published Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Lake Winnie gets Georgia tax break for water park addition

Patrons float through the "Crazy River" at Lake Winnepesaukah's newest attraction, SoakYa Water Park.
Patrons float through the "Crazy River" at Lake Winnepesaukah's newest attraction, SoakYa Water Park.
Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Guests at Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park enjoy the Cannon Ball ride in Rossville. Lake Winnepesaukah has become the first tourism destination in Georgia approved for a new tax incentive under the Georgia Tourism Development Act.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
    enlarge photo

Lake Winnepesaukah is finally going to see its state-level tax break for its 2013 addition of the SoakYa Water Park.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, on Monday announced that the family-owned amusement park, located in Rossville, is the first tourist attraction to qualify for tax incentives under the revised Georgia Tourism Development Act.

"We're very appreciative of Sen. Mullis' work with the Joint Development Authority and his encouragement to apply for this tax incentive," said Tennyson Dickinson of Lake Winnie.

The original version of the law, passed in 2011, was rejected by state agencies for various technical problems -- such as local governments receiving less sales tax revenue for their schools because that money would go to the attractions -- that would have made it nearly impossible to implement.

The revised law was changed to ensure that local governments get their full share of the taxes. It was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in spring 2013.

The law requires that a project cost at least $1 million, pull at least 25 percent of its business from outside the state and not compete directly with existing state businesses.

The 10-year agreement was reached by the state's Department of Economic Development tourism division, Department of Community Affairs and the Department of Revenue, and includes a partial sales tax refund for Lake Winnie's increased revenues because of the addition of the water park, which cost about $5 million, according to a news release.

The park's recent expansion, as well as its location near the state line, will help to attract more families and provide more employment opportunities and economic benefits for the state and region, the state's Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs Brian Williamson said in a news release.

Dickinson said the amusement park has been working to meet the criteria of the tourism development act since it was passed in 2011, and the pursuit of the incentive has been supported by local government.

"Lake Winnepesaukah has a hard-to-say -- and even harder to spell -- name," she said in a news release, "but through the years that name has become synonymous with family fun in our region. With the SoakYa Water Park addition, we'll be keeping it that way."

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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