Colorado is experiencing something of a waterpark boom.
Four waterparks and one artificial whitewater river are currently underway in the Centennial State.
Two of these projects are being funded in part by state dollars through public/private partnerships.
In 2009, the state created the Regional Tourism Act, a program that incentivizes private developers to build large-scale attractions in an effort to lure more travelers. Through the program, the state’s Economic Development Commission agreed — albeit conditionally — to help finance two significant developments for the city of Loveland.
Thanks to an $86 million grant, Loveland will be home to the Indoor Waterpark Resort of the Rockies, which will boast a combined 130,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor waterpark space. It will sit adjacent to the U.S. Whitewater Adventure Park, which will feature an Olympic-grade, 20-acre artificial whitewater river for paddle sports enthusiasts.
Essentially, the grant will be paid to the developers over a period of 30 years through a portion of the sales taxes the properties generate from out-of-state visitors, explained Patrick Brady. He is the president of Go NoCo, (that’s shorthand for Go Northern Colorado), a consortium of public and private entities that aims to transform the region into a destination.
Waterparks figure prominently in these plans. Both projects will be situated within easy access from Interstate 25.
“It’s the Dells model that happened in Wisconsin,” Brady said, referring to the Midwest waterpark mecca. “There’s nothing like that around here today.”
The projects are expected to receive official state approval in November, he added.
For developers, there are pros and cons to entering into these sorts of arrangements. On the plus side, the projects are “pre developed,” meaning the feasibility studies and approval processes have already been done in large part, so there are fewer hoops for the developer to jump through.
“If you’re a developer, this is a ready-made deal for you to walk into,” said Jeff Coy, president of JLC Hospitality Consulting in Phoenix, Ariz. “This thing has been packaged and ready to go.”
The downside? There is no guarantee that the developer will receive the grant money. Those funds are awarded on the condition that the property generates the projected sales tax revenue, he said.
But government incentives only serve to fund some of the waterparks in the works.
Colorado Springs is primed for two. The Colorado Grand Resort and Hotel, which will include a 60,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, is expected to open this summer, according to reports. A Great Wolf Lodge with 311 rooms and a 65,000-square foot indoor waterpark is set to open in November.
Also currently under construction, the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora will feature an indoor and outdoor waterpark.
This follows a nationwide trend of increased combination hotel/waterparks. Attached waterparks remain one of the best ways for hotels to increase occupancy and extend stays.
“The higher the entertainment value, the longer the stay,” Coy said.