The Waveyard resort appears headed to Mesa’s Riverview area, ending a monthslong battle with Surprise to land the unique development.
The $250 million resort and adventure park, however, will first have to gain voter approval in Mesa. Supporters of the development said they plan to put Waveyard on the ballot in November.
An amendment to the city’s charter in 2004 requires recreational developments to be put to a vote if they receive incentives from the city.
The city has promised an ongoing sales-tax rebate to the developers as part of the deal.
“This is the first significant milestone,” said Jerry Hug, one of the co-founders of Scottsdale-based Waveyard LLC. “It’s kind of like we take a deep breath, wake up tomorrow morning and roll up our sleeves.
“Then we do the exciting part, which is the planning.”
The Waveyard park is envisioned as a one-of-a-kind water sports park that would offer white-water rafting and kayaking on a man-made river, a lagoon for scuba diving and snorkeling, a beach and wave pool for surfing, rock climbing and wakeboarding.
Weaved among the recreational elements would be high-end outdoor specialty shops and other retail, restaurants and commercial space that will help create a privateresort atmosphere. A 320-room hotel and conference center is planned on the site, as well as residential villas.
Waveyard’s developers said they picked Mesa because of its proximity to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport — 40 percent of the park’s visitors are projected to come from out of state — as well as its proximity to loops 101 and 202. Mesa’s reputation as a family-friendly city was also a factor in the decision, they said.
Councilman Scott Somers said the development could go a long way toward building a reputation for Mesa. “This has the potential to be something that helps define Mesa,” Somers said. “For a while, we’ve been looking to build an identity. I don’t think this is it, but combined with the Mesa Arts Center and some of the development downtown ... it’s starting to build.”
Mesa, in the middle of a budget crisis, has nimbly navigated the negotiations with Waveyard. The city first took the proposal in the fall to the influential Mesa Grande Community Alliance, a neighborhood group that overwhelmingly supported the project and helped generate a positive buzz. Since then, no organized opposition to the project has stepped up, in a city where a high-dollar campaign was waged over the nearby Riverview retail development, anchored by Bass Pro Shops and Outdoor World and a Harkins Cinema.
Dave Richins, a leader in the Mesa Grande Alliance, said the string of new development in an aging west Mesa is starting to gain momentum.
“It kind of makes the Riverview project look smart, doesn’t it?” he asked. “And don’t forget about Tempe Marketplace. I had a neighbor ask me, ‘After those two projects and Waveyard, will I ever have to go south of University Drive?’ It really just changes the conversation about what Mesa is.”
Months ago, City Manager Chris Brady and Mesa economic officials created a rough sketch of a development agreement with Waveyard. The agreement calls for Mesa to sell the developer about 120 acres of city-owned land at Riverview, including Riverview golf course and adult-league softball fields north of Riverview Park.
Waveyard would pay $30 million for the land, with $10 million coming at the beginning of the deal and $20 million plus interest over the next 10 years. Waveyard would pay the city $2 million a year using sales taxes generated by the resort.
The incentives that are part of the deal triggered a vote on the Waveyard development, based on the amendment to the city’s charter that calls for a vote if more than $1.5 million in city perks become part of an agreement. The amendment was approved by the city’s voters after a failed attempt several years ago to build the Arizona Cardinals stadium at Riverview.
Waveyard owners said they will refine and publicize their development in the next six months, part of a campaign to convince voters to approve the project. “As of right now, there’s no organized opposition, but you never know,” said Richard Mladick, a Waveyard co-founder.
City officials won’t say Waveyard is a done deal either. If voters reject the deal, Waveyard could end up in the West Valley. Depending on the project’s success, Waveyard is considering an additional investment of $250 million in a second phase of the development. “I wouldn’t count out Surprise,” Somers said. “Surprise could be in the running if Mesa doesn’t have it.”