Pflugerville inks deal to build water park by May 2014

Austin-area residents may soon have a new option for relief from the summer heat—a $21 million Hawaiian Falls water/adventure park slated to open in May 2014 in Pflugerville.

On Aug. 6, the city of Pflugerville and the Pflugerville Economic Development Corp. agreed to a development deal with California-based Harvest Family Entertainment to construct the new park south of the intersection of FM 685 and Toll 130 near Stone Hill Town Center. The park will represent the sixth and largest Hawaiian Falls park built by the company in Texas.

The development will include a 15-acre water park with slides, a wave pool and splash pads and a 5-acre adventure park with zip line rides as well as trail and rope courses. Five acres of the land is reserved for parking and future park expansions. The facility is being designed with features and an atmosphere to appeal to families and may also be able to host corporate events, PCDC Executive Director Floyd Akers said.

"[Hawaiian Falls] is a money-making project for the city," Akers said. "This is going to promote Pflugerville regionwide."

The agreement between the city of Pflugerville, the PCDC and Hawaiian Falls replicates a public/private partnership the company has also inked with other Texas cities, most recently Waco, which opened a Hawaiian Falls water park in 2012.


According to the incentive agreement, the city will finance the project through the sale of $21 million in bonds, which will subsequently be repaid over 30 years through ticket sales receipts collected by Hawaiian Falls. The city will own the park, while the company will manage the engineering, construction and day-to-day operations and will retain any revenue that exceeds the bond payments. Hawaiian Falls will also receive a rebate of 90 percent of the property taxes it pays to the city during the 30-year initial agreement. Hawaiian Falls also retains the right to extend the agreement for up to 20 additional years.

The agreement also requires Hawaiian Falls to provide the PCDC a one-time payment of $750,000 prior to the issuance of the bonds. In addition, the PCDC will receive all of the sales taxes collected from Hawaiian Falls—a total expected to exceed $6.1 million over the 30-year life of the agreement. The PCDC will also receive 10 percent of the property taxes collected from the park.

While the city of Pflugerville is not likely to receive much in the way of direct revenue from Hawaiian Falls, city leaders believe the park could spur future developments, draw consumers to nearby stores and restaurants, and add hundreds of summer jobs for local high school– and college-age students. Hawaiian Falls is expected to hire 15 full-time and 300 seasonal employees.

According to an economic impact study conducted for the city, the park could generate more than $498 million in taxable sales—within the park itself and through surrounding businesses—during its first 30 years of operation.

"We were not looking at the water park by itself being the 'game changer' for us," Pflugerville Mayor Jeff Coleman said. "We are looking at what it is bringing along with it and what the attraction is going to do for us.

"[Hawaiian Falls] is literally going to be across from Stone Hill Town Center. I anticipate at least one more sit-down restaurant because of this. There are already rumors of a hotel coming in because of this. We anticipate the ancillary benefit is going to be significant."

Past project

The Hawaiian Falls project is not the city's first attempt at drawing a water park development to Pflugerville. A proposed $16 million privately funded Blu Bambu water park that was supposed to open in 2010 fell through because of a lack of financing.

The difference between the failed Blu Bambu project and the forthcoming Hawaiian Falls park is the experience of the participants and the secured financing, Akers and Coleman said.

"We have credibility—if we say we are going to do something, we are going to do it. It is our pride; we don't back out of things," Harvest Family Entertainment President David Busch said. "We are going to do this."

Busch said his company and its subsidiaries have built and managed 20 water parks throughout the nation and one in China since the mid-1980s. The company expects to break ground on the Pflugerville park by fall at the latest and be operating in time for Memorial Day in 2014.

"We only do these parks where there is a void in the family entertainment area," he said. "The stars have really aligned, and we are excited about Pflugerville."