Holiday World & Splashin' Safari owner and president, Will Koch, passed away Sunday evening at his home.
"Will was not only our leader, he was our dear friend," says park spokesperson Paula Werne
. "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 died at home of what the family believes to be complications from diabetes. He was 48.
"The Koch family wants to assure the public that Holiday World & Splashin' Safari will be open today and will continue to be owned and operated by his family," says Werne. "We know that's what Will would have wanted."
Born and raised in the town of Santa Claus, Koch attended Heritage Hills High School in Lincoln City, and was Valedictorian of his graduating class in 1979. He graduated with honors from the University of Notre Dame in 1984 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. In 1986, he received a Master's degree in Computer Science from the University of Southern California.
Koch was Chief Executive Officer of Koch Development Corporation, the parent company of Holiday World Theme Park and Splashin' Safari Water Park. Under his direction, the theme park followed an aggressive growth program including the addition of Splashin' Safari Water Park in 1993, The Raven and The Legend wooden roller coasters in 1995 and 2000, plus The Voyage wooden coaster in 2006, for which he was a designer. In 2004, Koch received the international Applause Award from the amusement industry; the criteria for the coveted award include foresight, originality and creativity, plus sound business development and profitability. Each year since 2006, annual seasonal attendance at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari has topped one million visitors. This year, the park premiered Wildebeest, the world's longest water coaster.
Koch served as president of the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association, which worked with the State of Indiana to reopen the Lincoln Amphitheatre in 2009 with a new drama honoring the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. He was also a past member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions; and he served on the Administrative Council of the Santa Claus United Methodist Church.
Koch is survived by his wife, Lori, and three children: Lauren, Leah, and William. He is also survived by his mother, Pat, and siblings Dan, Kristi, Philip and Natalie.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made to the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association
or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
). Funeral arrangements are pending.