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County Moves Forward on Possible Waterpark Attraction


BRADENTON — At Tuesday's meeting, the Manatee County Commission unanimously approved a motion that would allow the county to move forward with a possible waterpark at Tom Bennett Park, near the intersection at I-75 and SR 64 in Northeast Manatee County.

The approved motion was stated as: "Approval for staff to proceed under a competitive proposal for construction, operation, and maintenance of a waterpark on county owned property at Bennett Park."

The motion noted that while the majority of lands at Bennett Park were acquired with grants from the Florida Communities Trust and improvements are therefore subject to authorization under a state approved management plan, approximately 20.1 acres of the property was acquired by the county without grant support and could can easily accommodate such an attraction.

"While many active recreational activities have been discussed in the years leading up to and following the construction of Bennett Park for these 20 acres in question, it is the opinion of the Parks and Natural Resources Department that a water adventure park represents the 'highest and best' recreational use for this parcel," read the motion.

While the EDC and their partners are the ones who brought the idea to the board, the county will nonetheless engage in a competitive proposal process, involving the solicitation of a request for proposals from any interest who would like to submit one. The staff's goal would be to bring back a recommendation to the BOCC by December 2014 as to the strongest proposal.

Commissioners were very clear that the vote was in no way a final decision on the matter, rather an approval to move forward with proposals. While there was clear enthusiasm for such a project, the overwhelming concern seemed to be assurance that the project would not go belly up, leaving the county with an abandoned facility on its hands.

The Manatee County CEDC announced Monday that it had secured funding for a first-ever aquatic center/water park for the county. The CEDC said it had received a letter of commitment for the construction of an attraction not to exceed $20 million.

The county would lease out the Bennett Park land for the project. The next step will be for the county to put out an RFP. The non-ptrofit EDC and its partners on the project, which include Texas Based Austin Commercial, the company that built Seaworld's Aquatica water park, would be at least one party submitting a proposal.

According to the CEDC, the prospective company’s proprietary design for the park is "anchored by a 20,000 square-foot wave pool with simulated tropical beach, sand volleyball courts and more than a dozen different water slides, including single person thrill slides, multi-person tube rides, multi-level children’s play/activity area, a toddler play pool area and a slow-flowing lazy river ride with multi-entry/exit points around the park."

The CEDC claims the project would provide over 120 permanent jobs the first day it is opens, in addition to around 200 temporary ones during construction, and that the "potential increase of the tax base for the redevelopment area is also significant."


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