Victoria wades through water park options

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

April 13, 2013 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated April 13, 2013 at 11:14 p.m.

16 x 9 water park

16 x 9 water park

From the Brentwood neighborhood pool to family vacations at Schlitterbahn, Six Flags' WaterWorld and SplashTown, Nona Dennis, 58, raised her children around water.

"Every time we've gone, everybody's always happy," she said. "To me, they're one of the funnest parks to go to."

But after living in Victoria almost 46 years and seeing other communities open water parks while Victoria settled for a municipal pool, Dennis is wondering whether or when the city will follow suit.

"We've always heard rumors that they were going to bring in water parks here," Dennis said. "Every time I hear something, I wish it would really happen."

Victoria Parks and Recreation Commission is weighing its options now that the 33-year-old Gary T. Moses Municipal Pool has fallen into disrepair.

It leaks about 5 inches of water daily, and some components are no longer up to code.

The pool will still open for its normal season the first weekend in June.

As far as addressing the repairs, two outside consulting firms, Counsilman-Hunsaker and Kimley-Horn, said there is not a cost-effective option.

The city can replace the existing pool for $2.5 million, but investing more money on fresh concepts and modern designs would offer new summertime options.

For an estimated $3 million, the city could have a 2,759-square-foot pool with a slide. For $4.5 million, the city could build an 8,512-square-foot facility with two slides, a lazy river and spray ground. The third option, estimated at $6 million, would include an 18,000-square-foot water park with a lazy river, water basketball, three slides and wet deck.

Victoria Finance Director Gilbert Reyna said there is nothing right now in the budget for construction costs.

However, if the City Council wants to incorporate it into the capital improvement plan, the next step would be to figure out funding.

Reyna said there are two routes: passing a bond issue or letting it compete with other projects for money.

If they choose to "find some local funds, that means some other projects will have to give," Reyna said.

Victoria parks commission is still studying the options before it will make a recommendation to the City Council.

Kevin Post, a consultant with Counsilman-Hunsaker, said the condition of the municipal pool is normal for its age.

Post met with the convention and visitors bureau, Victoria Economic Development Corp., chamber of commerce, Boys & Girls Club and the school district to analyze and rank what the community has, what it wants and what it needs.

Diving boards ranked first, followed by beach-like entries into the pool and a spray ground.

Mark Hatchel, a consultant with Kimley-Horn, said the city should steer away from a traditional lap pool.

"We try not to replicate facilities," he said.

People interested in lap swimming could use the YMCA or Victoria school district's natatorium.

There are also several homeowners association pools, hospital therapy pools and the Lone Tree Creek Splash Pad.

The report Post and Hatchel presented Monday evening at the parks commission meeting projected revenues, expenses and attendance based on area income and population growth.

"We try to be within 10 percent," Post said. "We're usually pretty accurate."

However, if a city chooses to adopt a different fee than what is recommended, the projected revenues could differ.

If the city chooses to fund any of the projects, Post's company could be hired to do the design for construction, and then there would be a bid for a contractor.

Several residents are hoping the city will fund one of the proposals.

Catherine Garcia, 23, of Victoria, grew up taking family vacations to water amusement parks and has started taking her three children to water parks.

With admission, hotel and gas money, a weekend getaway can add up quick, she said.

As far as fair prices go, $20 for an adult and $15 for children's tickets is fair, Garcia said.

The projected admission for the first two concepts would be $5 and would be $10 for the third concept. Admission at Splashway Water Park in Sheridan costs between $6 and $25 depending on height, according to its website.

However, if the issue were to come up to a bond election, Garcia is unsure if she would vote for it. She wants to see the city partner with a company to open a water park and keep costs down for users.

"I would support it to an extent; times are hard here," she said. "We used to be able to put money aside. Now, it's like everything is going to groceries."

John Richardson, 32, of Mission Valley, said he wants the city to invest in a water park.

"They should have done it a long time ago," he said. "I just think it would be good to bring a few summertime jobs to town and keep kids out of trouble."

While he does not have children, Richardson said he would take his nieces and nephews for a day at the water park and spend as much as $20 per ticket.

"I go to Schlitterbahn all the time, and I've been to Sheridan," Richardson said. "We need something for all ages: slides, tube rides, water slides and a lazy river."

The two consulting firms have done work across Texas, including Calypso Cove and Pirates Bay in Baytown.

Baytown Parks and Recreation Director Scott Johnson said it was the best money the city ever spent.

The city's two water parks and three splash pads were funded through bonds, half-cent sales tax and some hotel occupancy tax dollars.

"We're fixing to go out for bids to add on. We need more space," Johnson said. "They're packed every day."

Both water parks cost $1.5 million annually to run but bring in $1.9 million, Johnson said.

Johnson said the estimates from the consultants were on target.

"They said to expect 50,000 the first year, 70,000 the third year," Johnson said. "We looked at them like. 'Are you nuts thinking that many people would come to our parks?'"

He said attendance before was about 2,000 or 3,000 a year.

Once Pirates Bay opened in June 2010, attendance immediately spiked. In three months, 70,000 people visited. The second year brought in 131,000 visitors.

"It's unbelievable," Johnson said.

He said most visitors are from out of town and buy gas in town, shop in town and support Baytown's economy.

"We're not Schlitterbahn, and we don't try to be," Johnson said. "This is a family place to come play and stay all day."

Even if the Victoria parks commission makes a recommendation this spring, it would be at least two years before a new pool or park opens.

In the meantime, Dennis is planning birthday parties for her three grandchildren, ages 3, 6 and 7, at the city's new splash pad on Airline Road.

"We need a big park where families can get together," Dennis said. "I hear all the time of people going to Sheridan and having reunions with family from all over Texas. I think Victoria could benefit from it."



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