Businessmen unveil another water park plan

By Kristi Pihl, Herald staff writer January 21, 2010 

Now there are two developers competing to be the one to open the Tri-Cities' first water park since the 2003 closure of Oasis Water Works.

On Wednesday, two Tri-Citians said they have been quietly working for about three years on plans for what they call Shark Reef Water Park, planned for Kennewick's Southridge area.

Mike Hillman of Kennewick and Dave Schlotthauer of Pasco, brothers-in-law and owners of Kennewick's Columbia Basin Satellite, said they decided it was time to go public with plans for their water park after hearing about the proposed Bahama Bay Water Park in Pasco. The Herald reported on the Pasco plan Saturday.

The Pasco Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. today on Orlando resident Jim Hale's special permit application for the 27-acre Bahama Bay.

But Hillman and Schlott-hauer said their project is several steps ahead of Bahama Bay and will open in the summer of 2011.

They said they recently obtained the financial backing needed to build the $5 million first phase of Shark Reef. And Whitewater West Industries Ltd., one of the world's two largest water park designers, has already created the water park's design, Hillman said.

Hillman and Schlotthauer said they have signed a purchase agreement with the landowner. The property is on the east side of Highway 395 near the Kennewick Washington State Patrol office, Hillman said.

The first 8-acre phase of Shark Reef would include a bowl slide, three intertube slides, multi-lane mat racers, three speed slides, a giant children's area with slides and water guns, a lazy river, a wave channel, spa pools and other features, Schlotthauer said. The tallest slides would be 60 feet.

Landscaping would include palm trees, and visitors would be welcomed with a large tank that would be home to several live sharks, Hillman said.

In 2013, the park would grow to 15 acres, with a $10 million second phase that adds an expanded lazy river, a family wave pool, another children's play area, a family boomerang ride, three high-thrills body slides and a volleyball court, they said.

The second set of rides would include ones not found in any other water parks, such as a slide with a jump at the bottom, Hillman said.

Schlotthauer said plans for the 2013 phase have room for adjustment, but they are pretty confident the current plan will be close to reality.

"We are good at marketing and we like to think outside of the box," Hillman said. The duo are well known for their creative, goofy Columbia Basin Satellite TV commercials.

Jeff Kossow, Kennewick's economic development director, said one thing that stands out to him is that the two already have financing to make Shark Reef happen. Having financing can make or break a project, he said.

"They did a lot of due diligence," Kossow said.

Hillman and Schlotthauer have a strong business plan and Southridge is a good place for the project, Kossow said. It's right on Highway 395 and close to a high school and other development.

Schlotthauer and Hillman said they've done their research and believe they have a viable plan. They said they wouldn't have opened their own pockets for the project or taken out a loan for it otherwise.

The Southridge land is zoned properly so no special permits would be needed, Hillman said. And they have already approached the city, although they are just starting the permitting process today.

Construction of the first phase will likely start this summer and be finished in time for an opening around Memorial Day next year, they said.

Hillman said admission will likely be $15 for a day pass, with seasonal passes and group rates also offered.

"We want to be price competitive," he said.

He pointed out that when he went to see a movie recently, the ticket cost $13 for only two hours of fun.

Schlotthauer said they won't allow outside food in the park, but they will sell food at a reasonable price.

"No $6 popcorn," Hillman said.

The venture should bring money into the community because it will be a regional draw, Schlotthauer said.

The park will employ 40 full-time seasonal employees and have a year-round staff, Hillman said.

It's going to be a place where Hillman and Schlotthauer said they will bring their own families.

"It's a family park," Schlotthauer said.

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