After months of speculation and rumor about unpaid bills that culminated in legal actions, Schlitterbahn is finally ready to pay up — and come this summer, fully open up.
Its behind-schedule Corpus Christi waterpark and resort are back on the path toward completion. “Second-phase funding has come through, and we are now moving forward with everything,” confirmed Winter Prosapio, Schlitterbahn’s corporate communications director. “We’ll continue our build out and be open this summer.”
Funding issues came to a head last October when Texas Descon, the subcontractor working on the resort section of the project, filed liens against Schlitterbahn for approximately $700,000, said Doug Smith, Texas Descon’s president. Several other vendors filed liens against the company for roughly $140,000 according to news reports.
Smith, who worked on Schlitterbahn's other two Padre Island projects, said he’s received full payment. He said news reports made the actions he took look bad, but he was never worried about getting paid. He even stayed in contact with Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry throughout the process. “His credit is good with me,” Smith said. “I’m grateful for all he did getting this thing closed.”
Prosapio said all vendors should be fully paid by mid-March, and they may be rewarded for their patience. “We know it hasn’t been easy for anyone,” she said. “But the reality is that we’ve had a really great year in 2014, and all indications are that 2015 will be even bigger. So we appreciate them keeping the faith, because we’re all going to be having a great year.”
The nearly 600-acre, $552 million Corpus Christi project on Upper Padre Island ran into funding issues when Jeff Henry decided to more than quintuple the size and scope of the resort project. It went from about a dozen rooms and 28,000 square feet to 160,000 square feet, including 90 rooms and event space, Prosapio said.
“Once Jeff saw what kinds of great things he could do with that park, he greatly expanded the scope of the project,” she said. “That’s part of how we got to the place where we had to get that second phase funding in place.”
In addition to the size of the project, Prosapio said, many “innovative” features were added. For example, particular attention is being paid to flexible resort rooms that can convert from a single suite to three suites through an unusual combination of doors and layout.
“It’s a lot more than just connecting two hotel rooms,” she said.
That flexibility addresses the growing trend in which extended families travel together, forming larger groups than just Mom, Dad and the kids, she added.
But the funding for that kind of expansion took longer to put together than Schlitterbahn had planned, which led to unpaid contractors, she explained.
Vendors are not the only ones who’ve had to be patient during this process. The waterpark was originally scheduled to open last summer, then this spring break, and now this summer. So far, only part of the resort and indoor waterpark have opened. Meanwhile, the city of Corpus Christi has invested more than $100 million in the project and has had to grant extensions on timelines tied to those incentives, according to reports.
While the project isn’t exactly going according to plan, Prosapio said it’s all part of the process.
“Doing these big-scale projects is a big challenge. And we always hear people say, ‘This time they won’t be able to do it,’” she said. “But for us, the key is always looking ahead, being positive, and knowing we’re going to get through it.”