Lexington’s Screampark Interview

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Lexington’s ScreamPark
By Noah Wullkotte

We interview co-owner Tyler Barnett and marketing director Grant Landon of Lexington Kentucky’s newest haunted attraction, ScreamPark. What will be Kentucky’s largest haunted event will soon invade the blue grass state in September 2009. Lets sit down with these guys and learn about what has gone into this haunt and where it’s headed.

What different attractions will people experience at Screampark?
Tyler: First off, Noah thanks for taking the time to interview us and for giving us the opportunity to be on City-Blood!

But, this season guest to SCREAMPARK will get to enjoy three (3) all-new attractions, these are: Castle of Fear, Insanity and The Abyss. Castle of Fear is your traditional gothic style castle with a very large, open graveyard scene. Insanity is a more modern, industrial/extreme haunt… strobe lights, scenes of chaos, chain-link fence all make up our most intense attraction.

The Abyss is like walking into the unknown and letting your deepest fears come out to play! This is our smallest attraction and is completely pitch black. It’s designed to play upon all your emotions and senses (except sight of course)… and you will encounter some pretty crazy things.

What has been the most difficult part in starting a brand new haunt that people in Kentucky aren’t aware of yet?
Tyler: BRANDING!!! As with any new business, your first year is all about getting your name “out there”. Our marketing campaign is pretty substantial and is covering A LOT of bases… actually, our marketing budget is more than it cost to build one of our attractions! Hahahaha…

But whatever we’re doing is already starting to pay off… our Myspace page is BOOMING with daily friend request from “general” people in the area.

Grant: Along those same lines, Lexington and the surrounding communities has local haunts set-up by charitable organizations or small businesses; but nothing on scale of Screampark.  We will be the largest indoor haunted event in the entire state.  In the past, enthusiasts have had to travel long distances to visit a haunt like Screampark, but now they will have a state-of-the-art facility they can call their own… we just need to let them know that we are here.

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In what ways will you be marketing Screampark this haunt season?
Grant: We will be marketing Screampark in several different ways.  What we hope to accomplish our first year is two-fold.  1) To get out the word about us and who/what we are 2) to bring in guests who enjoy haunted events in order to build a clientele that will support us throughout the years. 

We will be utilizing the big three to deliver our message – radio, television and print.  We have secured advertising with our local radio stations carried by Cumulus media.  In addition to air time, we will have on-site remotes as well as in-studio interviews with the top morning radio program.  We are in final negotiations with the local CBS and Fox affiliates also.  Beyond our commercials, we will have website advertising, on-site broadcasts, live interviews plus contests to win tickets! 

Print advertising will be carried by our local newspapers and magazines. We will be reaching out to local college campuses which include the University of Kentucky, Transylvania University, Eastern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University. 

The promotions include, but are not limited to, handouts with maps, times, and information; posters in campus areas with heavy foot traffic (student centers, fraternity and sorority houses, etc.) as well as table tents in eateries and local restaurants.

Sponsorships are very important during our first years of operations.  Letters have been written and sent to both local and national food/entertainment organizations for their cooperation with our event.  By working together we hope to gain mutual promotions and business revenues.

Screampark will be very involved with our local community during the haunt season.  Blood drives will be set-up with the Central Kentucky Blood Center and we will be partnering with a local charity to raise money and awareness for their cause. 

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How has working for Kings Island in Mason, OH helped in starting your very own haunt?
Tyler: Working for Kings Island was great… one of the many things it taught me, that is probably the most important, is how to better utilize multiple attractions and multiple “crews” of actors! As you know during Halloween Haunt at Kings Island hires A LOT of actors, around 600 to be exact, and it takes a well trained team of house managers to keep everybody scaring!

What makes Screampark different from other well known haunts in Kentucky such as Baxter Avenue Morgue, The Haunted Hotel, Hustonville Haunted House and others?
Tyler: Kentucky has a lot of really good haunts, like you mentioned Haunted Hotel, Baxter Morgue, Hustonville… etc. etc. But after visiting these haunts for years and finding a common thread, I think we’re bringing a whole new aspect of haunting and a totally new type of event to Kentucky.

