Infrastructure projects slowing the start of water park construction

Published 10:05 am Monday, June 19, 2017

Work on the proposed Blues Beach Family Waterpark won’t start until the Mississippi Department of Transportation announces it’s ready to begin the South Frontage Road extension, the CEO of the company that will build and manage the park said.

“We’re waiting for them to move the utilities, and to start construction on that feeder road,” said Chuck Hendrix, CEO for Innovative Leisure Partners of Houston, Texas. “That’s what they’re (the investors) waiting for, and we speak frequently.”

The proposed park will be located off South Frontage Road west of the Outlets at Vicksburg. The South Frontage Road extension will link the east and west sides of the road with a bridge over the Kansas City Southern Railroad tracks, which presently splits the road.

Dick Hall, Central District highway commissioner said Mississippi Department of Transportation officials are waiting for the city of Vicksburg to move the utilities so the project can move forward.

“The project’s not going to get done until they move the utilities; they’ve known that, and we have no idea why they cannot get that done,” Hall said. “We’re going to have to sit here and wait until they get that done before anything else can proceed.”

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the project is expected to go out for bid in August. He said the plans for the relocation project were recently approved by MDOT, which must give its blessing to the project before it can get underway.

Hendrix said the investment group backing the project remains intact, “But it doesn’t make sense to jump the gun and run out there and start digging a hole in the ground until we absolutely know that the state is going to do what they say they’re going to do.

“We’ve got a lot of the stuff already done; the stuff you would do in advance of breaking ground,” he said. “We have the conceptual (drawing) and it will take us a little bit longer to get from there to schematic drawings, but that wouldn’t keep us from breaking ground. Once the civil engineering and everything is complete and we know where to stub everything up, we can go out there and do it, but right now, we’re just waiting.”

Hendrix would not say who the investors are, but a source close to the project said there are seven investors in the project. Four are local.

“I will say this,” Hendrix said. “The State of Mississippi is as cooperative and as pro development as any state I’ve ever worked in.”

Everybody in Vicksburg, he said, appears to be enthusiastic about the water park, “And everybody understands that with the athletic (sports) complex coming, and what’s already there, there’s just a lot of synergy there. I-20 cuts through the heart of Vicksburg. It’s hard to get that kind lightning in a bottle.”

“It sounds like a small thing, but it’s (the extension) going to light that intersection up. That intersection, I believe, development there is going to blossom. I think it’s going to make things easier, I think it’s going to see some other stuff that’s going to pop up along the feeder.”

The board in September approved a resolution asking the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration to declare a necessity to issue $500,000 worth of state general obligation bonds for its construction of the waterpark as a tourism project.

The project is expected to cost almost $13 million.

According to information from Innovative Leisure Partners presented to the board at the time, 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.

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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