What\'s The Best Water Park In Florida

Let's say you're in the market for a new car, and you're leaning toward buying a Chevrolet Spark or a Chevrolet Corvette.

If you're torn between a subcompact economy car and a high-powered sports car — or some other model that fits between the two, in terms of price and performance — then you probably need to spend a bit more time focusing on what you really want before you venture into a showroom with checkbook in hand.

That's essentially where the city of Port St. Lucie finds itself as it considers whether to invest taxpayer money in a new aquatic center or water park.

Last week, the City Council got a report from a consulting team about various options. The options ranged from a regional aquatic center, costing around $10 million to $15 million to build, to a regional water park, priced around $20 million to $25 million.

The in-between option was a large regional aquatic center, with a price tag between $15 million and $20 million.

All would feature pools, water slides, children's spray areas, and lazy rivers — with the size and number of those amenities varied, depending on which option is selected.

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Port St. Lucie may build a multi-million waterpark. The preferred site is in Torino Regional Park.
Port St. Lucie may build a multi-million waterpark. The preferred site is in Torino Regional Park.

Based on the comments from council members, it seems like they're inclined to develop some type of water park. They say that's something residents have wanted for years.

I don't question the wisdom of doing so. Fairly or unfairly, Port St. Lucie has a reputation as a place without a lot of entertainment options, so a water park could help address that problem.

I just think the city needs to be very deliberate in choosing which option to pursue — and at what cost.

The consultants didn't make a recommendation on which option would be best. However, they did suggest putting the aquatic center or water park at Torino Regional Park, located on the north side of town.

Already, I see a problem. If the city wants a park that would primarily serve its own residents, then it should consider a more central location than the Torino neighborhood.

On the other hand, if the goal is to create a regional attraction to draw out-of-town visitors, then it would be wise to pick a spot with easy access to Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike. The Torino location might be better suited to that purpose.

Port St. Lucie may build a multi-million waterpark. The preferred site is in Torino Regional Park.
Port St. Lucie may build a multi-million waterpark. The preferred site is in Torino Regional Park.

Interestingly, while the consultants evaluated 14 sites around town, one of them wasn't the City Center property on the east side, located along U.S. 1.

Mayor Shannon Martin said the City Center property wasn't part of the evaluation because the city doesn't own it yet. However, since the property soon will be owned by the city and it meets the criteria used by the consultants, City Center should definitely be in the mix as a potential site.

If it isn't, that could send a bad message to east side residents, who might be watching the city's rapid growth along its western borders and wondering if established neighborhoods like theirs will be overlooked as new capital investments are made.

In my mind, figuring out the size and scope of the planned park ought to occur before anything else happens. Then city officials should pick a location best suited for that type of park.

To do otherwise will only invite confusion.

Consider this: With the help of local residents, city officials plan to launch master planning processes for both Torino Regional Park and City Center this year. Unless the city has designated a water park site before that work begins, both planning groups could include the water park in their designs.

Then whichever site doesn't get the water park would essentially have to have its planning work redone, which would be frustrating for the residents involved and a waste of the city's resources.

The consultants offered some numbers on operating revenues and expenses for each of the options they proposed. By their calculations, only with the largest, most expensive water park would operating revenues exceed expenses.

TCPalm columnist Blake Fontenay
TCPalm columnist Blake Fontenay

I'm not sure I trust their math. The Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach is about an hour's drive south of Port St. Lucie. Sailfish Splash in Stuart is even closer. Orlando's numerous water-related theme parks are about two hours' drive to the north.

If Port St. Lucie is aiming to create a regional tourist draw instead of an amenity primarily catering to locals, it'll be facing tough competition from both directions.

If the city does choose one of the options that's less expensive to build, there well may be some operating subsidies that are required. That would put the water park in the same category as virtually every other park the city owns and operates.

I've written this before, but most government services don't pay for themselves through the user fees (in this case, park admission charges) they generate. Governments operate differently than private-sector businesses, at least in most instances.

If city officials decide they want a full-blown mega-park (consider that the Corvette option in the analogy I presented at the beginning of this column), then they'll also need to make a decision about whether they'll operate it themselves or let a third-party vendor run it.

Both of those choices have potential downsides, which I can discuss in a future column.

For starters, though, the city's leaders need to narrow down exactly what their goals are for this project. Otherwise, they may find themselves in the deep end of the pool without a life preserver.

This column reflects the opinion of Blake Fontenay. Contact him via email at blake.fontenay@tcpalm.com or at 772-232-5424.

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Set goals for Port St. Lucie water park now, not later | Opinion

Source : https://news.yahoo.com/port-st-lucie-narrow-down-110305007.html

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