The 40th anniversary of Water World’s opening could be a special one if Dothan City Commissioners approve of additions to the park soon.
Commissioners heard a report Friday detailing the potential additions of six new slides, a lazy river, and other amenities to the city-operated park that opened in 1980. Commissioners approved the hiring of a consultant to evaluate the park’s operations and facilities in December after Dothan Leisure Services closed the triple-flume slide for safety reasons this past offseason.
DLS Director Elston Jones said the consultant, Jacob Huess of the Aquatic Design Group, called Water World “a diamond in the rough” given its potential for improvements and available space. DLS aquatics director Kelly Carter said Water World sits on 12 acres with plenty of wooded area, so additional features could be added without affecting the Westgate Park walking and biking trails.
“The consultant said whoever designed (Water World) designed with expansion in mind,” Jones said.
Aquatic Design Group recommended a three-phase plan that would add several new features to the park if implemented. The first phase, which Jones and Carter hope be installed for the next season, would install a new triple-flume slide at the front of the park to make it more visible.
If commissioners approve the implementation of the first phase soon, Jones and Carter anticipate bidding the construction contract for the slide in January 2020. That would give crews time to build the amenity before Water World opens for the 2020 season.
The estimated cost of the first phase is between $1.3 and $1.5 million.
ADG recommended the construction of a lazy river (either 500 or 700 feet) as the hallmark of the second phase. That phase would also include the modernization of the current kiddie pool area and the additions of another facility friendly to smaller children, cabanas, and shade shelters.
The projected cost of the second phase is about $2.8 million.
ADG suggested adding a “bowl slide” to the same tower operating the triple-flume slide as part of the third phase. The third phase also included plans for a six-lane “mat racer,” a downhill slide that people travel on mats side-by-side, and a family raft slide feature.
Since they anticipate the third phase to begin a few years from now, Jones and Carter provided no estimate on the cost of the entire third phase. The bowl slide would cost about $435,000.
District 5 Commissioner Beth Kenward suggested her fellow commissioners consider approving the first phase with a few extra amenities – like the kiddie pool rehabilitation and the addition of the bowl slide – soon in an effort to reap more return on the city’s investment. She said it appears those projects would not delay the opening of the 2020 season if initiated quickly.
“I would like to see us bite off a few other things in addition to Phase 1,” she said. “My family has to drive to Valdosta to do this, and we do it every summer. I would rather do it in my backyard.”
Water World has operated at a deficit over the years, but District 4 Commissioner John Ferguson said the park has the potential to be a real asset with revamped facilities and a revised fee system.
“I think, especially if we’re going to invest, it’s going to have to go from more of a ‘quality of life’ view to more of an attraction,” he said. “I think you have to adjust your rates according to that. Looking at the map at what’s available, I think we have something that we can benefit from, to be a tourist-type thing.”
Ferguson said while rate changes may prevent some local families from coming, the negative impact could be low since 50 percent of Water World’s traffic hails from outside of Houston County.
“If half of the people that are coming are not Dothan citizens, that says a lot to me,” he said. “If it were just our people using it, then it is a quality of life thing. It is a ballpark or a tennis court. If half of the people who are coming are from out of Dothan, that’s telling me there’s a market for more of a destination-type place.”