published Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Dalton not ruling out water park

Jim Dunn, second from right, vice president of Aquatic Development Group Inc., explains the layout of the planned Lake Winnie Waterpark. From left, are Keith Barclift, Teddy Harris, Dunn and Denise Clopton
Jim Dunn, second from right, vice president of Aquatic Development Group Inc., explains the layout of the planned Lake Winnie Waterpark. From left, are Keith Barclift, Teddy Harris, Dunn and Denise Clopton
Photo by Tim Barber.

News that Lake Winnepesaukah plans to open a five-acre water park next summer hasn't knocked out the notion of trying to attract a destination water park to the Dalton, Ga., area.

"I still think it's something that we should consider," said Brett Huske, executive director of the Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The bureau spent $25,000 in August -- with funding help from the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce and the Joint Development Authority -- to hire Key Advisors of Atlanta to explore the benefits that a privately built destination water park would have on area tourism.

The study should be finished Nov. 12.

In the meantime, on Oct. 24, officials at Lake Winnie announced plans to open a water park with seven slides, a "lazy river" and other amenities. It's the first of three proposed phases. Lake Winnie's water park eventually could reach 15 acres in size, officials said.

Rossville Mayor Teddy Harris thinks Lake Winnie hit a "grand slam" with its water park idea. At a town hall meeting several years ago, he said, "We asked our residents what they really wanted. At the top of that list was a water park.

"[Lake Winnie's] going to have a very good problem. They're going to have more people than they know what to do with," Harris said.

Bigger Dalton park?

Huske, who moved to Dalton from Texas three years ago, had a bigger water park in mind, something along the lines of the 65-acre Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort near San Antonio, Texas.

A park like that could draw families from 200 to 300 miles away, he said.

"We're going to plan to go to Dalton because this thing is so amazing, the kids are going to get rocked by going there," Huske imagines parents saying.

A water park could help draw kids' sporting tournaments to Dalton, too, he said.

Huske's goal is to get people to stay in Dalton-area hotels because lodging tax is the convention and visitor bureau's funding source.

Huske said 750,000 cars per week travel up and down Interstate 75, and "we've got plenty of land along the interstate" for an attraction.

Lake Winnie officials also are mindful of traffic along I-75. The park recently sought help from the Catoosa County Commission to get official highway signs encouraging park visitors to use the Cloud Springs Road exit to get to the amusement park.

If a water park doesn't work out for Dalton, some other sort of attraction, such as one with zip lines, a ropes course and climbing facility, might take its place, Huske said.

The Key Advisors study also will weigh the benefits of renovating the 140,000-square-foot Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center and possibly building a hotel near it.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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