How to Create a Successful Water Park – Part 2: Build

Once the design phase is complete and contracts have been signed, the project is handed over to one of WhiteWater’s 20 project managers. It is under the project manager that the attractions are brought from page to reality. Digging into the build phase, this week we sit down with Project Manager, Marilena Cardone, to continue our conversation about how to create a successful water park.

Getting a Project Off the Ground

Once the project reaches Marilena’s desk, the first thing she does is make sure all the stakeholders, both internal and external, are perfectly aligned and in agreement on the expectations. On the internal side, this includes meeting with the water slide engineering, structural engineering, electrical engineering, drafting, supply chain, logistics, manufacturing, and construction teams to make sure everyone is aware of the products to be built and installed as well as what the rough timetable is going to be. There are many groups involved, so communication can be complicated. By making sure expectations are aligned and agreed upon off the bat, the project manager can hopefully eliminate the potential for miscommunication.  

Transparency Even Through the Unexpected

Once expectations are aligned, Marilena goes about setting some ground rules. The first rule that she lives by is constant and clear communication throughout the project’s entirety. “While the goal is always to keep the baseline so that the project stays on schedule, if roadblocks occur, I like to try and problem solve together,” Marilena said. “I never hide anything from my clients; even the biggest problems that occur they are aware of. I have found the more sincere you are, the more they appreciate you.”

An example she cites is the logistics of moving goods around the world. At the peak of Covid, it was difficult to know the requirements of inbound shipments, and we were having difficulty finding a quick solution shipping items from Canada to Europe. While talking to the client about the situation, they were able to connect Marilena to one of the vendors they frequently use in their own business. Together, they found a solution.

“It can be intimidating sharing unanticipated challenges with the client, but I try to remember that they are also human, so why not treat them as they are and establish a good relationship that is fruitful for us? With so many different parts constantly moving, it can be tricky to bring them all together, but with patience and determination, I have found you can keep things on schedule and on budget.”

Maintaining a Growth Mindset

Joining the WhiteWater team in 2018 as a project assistant, Marilena worked hard to “steal the skill” (as they say in Italy), learning from the best project managers on the team to make her way from small projects in North America before being asked to move to Barcelona in 2019 to help run regional projects. Her hard work has clearly paid off as she now will run three cruise ship projects at the same time for one of WhiteWater’s key accounts.

What might surprise you is that a project manager’s background doesn’t have to be in mathematics and engineering. For instance, Marilena has a master’s degree in business management and project management. Her engineering knowledge came from learning on the job, asking questions to become versed in engineering drawings, and gaining the comprehension skills to identify technical issues a client could encounter during a project.

Remembering the ‘Why’

While project management isn’t for everyone, Marilena makes it look easy, playing conductor as the moving parts of the projects come together like a fine-tuned orchestra. “There is a very specific moment at the end of the project where the phone is silent, my computer is off, and I am sitting at the edge of the pool looking at the smiles of people who are trying our slides and having fun,” Marilena said. “I love being able to make that smile happen, and I am lucky to work with so many talented people. I would like to give a big shout-out to some of them: Igor, Vadim, and Sabine in Logistics; Mike in Packaging, Demie, and Kevin Frost in Procurement, Sean Lim, Michael Kan, Mark Pedisic, Andy in Engineering, and Eric, Ahmed, Milko, and Lee in Installation. They make it all happen. The list is too long, but I wanted to mention some of them. These people make my life easier and the world happier!”

If you’re ready to get started designing a project of your own, we would love to hear from you at Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the final part of our series, where we talk to Milko Cakic and Lee Mallozzi about the installation stage of what it takes to create a successful water park.

Cassidy Newman