ST. GEORGE — Since March, many businesses have had to switch up plans for growth trajectory made before the COVID-19 pandemic. For the long-anticipated Splash City Adventure Park, things have not been much different.
As previously reported by St. George News, the water park was originally slated to open this summer after first being announced a few years ago. However, the owner of Splash City, St. George resident Jim Mayoros, has had to roll with the punches in an ever-changing regional and local business landscape to accommodate the effects of the pandemic.
“When COVID hit, everything slowed down,” Mayoros told St. George News. “Many water parks across the nation shut down like everything else.”
The park’s opening is now tentatively rescheduled for 2021.
Even though COVID-19 put the brakes on Splash City’s immediate construction, there were benefits to the delay. Mayoros said that while he wasn’t trying to take advantage of the misfortune of others, Splash City Adventure Park was able to partner with struggling water parks on the verge of going out of business to procure equipment to bring to St. George.
“One of them was an indoor water park with everything in pristine condition … including filters, pumps and a couple of the slides,” he added. “For us to spend a little bit of money and get a significant amount of infrastructure in return is a benefit.”
Although there has been a change in plans to open this year, this hasn’t tempered Mayoros’ enthusiasm for the $25 million project.
“Our business plan and two independent feasibility studies … indicated this was something worth investing into,” he said. “We chose St. George because it really needs an outdoor venue like this not only for the residents to escape from the heat of summer but for our college students and all of the visitors that come through town.”
The 23-acre development on the corner of East Red Hills Parkway and East Middleton Drive will include a 30,000-square-foot family entertainment center and multiple indoor attractions such as zip lines, laser mazes, escape rooms, arcade games, full food service options and mini bowling.
“We are going to create something at Splash City that will make people want to come back time and time again,” Mayoros said. “We want to give people that come the perfect water park experience. We want people to visit and stay the entire day.”
There will also be other benefits to the community, he added, saying that he anticipates 100 employees year-round, with the staff swelling to approximately 350 during the peak summer season.
They plan to tap into students from Dixie State University on summer break to fill jobs at the water park, including filling intern positions for students interested in expanding their skill set.
“We feel that we couldn’t have come up with a better business in this area,” Mayoros said. “We believe we have a strong plan for a full 2021 season.”
Critics of the water park have questioned the location, arguing it would have been better to develop the theme park out of town instead of along an already busy traffic corridor.
“I use Red Hills to get into downtown on a daily basis,” said Susan Wilson. “It’s much easier than putting up with the traffic on St. George Boulevard. When this is built, what will I do? It might be as bad as any other alternative. Why can’t they build it south of the city where everything else is going?”
Major considerations for the location of Splash City identified in the feasibility studies included its visibility off Interstate 15, the proximity to downtown and a better potential for profitability than having it miles from the city center.
“People feel there are better locations out there way outside of town,” Mayoros said, “but the feasibility studies identified this location as ideal.”
Besides the feasibility studies, Mayoros questions the logic of constructing a water park out of town. His fears are based in fact and the history of other water parks such as the Lake Dolores Waterpark, 20 miles east of Barstow, California.
Lake Dolores has experienced a great deal of change since its construction in the 1950s. Initially a campground near a small lake, the area was transformed into a water park with water slides, a lazy river, bumper boats, a Jet Ski water racetrack and a swimming pool.
Families visited the park in the 1970s and 1980s in large numbers, but the park closed in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, park owners attempted to reopen Lake Dolores. It survived a few seasons, but increasingly dwindling attendance forced it to close again. Since then it has fallen into disrepair and attracts vandalism, graffiti and vagrants.
Mayoros said they could have bought 10 times the acreage for half the price outside of town, but in their current location, “there are 54,000 cars each day that will pass by our front door.”
“South and north of St. George that number drops to 15,000,” he said.
Another concern voiced by Wilson and other St. George residents is building a water park in the middle of a desert.
“We’re told to conserve. We’re told to install drip systems. We’re told to plant water-friendly or (zero) landscape,” Wilson said. “What makes this place (Splash City) special? Won’t it waste a lot of water? I don’t see it being practical.”
Mayoros said he is sympathetic to everyone’s concerns for water but added that it was a big component of the feasibility studies, which looked at demand, waste, usage, costs and installing high tech ultraviolet water filter systems that protect against contaminants such as cryptosporidium.
More fundamentally, with water stored in underground tanks, water usage will be “extremely” low, Mayoros added.
“The complete volume of water that we will be using in this park is approximately equivalent to eight residential swimming pools, losing about 10-15% from evaporation during the summer,” he said. “This is not scary and something we can live with.”
Experts say the average household resident wastes more of the precious commodity, as well as energy, when the water heater fires up than almost anything else other than watering grass lawns.
According to Consumer Reports, both the practices of prerinsing dishes and handwashing use up to 6 gallons of water every minute the kitchen faucet is running, and more than 2 gallons of water is typically wasted when the bathroom faucet is left on when people brush their teeth.
“We are going to use 20 times less water than an 80-room hotel,” Mayoros said. “We don’t want to waste water. This is a nickel and dime business, and we don’t want it running down the drain. We want to conserve it as much as possible.”
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