Mayor Lovely Warren floated the idea of an indoor waterpark behind the Strong Museum on what is now the Inner Loop.
Let’s discuss it.
The eastern portion of Inner Loop will likely be filled in. That creates 8-9 acres of extra land, some of which can be used for a waterpark.
The Strong attracted 565,000 visitors in 2012 who came from all over the world. Is it possible some of them would stay a little longer and spend more money in Rochester with another family-oriented attraction next door? This could make a lot of sense.
The reason the city would promote an indoor waterpark is to attract jobs, tourism dollars and property tax payments. Do water parks make good economic development sense?
Waterparks are a $4 billion business in the United States, and revenue is growing. There are more than 500 waterparks employing nearly 40,000 people.
An article in Aquatics International explained why localities find waterparks attractive – and how they often require mega-deals using public funds:
“When you come in with an $18 million to $20 million payroll, 1,200 jobs and a tax base that solves their tax problems, most welcome you with open arms,” says Todd Nelson, owner and president of Kalahari Resorts in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., which has begun planning a new $350 million waterpark resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.
“Waterpark developments have received a variety of economic incentives, including tax abatements, room tax rebates for waterpark resorts, infrastructure funds, income tax rebates, and assistance in acquiring land,” says David Sangree, president of consulting firm Hotel & Leisure Advisors in Cleveland, who does feasibility and economic impact studies for the waterpark industry.
Why do public incentives matter so much in the private waterpark industry, which is a tourism sector that everyone says is growing? The answer is financing.
The article described truly massive public subsidies for waterparks. Does Rochester have the means and the fortitude for such a venture? Would it pay off?
The mayor also suggested a hotel at the waterpark. Monroe County’s hotel market is getting saturated, with more and more rooms coming on the market. Experts say a huge market analysis is needed and a waterpark alone won’t sustain a hotel:
For the hotel to succeed, it must have a balanced mix of customers: business, leisure and groups. If you just sell rooms during the summer and every weekend all year, your hotel may run 50 to 55 percent occupancy annually. You need other types of customers — in addition to waterpark families — to reach occupancies in the 70s and 80s. We have yet to work on a hotel waterpark project that did not need support from all types of customers.
The mayor said she has had preliminary conversations with developers. A major feasibility study would be needed, one that would have to be shared with the public.
Rochester already had one major tourism project fail (the fast ferry). There’s nothing saying the city can’t pursue economic development projects involving tourism at the same time it pursues ones focused on innovation and technology. But I have a feeling which is more likely to pay bigger dividends. What do you think?
On the Second Stop
With the admission of a second stop on the Thruway, Mayor Lovely Warren was caught being less than truthful in her press conference on Monday. I don’t expect her to discuss this again, because the matter of the security detail is before the ethics board. The entire controversy has been handled horrendously by City Hall.
On the Mayor and Me
A firestorm on social media followed Mayor Lovely Warren’s treatment of me at Monday’s press conference. She ignored my questions. Her spokesperson said she was angry at questions I posed on social media and my blog. It was rude awkward, uncomfortable and was not the mayor’s finest moment. The mayor expressed regret for what happened on a radio program Wednesday morning and indicated she’d had a rough day. I accept that explanation.
Warren I met on Wednesday evening and talked about the role of the media. Both of us were concerned at people using what happened at the press conference to set up a “war” between us and to further their own agendas. Those agendas sometimes included racial animosity (on both sides). It was terribly stressful for me to be part of a news story in this fashion. I am confident the mayor and I will have a professional relationship. I am grateful she wanted to meet. We both have moved on from this incident. She knows I will continue to ask tough questions.
Jeff Speck Coming to Rochester