Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Manatee Leaders to Consider Water Park

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Manatee Leaders to Consider Water Park

Article excerpt

MANATEE COUNTY

Developers today will pitch plans for a 20-acre "water adventure park" at Tom Bennett Park -- saying the regional attraction would create jobs, boost local businesses and expand the area's reputation as a tourism destination.

Although similar experiences can be found at Adventure Island in Tampa or Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon at Disney World, the proposed water park at Interstate 75 and State Road 64 would be the first in this area.

Developers want to use 20 acres at the 200-acre, county-owned park, adding slides, a 20,000-square-foot wave pool, a simulated beach, a "lazy river" for floating and more.

If the commissioners like the concept, they cannot quickly seal a deal.

They can, however, ask for competitive bids and see if they get other offers for a water park.

A team comprised of the Central Economic Development Center, Mims Construction and Austin Commercial will tell commissioners why they want to be chosen to build "a boutique water park/aquatic center and amphitheater."

"I'm so excited," said CEDC Executive Director Alison Hewitt, whose nonprofit agency based in Bradenton has a mission of helping grow businesses and create jobs.

It has been working on the water park idea a couple of years.

Austin and Mims have the experience and expertise to make the project work, Hewitt said.

Austin Commercial, a subsidiary of the construction and design firm Austin Industries, and Mims Construction say they have worked on hospitality and entertainment projects throughout the United States.

According to Hewitt, the Austin-Mims partnership brings experience with clients including Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando, SeaWorld, Lowry Park Zoo and other attractions.

The two companies "are negotiating with a water park management firm" to operate the so far unnamed attraction, Hewitt said. "That will be in place prior to any bid being in place."

The water park would produce revenue for the county, Hewitt said - - possibly through a lease and a percentage of sales similar to other concessions using county property.

Located northwest of the I-75 and S.R. 64 interchange, the water park would be visible from I-75 and attract visitors from several counties, Hewitt said. …

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