Plans for water parks in Tri-Cities delayed

By John Trumbo, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 2, 2011 

Plans to have a water park open in the Southridge area of Kennewick by next summer are on ice.

And a second proposed park in Pasco is also treading water.

Mike Hillman, owner of Columbia Basin Satellite, said his proposed 10-acre Shark Reef project didn't get the financing package he needed.

"We had an investment banking group wanting to buy our bond, but they backed out when the U.S. bond market was downgraded," Hillman said.

"We are going to ride out the recession, then we'll revisit the water park proposal when things improve," he added.

Hillman also has shifted his sights from a specific spot in Southridge to an undisclosed 10-acre site in Kennewick.

"The concept hasn't changed. It's just with the recession we've had to put things on hold," Hillman said.

It was last summer when Hillman spoke optimistically about the project.

Initially planned as a water-related recreation site on four acres, Hillman grew the concept to include year-round attractions with batting cages, black-light mini-golf and laser tag. He also contemplated having a drive-in theater.

All of that still is possible, but not until the financing opportunities improve, Hillman said.

Financial strains are hampering a second water park project for the Tri-Cities.

Jim Hale, a developer from Florida who recently moved back to Pasco where he has family ties, said his Bahama Bay water park planned for 27 acres off Sandifur Parkway in Pasco is delayed.

"We are delayed as they are. We've had a lot of promises and things haven't come through. So we're in the wait mode," he said.

Hale said the financial hiccups are triggered by a sluggish national economy.

"It's been tough, especially in (the) last six months. People don't realize how difficult it is to raise a lot of money in this environment," Hale said.

"But it is not something we can't overcome. It will happen," he said.

Hale said his project's website, www.bahamabaywaterpark.com, has information to keep people informed.

The project won't open in 2012 as projected, but Hale said he believes a smaller water park could be ready for public use next year in Pasco.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com

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