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Richland County water park dream dries up

(L-R) Sharanda Simmons, 14 and her sister Shida, 25, of Goose Creek, support each other while getting drenched at Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark in North Charleston in 2014. Richland County leaders have shut down a plan to build what was once envisioned as a destination water park in the county.
(L-R) Sharanda Simmons, 14 and her sister Shida, 25, of Goose Creek, support each other while getting drenched at Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark in North Charleston in 2014. Richland County leaders have shut down a plan to build what was once envisioned as a destination water park in the county. The State

The dream for some of a destination water park in northeast Richland County is dead.

County Council recently declined, for the second time, to fund what was planned to be an $18 million – reduced from $20 million – water park to be located on a portion of 200 acres of county-owned land at Hard Scrabble and Farrow roads near Interstate 77.

The park had been envisioned by county leaders as a regional tourist attraction and one of the largest water parks in the state.

Council Chairman Torrey Rush, who represents the district where the park would have been built, said he believes the water park was a good example of how hospitality tax dollars are meant to be spent.

Revenues from the county’s 2 percent hospitality tax on prepared meals and drinks can be used only to pay for projects designed to drive tourism. The tax generates about $6.5 million annually.

“I still don’t understand,” why his fellow council members decided to kill the water park, Rush said. “Whether it’s a water park or any type of project, I still think we need something that’s going to be impactful (so that) taxpayers get a real sense of where their tax dollars are going.”

Council members Joyce Dickerson, Julie-Ann Dixon, Norman Jackson, Bill Malinowski, Greg Pearce and Seth Rose voted to deny the water park funding. Council members Rush, Damon Jeter, Paul Livingston and Jim Manning dissented.

In December, council members approved a contract for the design, construction and operation of the park. Then a week later, council members failed to approve a funding plan to pay for the park.

County staff returned to council with the amended $18 million plan, which would have included issuing $13.5 million in bonds to be paid back by future hospitality tax revenues. The remainder of the cost would have been paid by hospitality tax dollars already set aside for the project.

If the council had followed through its earlier plans, which were at least two years in the making, the park was planned to open Memorial Day 2017.

Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.

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