The Greenville City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to enter into an economic development agreement, to bring Splash Kingdom to the city.
Splash Kingdom is also expected to serve as the anchor for the Greenville Towne Center project along the Interstate 30 frontage road, as multiple restaurants are reportedly interested in building near the water park.
Tuesday’s vote came after a year of negotiations between the city, Splash Kingdom, the Greenville Board of Development and III:I TC, the developers behind the Greenville Towne Center. Officials with Splash Kingdom have indicated they need to begin construction on the water park by December 1, if it is to open as planned next summer.
Prior to the vote, council members raised several issues concerning the agreement. James Evans said at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting that he had not yet made his mind up.
“I don’t know if we’ve got the right thing to be the anchor,” Evans said, citing the water park’s planned three-month operation and relative lack of full time jobs.
Greenville Board of Development President and CEO Greg Sims stressed that few major retailers are wanting to invest in new projects at the present time, noting that Splash Kingdom would be a good first step.
“By no means it is what we all want, the super anchor,” Sims said. “This certainly gets us a little bit closer to that.”
Sims said that there has been a lot of interest from restaurants.
“It puts us on the map of Northeast Texas,” Sims said. “I think it is a win win deal all the way around.”
Evans also noted that even though Splash Kingdom wants to be open next summer, the proposed agreement required the park to be open by the summer of 2015.
Sims said there was always a chance of delays in construction due to bad weather or other issues, and that they wanted to make sure the park would come to Greenville regardless.
“We certainly don’t want them going to Sulphur Springs,” which Sims said has also been trying to obtain a water park.
Under the agreement Splash Kingdom would spend $5 million to build the park, which would include no less than one major water slide, a lazy river, a wave pool, a children’s wading area, offices, concessions and parking. The city would reimburse III:I TC $1.75 million in sales tax revenue through a tax increment financing agreement over 20 years.
Mayor Steve Reid said the deal was better for the city than the one proposed by Hawaiian Falls, which was asking for approximately $10 million in incentives up front.
“The majority of the community, I think, wants this,” Reid said. “It is a quality of life issue, not just a jobs issue.”
Another question dealt with whether there would be enough water infrastructure leading to the site to supply a water park. Sims said there was a six-inch line leading to the location from Interstate 30.
“They don’t use a lot of water. The water is recycled,” Sims explained. “I think it is sufficient to handle what they do.”
Dan Perkins noted Splash Kingdom was putting $5 million into establishing the park.
“The people in my district overwhelmingly want this,” Perkins said. “The developer is taking the risk, Splash Kingdom is taking the risk, because they believe in Greenville.”
Splash Kingdom will also be in line for a property tax abatement, of 70 percent of the increased property value once the park is built, for three years. Sims said that would be part of a separate agreement which will be presented to the council later.
Officials with Splash Kingdom could not be reached for comment about the agreement Tuesday afternoon.