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Commissioners discuss possible improvements to Splash in the Boro

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Posted: February 14, 2008 4:11 p.m.
Updated: February 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    Bulloch County Commissioners discussed possible improvements and expansions to Splash in the Boro, the water park at Mill Creek Regional Park that has become an attraction drawing people from all over the state as well as parts of South Carolina.
    Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Director Mike Rollins spoke to the commissioners, presenting facts and figures through a Powerpoint presentation regarding improvements to the water park's restrooms and concession areas, outdoor decks, fencing and shade structures, and additions  to the aquatics area including a tot slide, a spray ground, mat racer slide and river beach.
    The water park is not large enough to accommodate the demand, he said.
    In its fifth year, Splash in the Boro was a $5.4 million investment when it was built in 2004, with Commissioners hoping it would at least break even. It currently consists of an 800 foot long "lazy river," a 7,000 square foot play pool with a maximum depth of 18 inches and with spray features; a leisure pool six feet deep at the deepest; three water slides and shade structures. There are also lap pools and a therapy pool.
    The park has more than "broken even."
    "We're seeing use increase as time goes on," Rollins said,
    The annual net income has steadily increased and the park's budget has a $900,000 to $1 million fund balance, he said. Over 400,000 visitors have enjoyed the water park, with people from over 15 counties attending.
    Visitors from Effingham and Chatham County make up 25 percent of the crowd, and if Bulloch County is to maintain that attraction and compete with those two counties most likely to build a similar park, additions and improvements are a must, he said.
    Three percent of visitors come from South Carolina, translating into 3,000 people "coming into Bulloch County to visit who may have never come if not for Splash in  the Boro," he said.
    Often large groups arrive unannounced, such as the 700 people who arrived at one time, and family reunions of 50 to 100 people, he said. "That's commonplace."
    In order to continue drawing visitors of that magnitude, the park needs to be expanded and improved, with new attractions to keep the novelty alive, he said. An expansion will make the park "more user friendly," because he park is "not designed to accommodate 3,000 people a day. We had no idea - we thought 1,200 a day as a good day," Rollins said.
    The new attractions such as the mat racer slide will appeal to the  teenage market, will keep the park more competitive and offer "better guest experiences," he said.
    "Right now we don't really have any competition," he said, but other fast-growing counties could soon change that.
    "I think we definitely need those additions for families," said Commissioner Jan Tankersley.
    Commissioner Roy Thompson agreed that investing the approximate $4,000,000 would be a good move to keep ahead of other counties' progress. "If it's monetarily feasible I'm certainly in favor of this project. The good thing about this is Bulloch County citizens are only paying 24 percent of it."
    The rest of the income is from other counties and states, he added.
    Commissioners also discussed the county's roads and bridges policies, cell phone policies and possible changes to  those.
    The proposed agricultural arena, a topic of discussion for several years now, was also discussed during Thursday's work shop. Commissioners talked about challenges including having a budget of $6 million but bids ranging from $9 million to $26 million for an arena that would be competitive with others in the state and surrounding states.
    "I don't know what we can do but I know what we can't do," said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
    Thompson questioned the vast difference in the bid amounts, and said "I don;t want to vote on anything that can't support itself."
    Commissioners talked about going back to members of the original ag center steering committee for further discussion regarding the idea.
    "I think for  the  time being we're going to have to put this on hold," Couch said.

     
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