EDC, council finalize Hawaiian Falls Park deal

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by A.C. Hall

The City of White Settlement finally reached the end of many months  of work on Tuesday as they took the last steps to put the Hawaiian Falls deal into place.  First, the White Settlement Economic Development Corporation met, where they unanimously approved a resolution to authorize the issuance of a sales tax revenue bond.  The bond is in the amount of $12.6 million, but unlike the first bond the city considered for this project a few months ago, this one is for a term of twenty years instead of thirty.  That translates into a lifetime savings of over $10 million in interest, and also means the city will see sales tax revenue from Hawaiian Falls a decade sooner than they would have under the other bond.  The bond money is expected to be deposited into the construction account on Nov. 19.   

The terms of the deal between the city and Hawaiian Falls remain largely unchanged, with the water park using all sales tax towards paying off the $12.6 million bond.  Once the bond is repaid, the city will begin to receive a portion of the sales tax.

Once the bond was passed, the EDC also unanimously approved a project agreement with the City of White Settlement.  This lays out terms that will allow the city and EDC to work together on the Hawaiian Falls project.  001

As a part of the bond, the EDC is required to maintain a reserve fund.  This will see them keep an amount of money in a reserve account that could cover one of the annual debt payments on the bond.  The reason given for this is in case there is a slow sales tax year, as it would give the EDC money in the bank that could be used to make the payment.  The amount needed in this account is a little over $1 million.  That money was provided from the city to the EDC as part of their project agreement.

With the EDC passing the two resolutions, it was the council’s turn.  They convened their meeting and unanimously approved the EDC sales tax revenue bond, and unanimously approved the project agreement between EDC and the city.  Barring any hold ups brought on by the Texas Attorney General when he reviews the deal, this means the city officially has a Hawaiian Falls water park and year round adventure park coming with a projected opening date in May of 2014.

Many from Hawaiian Falls were on hand at the meeting, including company president David Busch.

“What a thrill and an honor, and thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of your family here,” Busch said.

Busch spoke about the long road it took as the deal had to undergo changes that saw it shift to an EDC project, but commended city staff for remaining positive through all the adversity.  He said the company believes this will be their most successful location, while also touching upon the great enthusiasm they are hearing from the local hotel industry.

“We’re so thankful and grateful and we’ll work real hard,” Busch said.

Busch also spoke about a leap of faith his company has already taken on this deal, as they ordered all the equipment to start building the park back in September, well before the deal was finalized.  The first shipment of materials will arrive in a week, and Busch said there will be a lot of activity on the land soon as they begin work towards having the park open in May of 2014.

Mayor Jerry Burns spoke as well, addressing Busch and the rest of the Hawaiian Falls representatives who were on hand.

“The city has come together and embraced you, and we hope it’s a marriage that will last long into the future,” Mayor Burns said.  “Welcome to our city.”

Council members and some city staff members were presented with honorary season passes to the Hawaiian Falls water park.  The city gave coffee mugs and umbrellas to the Hawaiian Falls representatives as the two groups took a moment for photographs.

Busch also announced that a limited number of season passes were going on sale online after the council meeting as a way for Hawaiian Falls to show their gratitude.  These passes are for White Settlement residents and WSISD families, and are available for the special discounted price of $49.99, which is $40 off the regular price.  The 3,000 season passes are being sold on a first come, first served basis, and can be found at hfalls.com/ws/.  Season passes for the general public will go on sale on Nov. 18 at the holiday rate of $64.99.  Only 12,500 total season passes are being sold for the first year.

EDC financial assistance project

Before their meeting concluded, the EDC also took action on a project to provide financial assistance to a hotel that will be built at 8110 West Freeway.  This will be the second hotel built by the owner.  The first hotel is nearing completion next to the new Flight Deck trampoline business near Cherry Lane.  The owner is seeking $275,000 in assistance towards his second hotel, an amount that was budgeted in the EDC budget.  EDC Director Jim Ryan reminded the EDC that no money will be paid out until the project is fully completed.

EDC unanimously approved assigning a project number to this matter.  A public hearing will be held on Dec. 10 with citizens encouraged to attend and voice their support or opposition.