Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Water Park Vision off I-75

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Water Park Vision off I-75

Article excerpt

MANATEE: County to hear pitches for attraction at interstate and S.R. 64

MANATEE COUNTY

Although they have more questions than answers for now, the Manatee County Commission wants to hear developers pitch their ideas for a water park at Interstate 75 and State Road 64.

If a lease is awarded, the attraction would be added to county- owned Tom Bennett Park, where about 20 undeveloped acres visible from I-75 are available.

"There are a lot of questions about the governance of something like this, the business plan," Chairman Larry Bustle said before the unanimous decision on Tuesday.

County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said the request for proposals will include "a rigorous set of criteria" to minimize the county's liability. "You have the ability to reject all proposals," he told the commissioners.

"If we can work all these bugs out, it will be a win-win," Commissioner Robin DiSabatino said.

Aided by the nonprofit Central Economic Development Center, a pair of developers with amusement park experience is already pitching its plans for a park with slides, a 20,000-square-foot wave pool, a simulated beach, a "lazy river" for floating and more.

The Bradenton-based CEDC, which has a mission of creating jobs and incubating new businesses, originated the idea for a water park.

The county cannot strike any deal without first asking for competitive bids.

"We look forward to going through the competitive process," CEDC Executive Director Alison Hewitt said.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county's park system, said the county would receive revenue from the water park similar to how it does from the county-owned golf courses it leases to private operators.

Bustle said public meetings and input about each proposal that is received will be "a vital and necessary part of our evaluation ... This will be regional destination. …

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