Revamped tourism tax break may help Lake Winnepesaukah's SoakYa water park

Revamped tourism tax break may help Lake Winnepesaukah's SoakYa water park

May 6th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Work continues on the SoakYa water park at Lake Winnepesaukah on Thursday. The park is set to open on May 24.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed into law a revamped Georgia Tourism Development Act - and that could mean Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park gets a tax break on SoakYa, its under-construction water park.

"We have been told that it's all about businesses like Lake Winnie," said state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga.

The new law allows sales tax exemptions for certain projects to stimulate the creation or expansion of tourist attractions. Each project must meet the following criteria:

• It must cost a minimum of $1 million.

• It must attract at least 25 percent of its visitors from out of state by its third year.

• It must not directly compete with existing Georgia businesses.

SoakYa, which is due to open May 24, meets those criteria. It will cost an estimated $6.3 million, should attract many Tennesseans since it's close to the state border and is miles away from the nearest water park.

Amusement park spokeswoman Talley Green said, "It is kind of early in the game, so we will look forward to seeing what all the bill entails and how Lake Winnie will be able to be a part of this new law."

In December 2012, the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners unanimously backed a tax break of $85,050 for Lake Winnie for its new five-acre water park.

The next step for Lake Winnie was to get a $113,000 tax break from state officials.

But park officials learned in February that the roughly $200,000 in anticipated tax savings was in limbo. State agencies responsible for overseeing the tax break declared that technical flaws in the law, first passed in 2011, made it impossible to write the rules and regulations needed to make tax breaks a reality.

That sent the legislation back through the Georgia Assembly to be revamped.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at 423-757-6651 or tomarzu@timesfreepress.com.