MANATEE -- Manatee County officials are seeking a developer for a new East Manatee water park that would incorporate water conservation and environmental sensitivity in its design, construction and operation, county documents said.
The county is seeking competitive proposals for the financing, development, design, construction, operation, maintenance and marketing of a "first-quality" aquatic and recreation complex near Interstate 75 and State Road 64, according to a Request for Proposal that officials expect to issue this week.
Preference will be given to those proposing a water-park theme and primarily featuring water-focused rides and attractions, it said.
The 20-acre site, at 400 Cypress Creek Blvd., Bradenton, is part of 188 acres at the county-owned Tom Bennett Park, where about 89,500 vehicles pass daily, it said.
The developer, and not
the county, will be expected to finance the project, although the county does plan to lease the land, said Charlie Hunsicker, county director of parks and natural resources, on Friday.
"We're going to hold ownership of our park land, but a long-term lease will be negotiated for occupancy of this small, 20 acres," Hunsicker said.
"We're courting, but we're certainly not desperate, and we want to make sure that we're able to get the best that vendors have to offer for Manatee County residents," he added.
County officials are hoping to cast a wide net via trade publications reaching more than 100 different companies in North American, to assure as many as possible know about "the good opportunity here, both in location and in market for a boutique water park of this kind," said Hunsicker.
The facility may include such rides as a lazy river; wave or mini-wave surf pool; bowls; inner tube/mat racer slides; slide towers; flow riders; family raft rides; water coasters; and interactive play area.
The objective is to offer a first-class recreational amenity, and to promote tourism to "positively and sustainably affect the area's economic growth ... ." according to the RFP.
An information conference is slated for 10 a.m. Jan. 8, with a deadline for proposals set for 4 p.m. March 5, both at the county administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
Just the first step
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, in whose commission district the park would be located, cautioned that the RFP is just a first step.
"Going out for RFP does not mean this will actually pan out," she said. "It's just a first step to see what type of response we get. There are a lot of questions, a lot of meetings with the public to find out what they're thinking about this, too."
The Request for Proposal calls for a plan incorporating "current leading water conservation technologies, through engineered solutions for water reuse, water reclamation and aquifer recharge, and one that maintains a high water quality result within the system."
"The successful proposer shall be environmentally and ecologically sensitive in the design, construction and operation of the facility," it added.
In September, the Manatee County Commission unanimously OK'd a motion to proceed with plans for the area's first water park.
Plans for the aquatic center/water park, which is expected to cost as much as $20 million to build, were greeted then with enthusiasm by commissioners.
The water park would create 200 temporary jobs during construction and up to 140 permanent jobs once the park opens, the Herald has previously reported.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.