EAST MANATEE -- Manatee County's first water park, complete with a roller coaster that blasts riders through water and a 20,000-square-foot wave pool with simulated tropical beach, has been proposed for Tom Bennett Park.
The aquatic center/water park, which would cost up to $20 million to build, would be in the county park near the Interstate 75-State Road 64 interchange, said Alison A. Hewitt, executive director of the Central Economic Development Center Inc., a Bradenton nonprofit.
The proposal is slated for review Tuesday by the Manatee County Commission.
The water park would create 200 temporary jobs during construction and up to 140 permanent jobs once the park opens, Hewitt said.
The nonprofit center will be asking the commission to allow the lease of vacant county-owned park land for the project.
If commissioners approve, the county would issue a formal request for proposals,
and any firm that wanted to bid on the project could submit a bid, said Hewitt.
The center and its partners, Mims Construction and Austin Commercial, plan to bid on what would be a for-profit venture, she said.
Their draft proposal calls for a dense tropical jungle theme, wave pool with simulated beach, sand volleyball courts, water slides, single-person thrill slides, multi-person tube rides and a toddler play pool.
"We hope to get a hydro-coaster," something like a high-tech water roller-coaster, she said.
In addition to job creation, Hewitt said the center hoped to fortify small businesses around the area, such as a pizza shop across the street and local landscaping companies.
"We want it to be as much a local project as we can do," she said.
It would also be designed to be environmentally "green," with an emphasis on water recycling and other conservation measures.
Parents interviewed at Palmetto's Lincoln Memorial Middle School said their children would love to have a cool water park here at home they could visit frequently.
"Kids would want to go," said Veronica Williams, a home liaison at the school who works with parents and does home visits. Her daughter, Johannie Williams, a student at Palmetto Elementary, loves water parks.
Catherine Stancil, an attendance manager at the school, has four children ages 6, 7, 11 and 16, whom she occasionally takes to water parks in Orlando and elsewhere.
"Oh, my kids love water parks, especially one being that close," said Stancil. "We will go to it. That place is going to be packed."
She was also looking forward to saving money because her family could skip an overnight stay at a hotel, and would spend less on gas, too.
"That's awesome," she added.
Sitting nearby was Abrahan Campos, 13, an eighth-grader.
"It'd be fun. We never go anywhere," he said.
Lynn Mims, president of Mims Construction, said she is excited to be part of a design-build team that would bid for the job.
"It would be the first of its kind in the Bradenton-Manatee County area," said Mims, adding that her company has built a number of hotel pools and water parks elsewhere.
"We're excited to be in on the ground level, working with the community, bringing jobs to the area, bringing employment, bringing something to the community once the park is built."
Even if the water park is built, there will still be plenty of Bennett Park left, according to the Manatee County web site.
The 200-acre park combines classic park recreational opportunities with conservation areas perfect for nature walks and wildlife viewing, it states. Manatee County purchased the majority of the park at 400 Cypress Creek Blvd. in April 2003 with assistance from the Florida Communities Trust under the Florida Forever Program.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.