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November 13, 2013

Not quite ready to make a ‘Splash’

GREENVILLE — The Greenville City Council indicated it needed a little more time before signing off on an economic development agreement which would bring a Splash Kingdom water park to town.

The council was scheduled Tuesday to approve the agreement, which City Attorney Daniel Ray said had been the focus of intensive negotiations during the past year.

“This is somewhere between the 25th and 30th revision of this agreement,” Ray said, adding that the agreement was completed shortly before the council meeting began Tuesday afternoon.

Council members Dan Perkins and Renee Francey both asked that, since they were seeing the agreement for the first time during the meeting, if they could have more time to look it over before taking a vote.

Ray and Greenville Board of Development President and CEO Greg Sims stressed time was of the essence, as Splash Kingdom needed an answer right away.

“They need to start construction by December 1, if they plan to hit the targeted opening date of next summer,” Ray said. “The expectation is that they are going to be open by June 1, 2014.”

“Everybody is pushing for 2014,” Sims said. “We want them to open by 2014.”

The council tabled a vote on the issue until a special session scheduled for noon November 19.

The proposed economic development agreement would be between the city, Splash Kingdom, the Greenville Board of Development and III:I Emerging Market Partners, the developers behind the Greenville Towne Center along the Interstate 30 service road.

The Council voted in March to approve a change in zoning for the Greenville Towne Center, which would cover almost 63 acres along the interstate, bounded by Center Point Lane and the Roy Warren Parkway and is also expected to include retail and commercial businesses, private event/meeting halls and possibly multi-family tracts.

Splash Kingdom is wanting to build their fourth water park development in Northeast Texas, to go along with their existing facilities in Canton and Shreveport, La. and a park which opened over the summer in Hudson Oaks, Texas.

The council voted in October 2012 to instruct Sims to pursue a memorandum of understanding agreement with Splash Kingdom, rather than Hawaiian Falls, which had also indicated it wanted to build in Greenville.

At that time, Mayor Steve Reid said while the offers from both parks were welcome, the council chose the to follow-up on the proposal from Splash Kingdom, as the company would contribute more toward the establishment of the park.

Under the proposed economic development agreement Splash Kingdom would spend $5 million to build the 10-acre 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 Emerging Market Partners $1.75 million in sales tax revenue through a tax increment financing agreement over 20 years.

“The city is not out any upfront money to get this thing kicked off,” Sims said, noting building the water park is already attracting other businesses to Greenville. “It will help kick off some other restaurant activity.”

Sims said Splash Kingdom would likely serve as the catalyst to launching the Towne Center project, as few big box stores are wanting to be the first to jump on to major developments, given the status of the economy.

“The big retailers are not building new stores right now,” Sims said. “The big anchors are not wanting to do anything.”

Local developer Duane May expressed skepticism over some of the details of the proposed agreement, including the city putting up the tax increment financing as an incentive.

Reid said the agreement as written has all of the parties putting in some risk to see the development succeed.

“Everybody’s got skin in the game,” Reid said.

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