City OKs bond money for proposed $12.95 million water park

Published 8:16 pm Friday, September 30, 2016

A proposed $12.95 million waterpark for Vicksburg will benefit from $500,000 in state general obligation bonds for its construction following action Friday by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The board approved a resolution asking the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration to declare a necessity to issue the state G.O. bonds for a tourism project.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said the money was authorized by the Mississippi Legislature in 2015 for the tourism project, known as the Blues Beach Family Waterpark.

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“This is the first and one of the biggest project along with the (proposed) sports complex, to attract families to Vicksburg for tourism,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

The park will be built on property off South Frontage Road east of the Outlets of Vicksburg. A source familiar with the project said one of the local partners involved in the project owns a portion of the property.

Flaggs said the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which is working on a project to link the east and west sides of South Frontage Road already has the right of way on the site to extend the road.

Chuck Hendrix, owner of Texas-based Innovative Leisure Partners, the company building and managing the project, said construction is expected to begin sometime in early 2017 and open in the spring of 2018.

According to information from Innovative Leisure Partners presented to the board, the park is expected to create 12 full-time and 300 part-time jobs and earn more than $1.4 million a year, attracting 1.4 million visitors over 10 years with a projected total economic impact for the city of $1.195 billion by 2025, with a direct spending impact of $102.6 million over the same period.

“This will have a tremendous impact on tourism like never before,” Flaggs said. “I want commend Rep. (Alex) Monsour and the (county) delegation for giving us this $500,000, and I think there’s going to be some additional money in the pipeline for this.

“I just can’t believe that this won’t be a tremendous asset to the city of Vicksburg as far as tourism and family development.”

Hendrix said the park will feature water slides, a lazy river for floating, wave pool, splash, spray and play areas and green space.

He said the mall site was selected “because (the) visibility off I-20 is advertising you couldn’t pay for. That’s a long corridor there, and if you look, there’s not much from an entertainment standpoint from Dallas to Atlanta. It’s a great vantage part. We’ll go vertical with some things, and there will be at least one major slide tower that will have quite a bit of height to it, and being able to see that from I-20 will be very visually compelling.”

Innovative Leisure Partners specializes in site selection, feasibility studies, facility design and construction and has experience in operations management. One of its major projects was Hurricane Alley waterpark in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Hendrix said the company is involved with two water parks in China.

Hendrix served as senior vice president of park strategy and operations for Six Flags, and was a former manager at Astroworld in Houston, Texas.

The waterpark had been mentioned by city officials as a companion attraction to a proposed sports complex planned for the city’s property on Fisher Ferry Road. The board in June hired Canton, Ga.-based The Sports Force to perform a second feasibility study on the sports complex. Flaggs said the draft report on the study is due in 60 days.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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