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Splash to get 'splashier' attractions
$4 million expansion of water park to be ready by summer
FlowRiderWeb
The Flow Rider attraction will open at Splash in the Boro in Summer 2009. - photo by Special
     Bulloch County Commissioners recently approved a proposal from local general contractor Lavender and Associates to begin a $4 million expansion of Splash in the Boro.
      Viewed as a regional attraction and an economic stimulus by many, the proposal was passed unanimously by board members, and the construction is expected to begin next week. Commissioner Jan Tankersley is confident that she and the other commissioners have made the right move for Bulloch County.
      "We just needed to keep Splash fresh," Tankersley said. "It makes money every year, covering its own operational costs. It is a significant stimulus for our county bringing in thousands of guests from other counties that not only go to Splash, but shop and eat here as well."
     Splash was constructed at a cost of $5.4 million with funds from Bulloch County's first SPLOST. According to Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch, Splash has operated in the black since opening in June 2004.
Statesboro Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department director Mike Rollins said the move was made to supply attractions for the teen market as well as the very young.
      "We are going to add two new rides - a Mat Racer and a Flow Rider," Rollins said. "Those two are going to appeal to the younger teenage market. In addition, we will be adding a spray pad area with water features to the back of the park as well. This is designed to accommodate very young children."
      Rollins said an additional concession stand and bathroom area will be added next to the new attractions as well as a remodeling of the park's entrance.
      "When Splash was designed, we based the entrance on accommodating an average of 800 visitors a day," Rollins said. "We average significantly more than that, almost 1,400 per day. It is no secret that getting in and out of the Splash gates can be a hassle, and guests have been very patient. That is why we felt like it was time to rework the gate area making it larger and more user friendly."
      Rollins said the park is designed to handle a maximum of 1,600 people at one time, but with the renovations the park's capacity will increase to 2,100.
      "We will be able to handle significantly more people when we reopen for next summer's season," Rollins said.
      Couch remembers his original misgivings about Splash.
      "When I interviewed for the county manager's job and they told me that they were about to open a water park, I almost had a heart attack," Couch said. "I just knew it would be a drain on the taxpayers, but I was wrong. It has proven season after season to be a money maker supporting itself and bringing large numbers of people to Bulloch County to have fun and shop. I think we are obligated to keep this attraction up, and keep it going in the best, most prudent way possible."
      This past summer, Splash earned revenues of $1.137 million with a total attendance of 106,506. Rollins said 68 percent of attendants were out-of-county residents.
      "I don't think local residents realize just how many of our neighbors come to Splash," he said. "Now, we need to make sure that we get the teenagers in here, and that is what these two new rides are designed to do."
      The Matt Racer is four-lane, 320-foot long, racing track where guests can race against each other or against the clock. The Flow Rider creates a perpetual wave that allows the participant to drop in on their own unbroken wave, feel the power and acceleration, carve a turn, do maneuvers and cut back.
      Plans for the expansion began over two years ago during Splash's third season. "We knew that we had to run Splash like a business," Couch said. "You owe the taxpayers that. So we felt at the time, it was best to have a plan for operating the facility for the next several years. That is when the expansion was planned for, and right now seems to be a very appropriate time to go forward."
      To fund the construction, Couch said a loan request has been issued by the county.
      "Many financial institutions have been contacted, and we are waiting for their proposals," Couch said. "I feel like we will end up doing a revenue bond for $4.4 million."
      Both Rollins and Couch acknowledged there might be a slight increase in entrance fees.
      "We may have to increase fees by less than a dollar, around 75 cents per person," Rollins said. "What you will get with the new attractions and renovations will still make Splash a great entertainment bargain that you don't have to drive very far to access."
      The new attractions are expected to be finished before the park opens for the 2009 summer season in May.