Staff Photo by Shane McMillan -- The sign for the proposed waterpark Splash Valley stands on an open lot along Ringgold Road. When ground was broken in February, developers said the 15-acre park could hold up to 6,000 visitors a day on around 20 rides.
The deal to bring a water park to East Ridge has drowned.
Splash Valley, planned for a 15-acre lot on Ringgold Road, will not be built, at least not in East Ridge or Hamilton County, its developer said.
“The financing is here, it’s solid and I’m just waiting to write the check,” said Splash Valley developer David Mayes. “But it’s not going to be built in East Ridge or Hamilton County.”
The park, which was supposed to bring 6,000 visitors a day and reinvigorate East Ridge’s stagnant economy, has seen a string of setbacks since ground was broken in January.
At that gold-shovel ceremony, Mr. Mayes told a crowd of gleeful Hamilton County leaders that the park would employ 15 full-time employees and 60 to 70 part-timers, and that it would open by May 2008.
Then came issues with government regulations regarding wetlands on the property. Then the project’s key financial backer died. The opening date was pushed to spring 2009.
But beyond that, the 15-acre property has been foreclosed upon, county records show. The land, owned by Pro-Water Entertainment, was sold on the Hamilton County Courthouse steps on Aug. 21 for $223,000.
The new owners, Tommy Perkins and Robert E. Bailey, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
East Ridge Mayor Mike Steele said news that the project was going somewhere else was a surprise. He said he had heard rumblings that Mr. Mayes and his business partner, Shawn Callahan, were shopping the project elsewhere, but he had no direct talks with either man.
“There’s been so many rumors associated with that park, but I just discounted it,” Mr. Steele said.
This week, the property still had signs for the park, but the rumble of earth-moving equipment is gone.
Mr. Mayes has said he chose East Ridge because a water park would compliment the family friendly attractions in Chattanooga. He said he also thought it had an ideal central location that was far enough away from other water parks such as Whitewater in Atlanta but still close enough to population centers that could deliver big crowds.
Even if the project is going to a neighboring county, Mr. Steele said, there still could be economic benefits to the area.
“I think if the park is anywhere near us, it will still provide some spill-over,” Mr. Steele said, noting that park visitors still may use the hotels and restaurants on Ringgold Road.
This week, Mr. Mayes said the deal with a new landowner was too preliminary to discuss.
Development officials in Catoosa County, Ga., the nearest Interstate 75 neighbor to Hamilton County, say they would welcome the park. But they acknowledge they haven’t been in talks with Mr. Mayes or Mr. Callahan.
“We’d love to have them, but I haven’t heard anything about them coming here,” said Martha Eaker, president of the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce.
That doesn’t mean Splash Valley isn’t in talks with a private landowner in the county, or that its developers have chosen another neighboring county. J. Olney Meadows, executive director of the Catoosa County Development Authority, said he has heard conflicting reports about the project.
“I had gotten the idea that they were looking for a piece of property bigger than what they had in East Ridge, and that perhaps they were looking at Catoosa County,” Mr. Meadows said. “But then I heard they were looking at property elsewhere in East Ridge again.”
Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...