Water park sells at half price, but developer promises surf will rise

A view of the stalled Cowabunga Bay water park on Galleria Road in Henderson Thursday, June 27, 2013.

Cowabunga Bay Water Park Site

A view of the Cowabunga Bay water park on Galleria Road in Henderson Thursday, June 27, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Cowabunga Bay Groundbreaking

Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen is framed by a model of a water slide while speaking during the groundbreaking for the Cowabunga Bay water park Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in Henderson. Launch slideshow »

The past few months have been rough for the Cowabunga Bay Water Park in Henderson.

First, developers said the attraction would open a year late.

Now, they’ve sold the property at a 50 percent discount, less than a year after buying it.

General Manager Shane Huish on Friday sold the 23-acre site for $2.3 million to Tom Welch, of Utah. Huish’s group acquired the property at Gibson Road and Galleria Drive in September for $4.6 million, according to Clark County records.

Huish confirmed the sale and said it puts the partially built water park “in a very good position” to meet its planned April 2014 opening date. He declined to say whether he would continue managing the park or work there in some other capacity.

He did say Cowabunga Bay would keep its name.

“We’re still bringing a water park to Henderson,” he said.

The buyer appears to be the man who led Salt Lake City’s efforts to land the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Tom Welch, who could not be reached for comment, secured the games in 1995 and was president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee until 1997, when he resigned amid charges of spouse abuse, according to American Journalism Review.

Three years later, federal prosecutors indicted him and fellow Olympic organizer David Johnson on fraud charges, claiming they illegally influenced International Olympic Committee members for their votes, The New York Times reported. A federal judge acquitted them of the charges in 2003.

In Henderson, Welch will take charge of a planned $23 million, 1960s beach-themed water park. Huish’s group had intended to build a 33,000-square-foot wave pool, several clusters of slides, a lazy river and a multilane racing slide that would plunge riders headfirst into a pool.

Developers started construction in December with plans to open the park by Memorial Day weekend.

In April, however, Huish said the park was only half complete and would not open until spring 2014. He said work crews ran into caliche — a concrete-like mix of hardened calcium carbonate, gravel, sand, clay and silt — 15 feet below the ground. He also cited a delay in importing a custom-made water slide from Europe.

“It’s just a very big project to take on in a very little amount of time,” Huish said at the time.

Huish also is general manager of the Cowabunga Bay Water Park in Draper, Utah. His family runs three Family Fun Centers, two in suburban Seattle and one near Portland, Ore.

Meanwhile, Southern Nevada’s other new water park, Wet ’n’ Wild, opened in late May in Summerlin to record crowds.

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