by A.C. Hall
At the March White Settlement City Council meeting, a routine annual audit report included a major revelation about the first year struggles of Hawaiian Falls. Their first lease payment of $500,000 was due to the City in October of 2014, but Hawaiian Falls only made a partial payment of $125,000 and has made no additional payments since.
“We are promised that all late payments and all overdue or unpaid bills will be paid in the very near future,” White Settlement City Manager Jim Ryan told The Grizzly Detail.
In a statement to The Grizzly Detail Newspaper, Hawaiian Falls spokesperson David Alvey said the company is working with the City to get current on the loan payment and spoke about the reasons they came up short on this payment in the first place. “Due to construction delays and cost increases, we were unable to meet our goals during the inaugural year. We have made adjustments in the off season and continue to restructure our company for profitability,” Alvey said in the statement.
Ryan also spoke about the issues, saying they weren’t entirely unforeseen.
“We expected some financial issues to arise in a project of this size,” Ryan said. “Maybe not to this extent, but we are working through the situation.”
City Manager Ryan provided more details about the first year issues Hawaiian Falls faced and offered his own thoughts on what some of the causes were.
“Hawaiian Falls, White Settlement, went over their construction budgeted expense by $2.2 Million and experienced a first year operational loss of $337,000.00. The operational loss was due to a later than planned Grand Opening and the fact that the Park was not completed until late summer. Guests had to walk through a construction zone to get into a partially completed water park,” Ryan said.
Despite these issues, Ryan stated that Hawaiian Falls is still operating within the limits of the contract they have with the City. They are being charged interest for the late payments and Ryan also stated that the first five years of payments are structured in a manner of varying amounts that takes into consideration the possibility of cash flow problems new businesses sometimes face.
In the long buildup to the arrival of Hawaiian Falls, expectations in the City were sky high for what the water park would mean to the local economy. Stories of restaurant rows popping up around other Hawaiian Falls locations and the possibility of similar business growth here made for a high bar for the company to hit. When asked about these high expectations, Ryan suggests they were a bit too lofty for the first year of the park but that growth is coming.
“Yes, that expectation was unfair but we don’t live in a fair world. We have had major interest in most if not all the available land anywhere around that portion of the City. Most of these things just take time and some hard decisions, but there will be more growth and good things coming to the City than most people ever expected,” Ryan said.
Another issue that Hawaiian Falls faced during their first year was the winter closure of their highly promoted “year round” adventure park. Ryan said that financial issues factored into the winter closing of the adventure park, but that weather was a factor also.
“The concept of a year round park leaves us with the impression that the park would be open every day of the year…rain or shine, which logic says could not happen. When the temperature dips to around 40 degrees manning and using zip lines become safety issues,” Ryan said.
Moving into their second year in the City, Hawaiian Falls expressed confidence in the location. In their statement, the company touts ongoing private party and special event rentals of their adventure park and event center throughout the winter as well as a record number of 2015 season pass sales as reasons they think the coming year will be a good one.
“With a complete water park, adventure park and event center, and an aggressive group sales and marketing plan, Hawaiian Falls White Settlement expects to accommodate 200,000 guests this summer, an attendance number similar to our six other Hawaiian Falls parks in Texas,” Alvey said in the statement.
Similarly, Ryan suggests that there’s no reason to assume one missed lease payment will lead to more missed payments in the future.
“To speculate on future missed payments would be a bit hasty and foolish at this time,” Ryan said. “We have every hope that all things will be fine in the long run. This is a multi-year contract and partnership and like all partnerships, there will be both good times and hard times.”
Both Hawaiian Falls and the City of White Settlement will be looking for those good times in 2015 with a solid year from the water park. With $12 million spent up front by the City to build the park, they are deeply invested in the success of Hawaiian Falls and the long term partnership between the two entities.
Hawaiian Falls will re-open and kick off their second year in White Settlement on Memorial Day weekend in May.