$2.1 million approved by Fort Smith Board for waterpark expansion

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 0 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved $2.1 million for a five-slide expansion to Parrot Island Waterpark. The slides, destined for a Florida park, are available at an “aggressive discount,” according to the city.

Rick Coleman, CEO and founder of American Resort Management (ARM), the company that manages Parrot Island Water, was in Fort Smith in June to meet with the city and Sebastian County about incorrectly sales tax collected by the park that needs to be reimbursed, as well as to review operations, the condition of the park and discuss future plans. At that time, he mentioned the availability of five slides that were manufactured for a water park in Florida.

Because those slides were not installed at the Florida park, they are now available at an aggressive discount, City Administrator Carl Geffken said in a memo on the slides.

“The five slides fit into the long-term expansion plans for Parrot Island and the availability of these slides will enable the City and County to accelerate the expansion and improve the activities at the park, further solidifying its position as a premier water park in the Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas region,” Geffken said in the memo.

The connected slide complex will include two tube slides, two mat racers and one body slide, said. The slides will be 72 feet tall, making it the tallest slide in Arkansas. The addition of the slides will also bring the total slides in the park to 10, making it the most slides in any water park in the state, said Director Kevin Settle. The city has a 65% reserve fund balance. The city’s goal is to have a 40% reserve and anything over that is supposed to be spent on capital improvements, Settle said.

The board approved the $2.1 million from the city’s general fund for the slides, concrete platform and installation by a vote of four to two with Directors George Catsavis and Christina Catsavis voting against the ordinance. The expenditure raises the city’s contribution to the water park from the budgeted $189,500 for the year to approximately $2.29 million.

The $2.1 million is the city’s contribution to the slide complex project. The county will have to approve their 50% share of the funding. If that is not approved, the project will not go forward, said Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman.

“It makes more sense to do this one-time capital expansion while we have the money than to do it piece by piece in the future,” said Director André Good.

The expansion, which will take the park to the east with the slide complex to the furthest point and a seating, lounging, shaded area between it and the existing area of the park, also will allow for up to 400-500 more people a day at the park, said Drew Peterson, the park’s general manager. There have been several days this season when the park hit capacity, he said.

If the county approves its $2.1 million portion of the expense, the slides will be installed for the 2025 season, Peterson said.

In 2019, the park added a Flowrider two-lane surf amenity at the park at a cost of $1.282 million. In 2021, the park added the green single/double rider tube slide and tower at a cost of $1.088 million, Dingman said, noting that since the city and Sebastian County jointly own the waterpark, they split the costs of the capital improvements 50/50.

Opened in 2015, Parrot Island Waterpark features the area’s only two-lane FlowRider and wave pool. It also has four twisting and turning water slides, a relaxing lazy river, activity pool and themed children’s aquatic play area, the park’s website states.