Monty Galland, CEO of the privately funded Grand Texas Sports and Entertainment District, has detailed a new construction timeline for the proposed 610-acre mixed-use theme park in New Caney along Hwy. 242.
Portions of Grand Texas, which were originally scheduled to open to the public in early to mid-2015, have been delayed anywhere from a few months to more than a year due to design limitations with a previous engineering firm and delays in utility hookups, Galland said.
“It’s unfortunate—we understand the anticipation [for the park],” Galland said. “I have four kids, and every day I come home to a 9 year old and 7 year old asking, ‘How’s Grand Texas doing?’ [Children] are the ones I don’t want to disappoint the most. [Grand Texas is] going to happen. Unfortunately it’s not the timetable that we expected or anybody else wanted.”
After parting ways with the park’s previous firm, Grand Texas officials hired Conroe-based engineering group Bleyl & Associates to rework the park’s master plan, Galland said. Though the plan is not fully completed, Galland said some portions have been tweaked to offer more components for the estimated 1.2 million visitors projected to attend the park in its first year of operation.
“We’ve added a developer who is developing factory outlets along I-69 with a similar size and tenant mix to the Tanger Factory Outlets in Texas City,” Galland said. “Also, the water park [plan] was moved from I-69 to a more interior position that will actually expedite construction.”
In addition to a factory outlet mall, Grand Texas will feature a 150-acre theme park, 40-acre water park, 83-acre Sportsplex, 30-acre Speedsportz Racing Park, RV park with 144 lots, four hotels and 450,000 square feet of retail and dining in a “Downtown Texas” area once completed.
Phase 1 of the Big Rivers Water Park will span 28 acres and feature the largest wave pool in Houston with programmable waves, a large lazy river, multiple children’s slides and attractions, splash pad areas and extreme slides for thrillseekers, Galland said. Phase 1 is scheduled to open in spring 2016, though rain has delayed the completion of the water plant and other construction, he said.
“Phase 1 will make it the second-largest water park in Houston, and we will be basically one slide short of the largest,” Galland said. “We feel we’ll have a superior wave pool and lazy river. Phase 2 will be completed over the three years following that and will make it the largest and the best.”
The first phase of the theme park will span 71 acres and will offer one wooden rollercoaster engineered by the same company that produced the Twisted Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, Galland said. The park will also feature a children’s coaster, a family coaster and two high-thrillseeker coasters. In addition, the first phase will include 20 other historic Texas-themed rides and an entertainment area with stagecoach and boat rides.
“We actually tried to negotiate the purchase of Greased Lightning [a rollercoaster at the former AstroWorld in Houston],” Galland said. “Unfortunately when we sent our engineers out there, the cost to rehabilitate Greased Lighting exceeded the budget we felt was reasonable for that type of ride. As it stands, all the rides will be new to the area.”
“[Grand Texas is] going to happen. Unfortunately it’s not the timetable that we expected or anybody else wanted.”
– Monty Galland, CEO of the Grand Texas Sports and Entertainment District
However, the construction of the theme park is contingent upon the addition of a new Entergy electricity substation near Splendora, which is expected to break ground within the next few months and complete in 2017, Galland said. The updated Grand Texas master plan revealed existing power grids in the area were unable to accommodate the electricity needed to fuel the rides planned for the theme park, he said.
Other park details
The RV park will be the first component of Grand Texas to open this fall and is scheduled to begin offering reservations in late July, Galland said. It is essential for the RV park to open first because it allows the developers to run utilities across the tract to help provide infrastructure for other portions of the development, he said.
“Basically what we’re looking at is the RV park, Speedsportz, the Sportsplex, the water park and the factory outlets coming in at about the same time,” Galland said. “The theme park, Downtown Texas and the event center [will follow], and we’ve reduced priority on the minor league baseball stadium.”
The Sportsplex will begin scheduling games for sports, such as baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, 7-on-7 football and rugby, at its indoor facilities and outdoor fields in the coming months at its website—www.grandtx.com.
Galland said Grand Texas has reduced an emphasis on constructing a minor league stadium within the Sportsplex to research demand for such a facility in the area. Though the Astros have discussed possibly building a stadium in Conroe, Galland said Grand Texas would be more than willing to accommodate its minor league team at the Sportsplex in the future.
In addition, developers have closed on two of four hotel sites for the park to begin construction within the next few months, Galland said.
Economic impact, employment
More than 10,000 new part-time and full-time jobs will be created through Grand Texas, including all ancillary employment, Galland said. Though the 400 water park jobs will primarily offer seasonal opportunities, the 1,200 theme park jobs will be offered 10 months each year and the other sections will be open year-round, he said.
Galland said potential employees can apply soon for opportunities. The application period and recruiting campaign will begin this fall and winter with open positions for the Sportsplex and Big Rivers Water Park.
“When you look at the adjacent Census tracts [in New Caney], unemployment is as high as 12 percent,” Galland said. “There will be full-time careers and part-time positions for people, but we urge them not to apply now.”
Grand Texas ticket prices have not been released yet. However, same-day, multi-day and season passes will be available as well as bundling opportunities for those who stay at the on-site hotels and Sportsplex, Galland said.
“The typical draw for a park of this style is a four-hour drive—that’s a 32 million-person market,” Galland said. “The core constituency is the resident market, and over 6.1 million live within an hour’s drive.”
By late 2018 through mid-2019, Galland said he anticipates all sections of the park will be open and operating in their initial phases. Grand Texas, which could bring in hundreds of millions in sales tax revenue each year, is designed with extra acreage to adapt and expand for future build-out over the next 20 years, he said.
“The site at the current size right now is larger than Disney California Adventure Park,” Galland said. “That’s constantly changing and updating. We have a long time before we build-out and plenty of opportunities to morph and change.”
New Grand Texas renderings will be released soon. For more information on Grand Texas, visit www.grandtx.com.