great young adults [working there] – and, of course, the customers. Our deal was, we wanted to have a fun park here – it’s great for the community.”
Hurick loves working with people – “Always,” he said.
“As I get older, part of my job, because we’re entry level, is making them [his young employees] understand what work is all about.”
The Huricks have one daughter, Lindsay, who is to graduate from college at the end of the year. They also have a newborn grandson.
““I took on a new title,” Hurick said of being a grandpa. “I’m looking forward to mentoring him.”
Besides his Adventure Park investment, Hurick also owns apartment buildings. A four-plex business is named Lindsayland, after his daughter. He also owns a “hobby-business” of casino rentals, where he rents out tables, chips and everything associated with a casino-night for bachelor parties, corporate parties, and others.
“It’s funny, I don’t know that I have a hobby,” he said.
“If I’m not doing something, I get bored really easy. At 61 years old, I walk faster than most of my employees – it’s that I have places to go, things to do, people to see. I do take Sunday off, that’s family time.”
The Huricks do travel a bit. They have been to New York, Miami, the Bahamas and Hawaii, he said. A cruise may be in the schedule for next year.
As for Adventure Park, there are some plans for the future, too.
“We start talking for about two years, before we get real serious about things,” Hurick said. “We are not going to rule out a large water attraction – there’s room – we have to see what this water deal is going to be like.”
As he spoke, it sounded as if the possibility was more than just a “not going to rule it out.”
“It would be one big thing with no standing water – it would have buckets on it – it’s going to have water cannons – it will probably have 60 different things going on and probably hold 200 people,” he said.
Notice how the wording changed from “would have” to “it’s going to have.”
“It’s something, that under the right conditions, we’re definitely going to look at it. Our concern now is the water problem. Four-to-five months [of activity per year] with no water surface, but we’re going to be using some water, we’ll leave it up to the engineers to figure out.”
This fits into the 3-5 year plan, Hurick said.
The end of this year, the arcade may start to see some changes, converting to a card system instead of ticketing.
“It would track everything,” he said.
Currently, Adventure Park owns about 50% of its arcade games. It is looking to own about 90%, leaving the video games as rentals. And, games are routinely upgraded to keep up with the times. The arcade is the park’s most popular attraction, Hurick said.
Ownership is also looking toward creating an atmosphere for younger children 4-7 years of age. They currently tout their appeal from age 7-70.
Hurick claims he doesn’t have much of a personal bucket list.
A few years back, he and some buddies attended a Cardinals-Giants playoff game. The Cards won that game, he said, although the Giants won the playoff division and the World Series.
Hurick has been a Cardinal fan since his youth.
“When I could watch TV, going back, I had tubes put in my ears. The Cardinals and the Red Sox were playing in the World Series – so this has to be ‘67, or ’68. I liked their uniforms and eventually I knew all the players’ names,” he said. “I enjoy sports – it’s just I don’t have a lot of time [to watch].
If Hurick was not manager and a general partner of Adventure Park, he would probably be retired, he said.
“But, the long and the short of it is, I don’t look back much.”
His favorite title is “Dad,” he added.