Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures reopens despite state orders; developer plans for future of Grand Texas

According to several Facebook posts, Grand Texas officials pushed forward with opening the water park on May 23 despite state orders. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
According to several Facebook posts, Grand Texas officials pushed forward with opening the water park on May 23 despite state orders. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)

According to several Facebook posts, Grand Texas officials pushed forward with opening the water park on May 23 despite state orders. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
According to several Facebook posts, Grand Texas officials pushed forward with opening the water park on May 23 despite state orders. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
(Designed by Ethan Pham)
Image description
(Designed by Ethan Pham)
Editor's note: After this print story went to press on the morning of May 26, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation allowing that water parks, recreational sports programs for adults, driver education programs and food-court dining areas in malls can soon reopen at 25% occupancy under Phase 2. Water parks can reopen beginning May 29. Community Impact Newspaper has reached out to Abbott's office to see if there will be repercussions for Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures, as it opened a week early before Abbott's orders.

As the economy begins to reopen during the coronavirus outbreak, the fate of many interactive amusement venues is still unclear.

However, officials at Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures in New Caney, which is part of the 632-acre Grand Texas development, confirmed via a Facebook post that it moved forward with its May 23 reopening in spite of state orders.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s most recent set of executive orders May 18 included reopening for various businesses through May 29, but the orders maintained that water parks and other amusement venues, such as amusement parks and video arcades, should remain closed.

Order violations can result in fines and/or license suspension or revocation, according to a spokesperson for the governor’s office.

In an interview prior to Abbott’s May 18 announcement, Grand Texas CEO Monty Galland said he believed many people would be ready to leave their homes. Galland had not returned multiple requests for comment by press time on May 26.


“I think people want to enjoy the sunshine,” he said. “I think more and more people will want to enjoy it throughout the summer.”

Conroe resident Jackie Singleton said she believes reopening the park is a great idea, and she intended to visit the park with her family when it reopened May 23.

“People are depressed and children are bored, a little sunlight and summer fun is just what the doctor ordered in my opinion,” she said.

Other residents are not so sure. Kingwood resident Shelly Holloway, who is immunocompromised, said she does not know when she will be able to return to Big Rivers with her grandchild, but now is not the time.

“We love the water park, but are we going to go there right now? No, that’s crazy,” she said. “I’m not going to go running around a water park with 2,000 people.”

Taking precautions

With Abbott not announcing any new measures that would allow water parks to reopen as of press time May 26, other water parks across the state are remaining closed. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Splashtown in Spring, Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort in New Braunfels and Galveston as well as Typhoon Texas in Katy are among the water parks that are waiting for state orders to reopen.

Galland said he believes the 80-acre water park will be safe based on reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there is “no evidence” the virus can spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds.

Additionally, Big Rivers is putting up signs enforcing 6-foot social distancing and installing hand sanitizing stations, Galland said. The company also indicated that most employees would be required to wear masks.

The park will also take reservations for 2,020 people through May, or less than 25% of its total 12,000 capacity, according to its Facebook post.

Last summer, the park saw anywhere between 1,500-7,000 parkgoers per day, Galland said.

“The park is really spread out. ... That allows people to isolate themselves within the park with their families or with their groups,” he said.

Before the coronavirus, Galland anticipated the park’s second season would attract 400,000 guests throughout the summer. While Galland said he still hopes to hit that goal, he is not expecting to.

Future of Grand Texas

The development, which has cost $50 million so far, had already experienced numerous setbacks prior to and after its inaugural season last year. Delays in getting equipment and construction pushed back the water park’s opening from June 2018 to May 2019, and planned events and concerts for the 2019 off-season had to be canceled due to Tropical Storm Imelda last September.

Galland said the success of the 2020 season determines the buildout timeline of the Grand Texas theme park. He said Big Rivers needs two consecutive successful seasons before theme park planning can continue.

Grand Texas is still looking for a Sportsplex operator, and plans for a roughly 75-acre outlet mall, Grove Factory Outlets, have changed from Galland’s original vision. An undisclosed developer of the 75-acre plat has different plans for the land, but Galland could not provide details on the development.

Galland said the park will employ 400 staff this season.

Frank McCrady, president and CEO of the East Montgomery County Improvement District, which collects a portion of sales tax from the Grand Texas development, said the park provides jobs to the area.

“From an economic perspective, it’s not only the project by itself, but it’s the development around the project,” McCrady said. “There’s some hotel development and other business development that occurs around the project other than just the project by itself.”

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Frank McCrady's last name.
By Kelly Schafler

Editor, Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood

Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.



MOST RECENT

key in door lock
Evictions continue in Houston as new measures aim to stem tide

Over 32,000 eviction cases were filed in Harris County courts in 2020.

Houston City Hall in rainbow lighting
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce celebrates five years of service

The organization is open to all and serves members throughout the Greater Houston area.

Krab Kingz Seafood will open in Humble March 17. (Courtesy Krab Kingz Seafood)
Krab Kingz Seafood to open Humble-area eatery in March

“It’s all about the quality of the food,” Wright said. “We care about the food, I think that’s our best quality.”

Montgomery County is set to receive its largest first-dose allocation during the week of March 1. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County set to receive largest vaccine allocation yet in first week of March

Nearly 20,000 vaccine doses were allocated to the county's two vaccine hubs and several additional providers for the week of March 1.

A coronavirus vaccine is given at Memorial Hermann's mass vaccine clinic Feb. 26. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Memorial Hermann closes out 2nd round of vaccines with 7,000 distributed among 2 clinics

The clinic will continue operations through 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27.

The new Fort Bend Epicenter multipurpose facility could be used as a spot for trade shows and sporting events, could act as a large-scale shelter for county residents in an emergency and more. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Large multipurpose complex coming to Fort Bend County; Sugar Land to widen University Blvd. and more top Houston-area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Humble City Council voted unanimously at the Feb. 25 City Council meeting to appoint Bruce Davidson, left, to fill the vacant Place 3 seat. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Humble City Council appoints Bruce Davidson to fill vacant Place 3

Bruce Davidson, a resident of the Humble area for about 24 years, took his oath of office at the council meeting.

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather. (Community Impact staff)
Q&A: Greater Houston Builders Association President Keith Luechtefeld discusses power, plumbing, frozen pipes after Winter Storm Uri

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather.

Kalera will open a vertical farming facility in Humble in late spring or early summer. (Courtesy Kalera)
Kalera seeks horticulturists for new vertical farming facility in Humble

The company will open its biggest vertical hydroponic farm yet in late spring or early summer.