published Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Dalton hears proposal to build water park

  • photo
    David Pennington, the mayor of Dalton, Ga., stands inside of the City Hall facility.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

DALTON, Ga. — Dalton officials want a water park to attract tourists to the area and are looking for a way to make a proposal work, John Davis, chairman of the Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the men interested in building the park.

But other officials in a meeting Tuesday afternoon seemed less sure that the plan they were hearing was workable for Dalton.

“We don’t have a right to waste taxpayers’ money,” Dalton Mayor David Pennington said. “If it is too big a risk of private money, it is too big a risk of taxpayers’ money.”

Jeff Franklin, with the group putting the proposal together, said it calls for the city to fund the park, which would be built on city-owned Heritage Point Park. The city then would lease it to Franklin to manage it with an option to eventually buy it.

The park would attract 222,000 visitors the first year and bring in net revenue of more than $2 million, with visitors and revenue increasing over five years, according to Franklin.

Franklin met with officials for the third time Tuesday to discuss plans and provide more details about his company, known as Spirit of America. Another contractor Franklin works with attended the meeting, and several others joined the discussion in a conference call.

Projected costs for building the park range from $7 million to $9 million. The initial development likely would cover less than 10 acres but more phases would be built to cover more than 20 acres.

City and county leaders, as well as members of the Dalton Whitfield County Chamber of Commerce and Joint Development Authority, asked dozens of questions about Franklin’s plan.

The biggest concern was how to balance public and private entities that may be involved in the project. If the city built the park it would have to put the contract out to bid, both during the building phase and if it wanted to sell it, city Finance Director Cindy Jackson told the group.

But the city has various options, such as setting up a governing authority to manage the operation with city funds. Officials asked Franklin to get information about other parks built by public entities and how those were operated.

Pennington also wanted to know why a private investor would be unwilling to build the park, with the potential to bring in enough revenue to pay off the park in five years.

The close proximity of Six Flags in Atlanta, Dollywood in East Tennessee and Chattanooga attractions were drawbacks for private investors, the group said. Businesses that wanted to build a water park likely would go to an area with fewer attractions, according to the group.

But Davis said he does not see the park as a competitor to larger theme parks. It would be smaller and less expensive for families, he said.

“We believe it would also improve the quality of life for Dalton residents,” Davis said. “It is a good project if we can find a way to put it together.”

Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at mmartin@timesfreepress.com or 706-980-5824.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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timesfreepress said...

Do you think Dalton should build a water park?

May 10, 2011 at 12:26 a.m.
Stewwie said...

It's probably not a good long-term idea to build it in Dalton considering how close it would be (within an hour maybe?) to Whitewater. To keep operations going, they'd probably have to charge about as much as Whitewater, but it wouldn't be near as good as Whitewater. Thus they wouldn't make enough money to expand to be able to fully compete with Whitewater.

May 10, 2011 at 7:34 p.m.
jimcool12345 said...

I live in Ringgold GA and buy season passes to six flags white water I buy them for all my kids and grand kids thats 18 passes and the gas to go cost more then the passes if the park was in Dalton we would be able to go almost every day I am sure there are thousands like me so I think a park that is closer would be great for my family and thousands of others that would be going to Dalton more

August 24, 2011 at 4:17 p.m.
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