Atlantide Waterpark: Where magic and tech meet

Once upon a time, an entrepreneur dreamed of creating a mini Walt Disney World® on a wooded lot in Saint-Calixte. To pull off this ambitious project, Tommy Gagnon had the backing of solid partners, including Desjardins Business. Today, the Atlantide Complex is Canada’s largest family campground, in addition to being on the cutting edge of technology.

A mini Walt Disney World®

In 2011, Tommy Gagnon and Alain Turcotte, who were already partners in the construction industry, decided to acquire land in Lanaudière to build a campground. “I told my partner: ‘There’s no way we’re doing something ordinary!’ I’m a father of 5, and I’ve been to campgrounds all across Quebec and even abroad. Amusement parks, water slides and zoos—I know them by heart! So I had this crazy dream where I created a truly awesome place for families, like a mini Walt Disney World®, in Saint-Calixte,” the entrepreneur explains enthusiastically.

A strong partner

As building contractors, Tommy Gagnon and Alain Turcotte carried out a lot of the work on the Atlantide Complex themselves. With 1,000 campsites for families, thematic cottages to rent, a water park, a haunted mansion and a magic castle, the Atlantide Complex was developed at breakneck speed.

“At every stage of our company’s growth, our account manager at Desjardins Business - Lanaudière was there to give us financial advice. You should have seen his face when I told him in 2018 that the next big project was going to be a zoo! Although it seemed ambitious, we were able to count on his support. A year later, he attended the official opening of the Familizoo. His eyes lit up as he discovered our sanctuary for more than 300 animals, including lions, tigers, a camel, lynx, zebras, wolves, kangaroos, lemurs and reptiles, most of them rescued or endangered. A partner who believes in our various projects, even the craziest ones, is an invaluable asset,” says Tommy Gagnon.

The jungle project … on ice

When the COVID-19 crisis erupted in March 2020, the entrepreneurs were getting ready to start building a hotel with a restaurant to expand their range of accommodations. “Initially, our clientele was mainly campers who wanted to have fun during their stay. But once the zoo was added, Quebec families visiting the Atlantide Complex wanted to enjoy the many facilities over 2 or 3 days, hence the idea of building a hotel,” says the entrepreneur, who received $2 million in financial assistance from the Quebec government to go ahead with the project.

True to form, Tommy Gagnon and Alain Turcotte won’t be satisfied with just building a hotel. “It will be a lost city with a jungle theme, featuring 90 rooms overlooking the lion and other animal habitats. This additional facility will help us maintain our core workforce. Labour is a challenge for our business, since most activities are seasonal,” explains Mr. Gagnon, who is clearly eager to move forward with the hotel project, which is shelved for the time being.

Moving to digital

While the global pandemic has put the brakes on the entrepreneurs’ projects somewhat, other innovations have been implemented more quickly. Say goodbye to the outdated computer system: ticketing and reservations for the various activities are going digital.

“Thanks to the Momentum Fund and the sound advice of our account manager at Desjardins Business, we’ve developed a state-of-the-art system for obtaining Atlantide Complex sales figures in real time. Not only is our computer system up to date, but we’ll also be implementing a smart bracelet system as a method of payment and to replace admission tickets. Visitors will no longer need to carry their wallets around the site; they’ll be able to use their electronic bracelet connected to their credit card to buy an ice cream or a souvenir,” says the entrepreneur.

Being innovative and proactive

On the company’s side, the information collected from the bracelets and digital terminals will give the owners a snapshot of Atlantide Complex visitors. “Which water slide is the most popular with children? How long does the visit to the castle last? Are families eating in the restaurant? Do visitors start with the zoo or the water parks? We’ll use this information to better manage traffic, schedule employees accordingly and be proactive, for example, by having mascots nearby to entertain children waiting in line.”

At the time of writing, Tommy Gagnon and his team were pouring concrete for the pink flamingo habitat in the Familizoo. “I’m also waiting for new 74-foot water slides that will definitely appeal to teenagers and thrill-seeking adults. Construction has also begun on a swimming pool with a bar, just like in those sunny vacation destinations. The goal is to expand our market not only to families, but to all Quebecers who want to have fun,” says Tommy Gagnon.

Desjardins Momentum Fund

Contributing to regional economic development, the Momentum Fund program provides businesses with support for their growth projects. Businesses can apply under a wide range of categories, including business model transformation, innovation, business succession and international market development. The Momentum Fund provides financial assistance equivalent to 25% of the project cost, up to a maximum of $10,000. The Atlantide Complex owners received financial assistance from the Momentum Fund for their digital transformation project, including a new computer system, digital terminals and smart bracelets.

If you have any questions, please contact the Desjardins Business centre in your region.

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