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Water park advocates encouraged by support

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About 40 community members attended an Aug. 23 presentation intended to "pitch the vision" and generate financial support for a water park feasibility study. Proponents Scott Schaible and Ron Austin hosted the Aug. 23 event, which also featured comments from Joe Kingsley, on "Moab and the Great Comeback," and a video presentation by Dan Martin of Market & Feasibility Advisors of Chicago.

Ron Austin made opening comments which mirrored what he had to say during a May 29 presentation on the same topic. That presentation took place during a work session of the Delta City Council. The Aug. 23 meeting targeted business people who Austin said would benefit from increased tourism traffic, and who he hoped would, in turn, help fund a feasibility study. The city would also benefit, through increased revenues. Austin, the mayor of Delta, and Schaible, an area resident, said that's been the motivating factor all along. Without additional revenue, the city is facing critical budget shortfalls in two to three years.

They described the water park as a catalyst that would attract people -- and their dollars -- to the city. Once here, the water park could be packaged with other activities, from gold medal fishing to golfing to the drive-in, to get people to stay in the area for a few days.

The first step is generating $4,000 for phase one of a feasibility study, which would be conducted by Martin's firm. The multi-step process would add up to about $16,000, which Austin and Schaible hope to generate with donations from local businesses and individuals.

Martin went through much of the same presentation he gave on May 29, also by video, with one critical difference. Between the two presentations he had an opportunity to visit Delta, where he discovered the city is already part of the tourism flow from I-70 south. "You just need something for people to stop and stay for," he said. "Delta can become a base camp for the great natural attractions of the region.

"And what you do for the tourists will work for the citizens, too."

Joe Kingsley related how Moab virtually folded after the collapse of the uranium industry. He was one of just three members left on the chamber board of directors when they came up with an idea for the "most beautiful dump" in the country contest -- an idea that wound up generating millions of dollars worth of publicity for Moab. He said a community has to have a vision, and he talked about the power of a community working together to make that vision a reality.

When the floor was opened to questions, most addressed the feasibility study and what Schaible and Austin hope to accomplish. Others wondered how they came to focus on a water park. The two said they surveyed amenities offered in other tourist destinations and decided a water park would be a good fit, understanding that it would start small and expand as the word spread and its popularity grew.

During his presentation, Martin discussed other options, which he described as "magnets" that could include a river park, lodging with a western flavor, or cool places to eat, shop and hang out.

Many in the audience expressed a desire to see the feasibility study expand to those options, as well, and not focus solely on a water park.

Austin said he still loves the idea of water park, but is open to other ideas that would take advantage of all that Delta has to offer -- perhaps with a water component.

Following the meeting, Schaible said he was encouraged by the discussion that took place Thursday night. "It indicates to me that people have been hungry for a change that has taken too long in coming," he said. "I saw people who weren't just saying they love their community, they were taking action."

The ultimate goal is to complete the feasibility study, then find a private developer to get the project -- whatever it might be -- off the ground.

"For a developer to buy in, they need to see strong community support," Schaible said. "This group got why that's so important."

"It is exciting to think of a project of this scale that doesn't rely on our taxpayers footing the bill," Austin said.

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Tags: 
Economy, Water park
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