Austin American Statesman
By Gary Dinges
Hawaiian Falls, a $21.5 million waterpark and adventure park, appears to be on its way to Pflugerville, with an opening date likely set for spring 2014.
The project’s developer, Horizon Family Holdings, is teaming with the city of Pflugerville and the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. to make the project a reality, the American-Statesman has learned. It will be located on a 25-acre site at the southwest corner of the Texas 130 toll road and FM 685, near the Stone Hill Town Center shopping center.
At a meeting Tuesday evening, the Pflugerville City Council approved a series of economic development agreements that would clear the way for construction to begin by late September.
Officials say the city would take out about $21 million in bonds to help pay for the park, with that money going to the Pflugerville Community Development Corp., which would then provide it to the developer.
Horizon Family Holdings would be on the hook for repaying the borrowed funds to the Pflugerville Community Development Corp., which would then pay the city. Pflugerville Community Development Corp. is an agency that works with the city on economic development issues.
Pflugerville Community Development Corp. will get $100,000 of the anticipated property and sales taxes the park would pay each year. The city would give back another $100,000 in property and sales taxes to the park to fund improvements and to help fund advertising intended to attract visitors.
The park would have a full-time staff of about 15 employees, documents indicate, with an average annual salary of $45,000. There would be about 100 year-round part-time positions, and as many as 300 seasonal jobs would be staffed May through September each year, paying $9 per hour on average. Many of the employees would likely come from the Pflugerville area, said Floyd Akers, executive director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corp.
The agreements call for Horizon Family Holdings, which has developed a number of similar parks elsewhere across the country, including one in Waco and several in the Dallas area, to lease the land from the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. for 30 years, with two optional 10-year extensions.
Sales in the parks’ first year could hit $6.2 million, according to a study commissioned by the Pflugerville Community Development Corp.
“We have a pro-business council that has been looking for an opportunity like this,” Akers said. “This isn’t going to cost the city anything. We’re getting way more than we’re giving them.”
The adventure park, featuring attractions such as ziplines and ropes courses that are commonly used during corporate retreats, would essentially be up and running year-round, according to Horizon Family Holdings president David Busch, while the waterpark’s rides would likely be open about 100 or so days each year, primarily during the summer months.
Busch expects to draw about 300,000 visitors annually, most of them coming from within a 60-mile radius of the park.
“Our community is ripe for this sort of thing,” Akers said. “We’re centrally located, and we don’t have a lot of entertainment options in the area.”
The average guest will stay seven to nine hours, Busch said, with many visits spilling over into a second day. That has Pflugerville officials hopeful the city will soon see its first hotel.
“We believe this is going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to getting us our first hotel – and maybe our second and third,” Akers said.
Busch said his company has had its eye on Central Texas “forever,” even though Central Texans already have a handful of options available, including Shore Club Volente Beach in Volente, Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, and SeaWorld and Splashtown in San Antonio.
Schlitterbahn announced plans to build another one of its waterparks in Cedar Park several years ago, but that project has been beset by delays.
“Over time, you learn which markets are underserved – and everyone in our industry considers this market underserved,” Busch said.
Horizon Family Holdings has spoken with several suburban Austin cities in recent years – he wouldn’t specify which ones – but things never panned out, Busch said, until now.
“No one could ever put the right pieces together,” he said, “but Pflugerville said, ‘Let’s do this. We’re ready to go.’ ”