Out near sportsplex field number seven, construction workers were ankle deep in cement. They put the finishing touches on Gulfport's newest quartet of ballfields.
Soon the city may make a smooth transition from publicly funded baseball, softball and soccer fields to a sportsplex that also includes Tom South's privately funded water park. "We want to be the premiere water park developer in the southern U.S.," South said.
South represents Coastal Entertainment Operations. On Tuesday, he presented his water park concept to the Gulfport City Council. "We look at this as an opportunity to expand Gulfport, the city of Gulfport into an entire family vacation mecca," he said.
If you walk through the 20 acre site where South wants to build his water park, you see plenty of weeds and trees. The plan is to transform this section of the Gulfport Sportsplex into an array of water slides, wave pools and lazy rivers. George DeCoux heads up the Gulfport Leisure Services Department. "After working with them this long," DeCoux said, "our department and the people in our department are very excited about this project."
The project would be called Gulf Islands Water Park. "We feel that this name immediately identifies and brands our park," South said. "Not only with the great city of Gulfport, but also the entire gulf coast."
The water park would have 100 employees. It would be open 150 days a year. And it would use roughly 1.5 million gallons of water.
According to South, "This is a destination where families of the new south meet. That's exactly how we're going to market our park."
Gulf Islands Water Park estimates that it can generate about a half million dollars a year for the city of Gulfport. That's one of the reasons why the city council endorsed the project at Tuesday's meeting. The council will vote on a lease with the water park developer later this month.
The Gulf Islands Water Park could be open in the spring of 2004.