|By Steve Clark, The Brownsville Herald,
TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 03, 2012--Schlitterbahn on Thursday announced plans for the transformation of its South Padre Island water park into the Schlitterbahn Beach Resort, South Padre Island.
The remade park will be connected to the former Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, which sits next door and has been out of commission since Hurricane Dolly hit back in 2008. The water-park resort will feature 221 rooms of upscale lodging in the renovated hotel, restaurants, shops, and a "convertible" indoor water park with new rides, slides and other amenities, including Gulf beach access.
Depending on the construction schedule, the first phase should be open this summer, said spokesman Jeffrey Siebert.
"Everything from the moment you arrive on the property is going to look completely different versus anything that was there before," he said.
Schlitterbahn acquired the hotel property last year. Construction has been under way for months. Designing the new park took more than two years, according to the company. Once the project is complete it will be unlike any of the company's other water parks in that it will be directly attached to a hotel, Siebert said. Schlitterbahn, founded in 1979, also operates parks in Galveston, New Braunfels and Kansas City, Mo. The South Padre Island waterpark opened in 2001.
"In Galveston the water park is freestanding and not associated with the hotel," Siebert said. "For this you'll be able to walk out of your hotel room directly into the waterpark. All of our parks are different. We don't just build a cookie-cutter park. This is going to be just a huge difference in the guest experience."
Like the one in Galveston, the Schlitterbahn on South Padre Island will include an indoor water park that can be closed off during extreme weather -- winter or summer. The park will also feature a giant shade cover that can be deployed to give relief from the blazing sun. Schlitterbahn fans can keep track of construction progress on the company's Facebook page, Siebert said.
The company views the project as one that will benefit the entire Island in terms of economic development, he noted.
"Galveston has seen that happen," Siebert said. "There's been a noticeable difference in overnight visitation."
He added that the company would begin hiring soon for lifeguards and other new positions. Schlitterbahn hasn't released a cost estimate of the project but will eventually, Siebert said.
"By far it's the largest expansion we have ever done to that specific park and one of largest we've ever taken on company wide," he said. "It is a huge reinvestment."
The project had been a poorly kept secret on the Island for months, though Schlitterbahn wasn't ready to release details. Roxanne Guenzel, executive director of the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce, said she welcomes the public announcement, since it seems to indicate that hurdles involving permits have been cleared and the project is moving forward. Guenzel agreed it would be beneficial for the Island as a whole.
"It's very exciting from the aspect that it will create another feature here on the Island that tourists and visitors can enjoy year round," she said. "We're hoping it improves our year-round numbers and helps pick things up in the slow months.
"We're happy Schlitterbahn is here and that they continue to impart their vision for the future. I think the year-round economy is probably the biggest thing, plus we want to see that particular property (the hotel) developed. It's been vacant and unused and in disrepair ever since Hurricane Dolly. It's nice to see something happen with that premiere property location."
(c)2012 The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas)
Visit The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) at www.brownsvilleherald.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services