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Schlitterbahn Development Group Has Eyes on Fort Lauderdale, Florida
 for a $110 million Water Park-Hotel-Sports Destination

By Brittany Wallman, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 7, 2010 --FORT LAUDERDALE A national water park company has its eyes on Fort Lauderdale Stadium and neighboring Lockhart Stadium for a $110 million water-park-hotel-retail sports destination, the first of its kind in Broward County.

Schlitterbahn Development Group, which has water parks in Texas and Kansas, offered the plan to the city Friday, but it hasn't been publicly aired or discussed.

It is the latest of three proposals for use of Fort Lauderdale Stadium, left vacant in December when the Baltimore Orioles moved their spring training base to Sarasota.

The other two proposals: Traffic Sports USA, owner of professional soccer team Miami FC, wants to transform the stadium to a soccer academy; Federal League wants to open a baseball academy.

Any use has to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, original owner of the land under both Lockhart and Fort Lauderdale stadiums. The land was given to the city in 1947, for aviation use, along with the land under adjacent Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. The FAA insists the Fort Lauderdale Stadium site be used for aviation uses, or that fair market rent be paid to the FAA.

It was that FAA stance that dashed the Orioles' hopes to build a new stadium there, and has hampered the city's search for new suitors for the site.

Commissioners debated the stadium's fate Tuesday, agreeing to keep it open another seven months, though it's losing money. Traffic Sports will pay rent so the Miami FC can practice there; the team's games are played next door at Lockhart. Other groups, including a motorcycle driver training program and a Federal League semi-pro baseball team, also rent Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

"We're at a crossroads," said Mayor Jack Seiler. "We either close this facility and never reopen it," or keep it open and "keep our options open."

Northeast Fort Lauderdale resident Chuck Malkus urged commissioners to view the stadium as a public park, not a revenue-maker. Don't close or demolish it, he pleaded.

"It's a gem that's been underutilized," he said.

Schlitterbahn's proposal will be sent to the FAA for review. The company's lawyer, Jim Blosser, said the company is willing to pay fair market rent. The proposal described a sports complex, including hotel, with activities "from the mild to the wild." The stadiums would remain, with enhancements, and still could be used for "intramural team sports and local recreational team sports use," according to the written proposal.

The company says its name is a "made-up German word" loosely translated to "slippery road."

A major water park was proposed last year at the city's Aquatic Complex at the beach, but Blosser, who also represents that proposer, said the project has since been deemed not feasible, and has been altered to propose massive wave pools.

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To see more of the Sun Sentinel or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sun-sentinel.com/.

Copyright (c) 2010, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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