Despite all of the challenges facing the tourism industry in during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris Jaskiewicz, president and CEO of ICON Park on International Drive, has kept entertainment at the forefront of his two years on the job. He has drawn inspiration for ICON Park, which he rebranded shortly after accepting the position, from some of Orlando’s favorite former attractions: Pleasure Island, Church Street Station and Mystery Fun House.
Jaskiewicz is familiar with them because he’s an Orlando native, attending Bishop Moore High School before heading to Florida State University. After receiving his law degree from St. John’s University in New York, he practiced law in Manhattan before becoming the chief operating officer for a privately owned real estate company.
He says he eventually got the itch to bring his family back to where he grew up, so he accepted a role at ICON Park. Jaskiewicz, his wife and their three children now reside in Winter Park.
His long-term vision for the entertainment complex is to include as many of his neighbors, who also run high-quality attractions, in creating what he has officially named the Orlando Entertainment District.
“Just like Bob Snow did with Church Street Station,” Jaskiewicz says, referring to the former stretch of bustling businesses along Church Street in downtown Orlando. “We’ve created a website, all of our neighbors are excited about it and the locals are coming as well.”
Those claims are backed up by the fact that ICON Park actually saw an increase in weekend attendance in 2020 – due in part to easy access, free parking and gate-less entry.
“Everyone talks about the people who can’t come into Orlando,” Jaskiewicz says. “I’m focused on the people who are in Orlando who can’t go out. People in this COVID environment want open-air. They want location-based entertainment. They don’t want big gates and complicated processes.”
In January, ICON Park opened its latest attraction, The Museum of Illusions. With more than 50 interactive exhibits, it’s best described as a millennial Mystery Fun House. Future plans include the addition of Slingshot, which will launch a pair of riders over 400 feet in the air, and Drop Tower, a 450-foot tall tower with 24 riders who will tilt out 30 degrees before dropping. A 7,000-square-foot space inside The Wheelhouse will be converted to In the Game, a collection of interactive games, mirror mazes, virtual reality and arcade-style gaming for people of all ages.
Jaskiewicz was recently named i4 Business Magazine’s Tourism Business Leader of the Year. He credits the hardworking staff with receiving such honors.
“The first people that I thought about was our employees. We call them hosts. They are coming in every day, they mask up and they are working directly with the public,” he says. “When I get an accolade like that, it’s about them. It truly is a team effort to pull something like this off.”