Normally at this point in May workers would be busy in preparation for the Kentucky Splash Waterpark’s traditional Memorial Day Weekend opening, but this isn’t happening right now. In fact, it might not happen at all this summer.
Gov. Andy Beshear has announced that pools openings won’t be included in the first phase of the state’s planned phased-in COVID-19 reopening, which starts in May, or in phase two, which begins in June.
This means the earliest that pools and waterparks could be allowed to open is July.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear whether the waterpark will open at all in 2020, Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said Friday afternoon.
“You know, I have no clue,” Harrison said adding he hopes to know a little bit more by the middle part of this week. “After the briefings they have had, it doesn’t look good. Now they are saying probably in July.”
Harrison noted that many of the park’s employees are students, who will be going back to school in August provided the start of in-person classes isn’t delayed due to COVID-19. This means that the park wouldn’t have enough employees to operate during the week once school starts back.
“The bottom line is I really don’t know, but I don’t feel good about it,” he said about the waterpark opening this year. “I am keeping my fingers crossed. That is sad. This is hundreds of jobs kids around here won’t have this summer. It’s 100,000 people, who won’t be in our town.”
Harrison added that the waterpark is responsible for about $1 million in revenue that goes through Williamsburg each summer with money spent on the admission fee and concessions at the waterpark each year. Much of this revenue is then spent out to cover operating expenses, such as employee salaries.
This $1 million figure doesn’t include revenue generated locally when waterpark visitors eat at local restaurants, buy gas at local gas stations, buy supplies at local stores or stay at local hotels or at local campgrounds, like the one at the Kentucky Splash Waterpark.
When factoring this in, the economic impact of the waterpark is over $2 million annually for Williamsburg’s economy, Harrison noted.
Uncertainty about the waterpark opening has also postponed the start off the nearly $6 million waterpark expansion project.
“Absolutely it is a hit for us because we had to stop the expansion project. Paused is a better way to put it because I don’t know when we will be able to pick it back up again,” Harrison said adding that the city needs the revenue from the waterpark to help pay the financing costs for the planned construction.
Another problem that the city is encountering with the waterpark expansion is because of COVID-19’s effects on the economy, interest rates for financing the expansion are coming in higher than expected.
“It is on pause right now, and I have no idea when we will be able to pick it back up,” Harrison said.
If everything goes right, construction on the project might be able to start this spring at the earliest, he added.
The first phase of a planned $6 million expansion at the Kentucky Splash Waterpark was slated to start this spring, and includes construction of two new softball fields near the waterpark, which will be primarily designed for girls’ softball.
Last month, the city received a $2.49 million bid for this phase of construction, but initial estimates had placed the project at about $2.3 million. Phase one is expected to take 150 days to complete.
The second phase of the project was originally supposed to start in August, and includes construction of 20 additional RV spots for the campground among other campground additions.
Phase three of the project will include construction of more attractions inside the waterpark, including the addition of a swimming pool.
A splash pad will be built during either phase two or phase three, which will be constructed outside the waterpark and be free for people to use.
The original goal was to have all the work complete before the waterpark opened in 2021.
The city is slated to pay off the remaining debt on the existing waterpark in February 2021, which will free up restaurant and hotel tax revenue that can go towards the planned expansion and renovations.