Waterpark plans expand substantially
Family looks to more hotel rooms, year-round attraction
Jeff Henry, an owner of Schlitterbahn Waterparks, said his family's Kansas City, Kan., project was designed to grab attention.
Estimates for the project are doing just that.
Henry said Tuesday afternoon that costs for Schlitterbahn Vacation Village, the latest tourist attraction project for western Wyandotte County, could topple $1 billion upon completion.
"This is the biggest gamble our family has ever taken," said Henry, who along with his brother, Gary, and sister, Jana Faber, own and operate a number of waterparks in Texas.
If the KCK project pans out as expected, "we may just all move up there," he added.
In September, officials from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and the Henry family announced a deal that would bring a 300-acre, $412 million development to Kansas City, Kan. The development will be built on land currently used as the Wyandotte County Fairgrounds.
Plans for the attraction included a waterpark, a 300-room hotel, 4,000 linear feet of river walk and 400,000 square feet of retail space, among numerous other amenities. The announcement four months ago included only the minimum of what Schlitterbahn developers could do, Henry said.
Developers believe the potential for the project is much greater.
For instance, Henry said, developers are now working toward "a much grander project" that, once built out, could include between 1,200 to 2,000 hotel rooms, 6,000 linear feet of river walk and a winter park, making the Vacation Village a year-round attraction.
"If we find the market is there for it, we're going to build it," Henry said.
He said the project is intended to be a national attraction, drawing visitors from not only the Midwest, but from across the country.
"There will be a shortage of hotel rooms in the area, without a doubt, when we open," Henry said.
Don Denney, a Unified Government spokesman, said Wyandotte County would "welcome an expansion of the project to that magnitude."
He also praised the park as a welcome addition.
"It's going be a tremendous addition to our reputation as a destination point for families and it's going to create a lot of jobs," Denney said.
According to county officials, the Vacation Village will raise more than $3 million per year in property taxes, create 3,000 new jobs and draw approximately 3.3 million visitors per year.
Adding the winter park element to the Schlitterbahn project is a "new concept" for developers, Henry said. He described the winterpark as "a giant ski resort ... without the skiing."
The park would include facilities for sledding, tubing and tobogganing. It also will include a ride that allows visitors to climb inside a "giant snowball."
Area residents should brace themselves for other new, exciting elements of the Vacation Village, Henry said.
"We've got some other secrets we haven't told anybody about, too," he said.