News Column

County to consider water park incentive

July 11, 2014

By Mary Meaux, The Port Arthur News, Texas



July 11--The group behind such water parks as Bahama Beach in Dallas, Wet 'n' Wild in Florida and Hawaiian Falls in Waco are a step closer to bringing a water park to Beaumont.

Jefferson County Commissioners will consider an economic development incentive agreement between the county and Gusher Falls LLC for construction of a water park at Ford Park during a meeting at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the county courthouse, 1149 Pearl St. in Beaumont.

Fred Jackson attorney to County Judge Jeff Branick, said the waterpark group would be offered a 35-year ground lease for an annual payment of $15,000, with an option to renew. The lease would be adjusted depending on the consumer price index and the lease amount won't increase more than five percent in any year.

Property taxes will be rebated to the group for a period of 10 years and sales tax on tickets will also be rebated to them for a period of 10 years.

If approved, the water park will be located at Ford Park near the ball park side and visible from the interstate.

"If this is as successful as all of the others this will be boon for our area and it could be that we have as many as 183,000 visitors per year," Jackson said. "It's going to be ideal because of all of the ball games going on. It will be great for our community as well as tourism coming through and should help the hotels and restaurants. The economic impact would be great across the board."

Hawaiian Falls Waterparks opened its 10-acre mega waterpark in 2012 and exceeded its first year expectations, according to a press release from the company. The first year saw 145,000 visitors which was 5,000 more than expected. A $21.5 millionHawaiian Falls waterpark opened this year in Pflugerville that included a 30-year lease agreement with two 10-year options to renew, according to amusementtoday.com

An economic impact study commissioned by the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation and City of Pflugerville showed an expected $6.2 million in annual sales for the first year of operation which would result in an increase in city sales tax revenue totaling approximately $62,000 the first year.

Gusher Falls LLC is part of Harvest Family Entertainment whose work include mega-regional parks and micro-waterparks.

Last month county commissioners approved an incentive with Pate Development Co., a Wichita, Kan.-based company, to develop a hotel and convention center at Ford Park. The incentive is for a 35-year ground lease with a 35-year renewal option. The lease will cost the company $25,000 per year on the first $250,000 of net hotel income and an additional $25,000 per year for every year the hotel's income exceeds $500,000, according to a story that ran in the June 25 edition of The Port Arthur News.

In addition, the county will rebate hotel/motel taxes due to the developer for a 15-year period and ad valorem tax payments for 10 years.

As a condition of the letter of intent, the developers will be required to use local labor and vendors and to purchase local supplies.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

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(c)2014 The Port Arthur News (Port Arthur, Texas)

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Source: Port Arthur News, The (TX)


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