It’s hard to answer this question without “stepping on some toes” and pissing people off… I guess I’ll just say just pure size (50,000+ sq. ft.) and number of attractions sets us apart. Once we open our doors to the public, we WILL be Kentucky’s BIGGEST haunted event; we’re about 26,000 sq. ft. bigger than the next attraction!

Will Screampark’s primary focus be props, set design, acting or a combination of all of those elements?
Tyler: It’s really a combination of all those elements… ok, like right now at this point in time, our main focus is our sets and props… making them perfect! Then from Aug.-November our focus will be all about our actors and house managers! We’re not really big on using a lot of animatronics, nothing beats a good set of actors… but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have some amazing “toys” to play with! 😉

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What people in the haunt industry have inspired you over the years to create your own haunt?
Tyler: Oh wow… were to begin! I think for this I’m just going to have to make a list, so here we go (and I apologize if I’ve spelled peoples names wrong):

Cydney Neil- Rocky Point Haunted House
Ben Armstrong- Netherworld
Kelly Allen- Raycliff Manor
Daniel McCullough- House of Torment
Larry Kirchner- The Darkness
Allen Bennett- Bennetts Curse
Ron Doherty- Frightworld

Some other haunts that have inspired me include: Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Halloween Haunt, Spookywoods, Nightshade Manor, Graystone Manor, USS Nightmare, Dent Schoolhouse, 7 Floors of Hell, Dreamreapers, The Asylum, 13th Gate, and countless others!

What obstacles have you already faced in creating a brand new haunt in Kentucky?
Tyler: Finding the perfect location! You know, we’re in this for the long haul… so we’re not looking for a short-term lease location, we’re looking for the perfect, permanent location.

Tell us a little about some of the other people who have been instrumental in creating Screampark?
Tyler: None of this would be possible without my partner-in-fear, Eddie Embry. We met about two (2) years ago and just happened one day he called me up and asked what it would take to open a haunt in Kentucky, we were off!

Another KEY person in our company is our marketing director, Grant Landon. Grant has a background in television marketing and has worked on some MAJOR campaigns. He’s been instrumental in getting our radio and TV spots in place as well as working some P.R. and designing some icon characters.

Zac Hiler is our general manager and in the past few months has proven to be CRUCIAL in were we want to take our company! He does a lot of our video editing, 3D attractions renderings, graphics, artwork… he’s just AWESOME!

Other key and VERY IMPORTANT people in our company is Wayne (construction), Travis (web/graphics), Mark (props/make-up/costumes)… and the future house managers and actors we’ll employ to make SCREAMPARK happen!

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Give me 3 words that best describes Screampark?
Tyler: SCARY… FUN… ENTERTAINING

Where will the majority of your actors come from? Will they come from an acting troupe, a high school or college drama class or mostly people who volunteer through the website that are interested in acting at Screampark?
Tyler: We have people trying to work out a college program that would allow theatre students to get credit for performing/working at SCREAMPARK. These would be everything from actors, make-up artist, house managers, “stalkers”, line attendants, concessions, etc. etc. etc.
We are looking at acting troupes in the area… hasn’t been lucky! 

What are some of the fears you have in opening a brand new haunt in Lexington Kentucky which already has established haunts?
Tyler: Like I was talking about earlier, we’re bringing a whole new event to Kentucky, something a lot of the people aren’t used to. Kentucky haunt goers are used to seeing black walls, Halloween Express costumes, movie characters, mediocre acting… or just poor shows all together!

We’re bringing ORIGINALITY; from the attractions and sets, all custom/unique characters, and just an overall event experience. Even the music at SCREAMPARK is custom and can’t be heard anywhere else!

We’re bringing QUALITY; I’m an extremely picky person in what goes into our attractions and we only accept the best. You won’t see a single “store bought” mask at SCREAMPARK nor will you find black walls where they don’t belong.

I could go on-and-on, but that’s an article for a different day!