Gulfport Waterpark Not Sure About Holiday Opening

Ryan McLeod figured a lifeguard job at Gulf Islands Waterpark would be a cool way to make some money.

"I figured I would come down here, have some fun, check out some women and enjoy the summer," he said, wearing a pair of jeans instead of a swimsuit.

But the fun is on hold until the dirt work is done, and a maze of slides at the Gulfport Sportsplex can actually have water rushing through them.

Larry Fontenelle oversees the park's lifeguards.

"It's going to be a big push," trying to get to get the water slides open as soon as possible he said. "But it can happen."

While painters added a coat of blue to the base of the Lazy Pearl, a handful of lifeguards did everything but the jobs they were hired to do.

"It's hard work," Jeremy Sanford said. "From cutting concrete to putting sod down, it's just a lot of hard work out here."

Tony King is Gulf Islands Waterpark's general manager. His orange shirt was soaked, not from a trip down a water slide, but from the sweat of a man who's rushing to get his complex open.

"We're going to do everything we can to make it for the Fourth of July," he said. "That's what we're pushing for. But at this point, no guarantees. But we are going to try to hit that."

Remember, this is the water park development group that first thought it could open a year ago. When that target opening became impossible to meet, Gulf Islands rescheduled its unveiling for this past spring.

Now, opening day could be July fourth, if the work gets done, and if the slides pass their inspections.

"The anticipation is tremendous," Fontenelle said. "We're doing everything we can to get everybody out here."

Which meant the next few days would be hotter than ever for bunch of employees who thought a job at a waterpark would be pretty cool.

"Well I'm making money, so it really doesn't matter to me," McLeod said, just before he grabbed a fence post and placed it into the ground. "I'm having a blast."

Right now, Gulfport receives $72,000 a year in lease payments from Gulf Islands Waterpark. According to Gulfport Leisure Services director George DeCoux, that will eventually increase to about $100,000 a year. Once the park opens, the city will also get three dollars per visitor.

So the estimate is that once it opens, the water park will generate about a million dollars a year for Gulfport's budget.

"By this time next year," DeCoux said, the delays "will be a joke. But it ain't right now."