No incentives for revised Waveyard water park project - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

No incentives for revised Waveyard water park project

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Posted: Sunday, October 10, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated: 6:45 pm, Wed Oct 13, 2010.

The developer of the proposed Waveyard water park in Mesa will no longer get a roughly $30 million incentive package that Mesa voters overwhelmingly approved in 2007.

The city offered the incentive only if the 125-acre project included a water park, 200,000 square feet of shops and a 400-room, four-star resort.

But with Waveyard's recent decision to only build the water park, the incentives are off, City Manager Chris Brady told the Tribune.

The city and Waveyard plan to meet this week to discuss the new concept, Brady said, but that discussion won't include even a scaled-back version of incentives.

"There is no anticipating that there would be any incentives as part of the deal," Brady said. "I don't think anybody's anxious to have a second election for Waveyard."

Waveyard was to span 125 acres that are now a golf course and ballfields at Riverview Park in northwest Mesa. But when the Chicago Cubs identified that site as their top choice for a new spring training complex, Waveyard agreed to build just the water park to free land for the Cubs.

Mesa's incentive package included a $20 million sales tax rebate plus interest, and $1.5 million worth of road improvements. The city would sell the land to Waveyard at market rate.

In return, the city would get more sales tax from shops and the park, which was estimated to cost at least $250 and be Arizona's top tourist draw after the Grand Canyon. The water park would feature a wave pool, wake boarding, kayaking, scuba, white water rafting and more.

The incentives would only happen if the project is built - and the economy has taken a toll on efforts to raise financing.

Waveyard originally had a January 2010 deadline to prove it had money to complete the project while also lining up a hotel operator and a partner to operate the park. But the city extended that to July of 2011 after Waveyard partners Richard Mladick and Jerry Hug asked for more time because of the recession.

Hug told the Tribune there's no way Waveyard can meet the deadline now. He's couldn't give a new target date because so much is in flux.

"I have no idea because I don't know what we're ultimately talking about," Hug said.

The Cubs and Mesa are still determining how much land the spring training facility will need, and what land would remain for Waveyard. Hug said he needs about 25 acres. He'll need to know what specific property is available for Waveyard before he can try to secure financing.

"Until we understand how much land we have to work with and what the programming is on that land, we have not been able to determine actual cost estimates or financing," Hug said. "This is very much a process, and we kind of have to work backwards."

The initial site work for the spring training facility has left 15-20 acres for Waveyard, Brady said, but that could change. The two projects could share some parking to use land more efficiently, Brady said. Mesa and Waveyard will draft a new agreement in the next few weeks, Brady said.

Mesa Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh has been a Waveyard critic, saying he opposed giving up park land for something as speculative as the hotel and retail use. He also had doubts that Mladick and Hug could pull off the project because they've never done anything this large before.

But Waveyard has a better shot at financing if it just includes the water park, Kavanaugh said. The Cubs would develop a hotel and shopping district that will help Waveyard sell itself to investors, he said.

"I think it's still viable," Kavanaugh said. "I think the development, with the Cubs stadium (nearby), would at least cause investors to give a good, hard look because the more speculative aspect has been removed."

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