By Daniel Houston
A construction vehicle served as a makeshift waterfall Wednesday, soaking Mayor Jim Bush and other city of Waco officials as part of the groundbreaking ceremony for a new private theme park that will replace the original Waco Waterpark.
Hawaiian Falls, the company partnering with the city of Waco to renovate and operate the new park, will triple the size of the original facility and add a wave pool, a lazy river, new water slides and improve the children’s areas before its official opening in May.
City officials approached Hawaiian Falls President David Busch in February about the possibility of building an expansive waterpark near the Brazos River. The facility is located at 900 Lake Shore Drive.
“This is going to be an excellent addition to this growing area of our city,” Bush said. “I just want to thank David for having the confidence in Waco to put a facility like this here, and Waco is great to be partners with David in this.”
The new facility will have an estimated value of $10 million, with the city of Waco contributing $2.5 million of that amount and leasing the land to the company, said David Alvey, Hawaiian Falls spokesman.
City Manager Larry Groth predicted the park would attract 150,000 visitors per year and be a boon to the Waco economy.
“Obviously, our citizens that spend a lot of money going out of town to go to places like this will be able to stay in [town], so that helps us,” Groth said. “They can spend their money here. All those other visitors that are going to be coming in, they’re going to enjoy Waco, they’re going to spend money, they’re going to help us, they’re going to take back good tales of Waco because we are a great city.”
Alvey said Hawaiian Falls will offer seasonal employment opportunities to 150 people and will attempt to recruit Baylor students at job fairs in March.
“For those who are hanging around and looking for summer jobs, it’s going to be a great place to work,” Alvey said.
Busch said his company requires all employees to undergo a 10-week curriculum teaching them life skills in accordance with the company’s principles, which he characterized in a religious tone.
“Our motto is: We serve the Lord by bringing families closer together,” Busch said. “So this is beyond a business to us. When you make a claim like that, you’re putting a few things on the line; you’re putting yourself out there. We honor our commitments, we will always honor God, we’ll do things that are right.”
In addition to drenching city officials, the afternoon event featured a small airplane flying a banner advertisement for Hawaiian Falls over the park. Busch, Bush and Groth also participated in the ceremonial “first shoveling,” where they shoveled the first dirt plot in anticipation of the renovations to come.