Grand Texas Theme Park could provide some much-needed entertainment options to the Lake Houston area in 2017 despite previous delays and construction challenges.

Construction has concluded on the first two elements of the 632-acre entertainment venue, including Grand Texas RV Park and Speedsportz Racing Park, which opened in August and December, respectively, Grand Texas officials said.

Now, preliminary infrastructure work for Grand Texas’ water park Big Rivers is under construction on the site. Big Rivers is slated to be completed before the start of the summer. However, the feasibility of the construction timeline will be evaluated in January, Grand Texas CEO Monty Galland said.

Inclement weather, potential construction mishaps and the scope of a development this large create variables that make predicting an opening date difficult, Grand Texas Creative Director Lance Martin said.

“We’ve got a big [goal] ahead of us—that’s trying to do everything right before we do anything wrong,” Martin said. “That’s kind of why it’s taking so long. We have a lot of tasks that people don’t see.”

Grand Texas development to ramp up in 2017Park elements

The Grand Texas Theme Park will feature five roller coasters, dozens of rides and an emphasis on live entertainment, Galland said.

The park’s theme is based on the history of Texas, which includes Spanish, Mexican and German influences. At its opening, Grand Texas will be about the same size as Six Flags AstroWorld—the 57-acre theme park that closed in 2005, he said.

Construction is expected to begin on Grand Texas’ namesake amusement park and a sports complex that includes 10 multiuse sports fields when Big Rivers—a 40-acre water park inspired by Texas rivers—is completed, Galland said. Construction on the theme park could take two years, he said.

In addition to the theme park, water park and Speedsportz Racing Park, Grand Texas will feature several other retail and entertainment elements, such as a factory outlet mall, four hotels and 450,000 square feet of retail and dining in the park’s Downtown Texas section.

While the completion of the mall is 30-36 months away, construction on Downtown Texas is expected to begin when the theme park is completed.

“A region like this needs a big entertainment facility that a lot of people from all over the state and country can come check out,” Martin said.

Local effects

For the Lake Houston area, the theme park—located near the intersection of Hwy. 59 and Hwy. 242 just north of Kingwood—could create more economic demand, said Jenna Armstrong, president and CEO of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The prospect of [Grand Texas] is huge for [the Greater Houston area], and that effect is going to be felt in the Lake Houston area,” Armstrong said.

Demand for housing in the area is expected to increase once major park elements open, said Brian Gibson, a community development manager For Friendswood Development. The company is developing more than 4,000 homes in Royal Brook and Tavola, two subdivisions near Kingwood, he said.

The first homes were completed in Royal Brook in October, while families began living in Tavola in 2014.

“We believe it will be a positive factor driving traffic to the area and consequently to our two communities of Tavola and Royal Brook,” Gibson said.

However, after project delays and previous theme parks pitched on this tract of land that did not come to fruition, residents and business owners remain cautiously optimistic, Armstrong said.

Grand Texas was originally slated for completion in 2015 but was delayed because of the design limitations of the original engineering firm and delays in utility hookups, Galland said.  Meanwhile, inclement weather caused delays in 2015 and 2016, Martin said.

Grand Texas is not the first theme park planned in New Caney that has faced challenges.

Another theme park—the planned $500 million dinosaur-themed EarthQuest—was set to be built near the same tract of land as Grand Texas several years ago. However, the project never came to fruition, and the theme park’s parent company, Whitestone Houston Land Ltd., went bankrupt in 2011, according to court documents.

“I think that after what happened with the dino park, there are people that are holding their breath,” Armstrong said. “From what I can tell, they have the attitude of ‘it will be great if it happens.’”

Martin said some residents still assume EarthQuest and Grand Texas  are related.

“We don’t take anything personally,” Martin said. “We’re doing something that is going to benefit a lot of people. And [EarthQuest] was something that we had nothing to do with.”

Transportation projects

Grand Texas finished construction of Speed Street—a quarter-mile road that created an entrance to Speedsportz Racing Park— in late November.

The $1.2 million project is the first phase of more than 2 miles of public roads that will be a part of Grand Texas at build-out, Grand Texas Communications Manager Jessica Marquez said. The developer expects to spend $3.5 million on road projects, she said.

In anticipation of rapid population and economic growth, the Texas Department of Transportation will expand Hwy. 242 near the theme park, TxDOT Public Information Officer Deidrea George said.  

The $100 million project would widen the east-west thoroughfare from two lanes to four lanes between Needham Drive in Conroe and Hwy. 59. The expansion could receive funding in 2023 and includes an overpass at FM 1314, which could receive funding as early as 2018, George said.

“The expansion of [Hwy.] 242 is not a direct result of the Grand Texas theme park,” she said. “Grand Texas has changed [its] plans and times frames multiple times, [which is] typical of development. The [Hwy.] 242 widening is solely based upon safety and overall population growth in the area.”

This story is one update from The January Issue. View the full list of 5 things to look for here.