By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
A $35-million water park featuring a surf lake, inflatable water obstacle course and a sand beach is coming to south Gilbert.
Town Council last week inked a deal with The Strand @Gilbert to bring the state-of-the-art project to its regional park under construction at Queen Creek and Higley roads.
“We’ve been talking about this so long,” Councilwoman Brigette Peterson said. “I’m excited to finally see this come to fruition and look forward to seeing it in Gilbert.”
The council has been meeting in closed session for months with staff to discuss the proposal, deal points and final lease agreement with The Strand, which responded to the town’s Request for Proposal in 2017.
There is no cost to the taxpayers for the 25-acre water park, where people can kayak, canoe and do paddle boarding, according to Rocky Brown, Parks & Recreation Business manager.
Additional amenities include a cable wake park, swimming pool, an extreme slide, restaurant, indoor arcade, kid play area and outdoor cabana areas. Gilbert residents will receive a discount.
Construction is expected to begin in October with an anticipated opening next summer.
Under the 50-year lease agreement, The Strand will pay an annual rent of $253,191 to Gilbert for use of the land.
The town also will received a 3-percent cut of the water park’s revenue over $2 million, which is estimated between $450,000 and $750,000 annually, Brown said.
These funds will help offset the maintenance costs associated with the Town’s amenities at the 272-acre regional park, according to staff. The project will create 180 jobs and have a $317-million economic impact, Brown said.
The Strand will be responsible for the development, maintenance and operating costs of the water park. The company also will be responsible for constructing 400 parking spaces for shared use at the regional park.
Under a separate approved agreement, The Strand will be responsible financially for securing renewable water supplies that meet 100 percent of the recreational water demand for the property for the entire term of the lease.
Gilbert will have no obligation to supply water for recreational use during the term of the lease, except to recover and transport the recovered water from The Strand’s recovery well to the meter. The Strand will pay $1.9 million to Gilbert, as its a share of the cost of the construction and installation of the recovery wells.
Vice Mayor Eddie Cook was the sole dissenter in approving the project.
“For me, with the drought issues in Arizona it’s really hard for me to look at this as a good use of drinking water,” he said. “I’ll be a user with my wake boards and my family. I just have a hard time personally for me and with protecting our drinking water supply that unfortunately I have to say no.”
Mayor Jenn Daniels said The Strand was bringing its own water credits to the project and that it will use less water than a golf course and or a hotel.
She said other Valley municipalities have built spring-training or other types of facilities at taxpayers’ expense of $60 million to $80 million to put themselves on the map. Gilbert has the same opportunity through this public-private partnership, Daniels said.
“I’m just thrilled about this opportunity for the town on multiple levels,” she said. “One from an economic development standpoint. This is an amenity that does not exist probably anyway in the Southwest for sure. So the fact Gilbert can be a destination for this is going to be important for us we we move forward.”