Hospitality tax could provide funding for new water park

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Richland County collects about $5 million in taxes on prepared using what is call the hospitality tax.

Member of Richland County Council met Thursday regarding plans that could commit nearly $50 million dollars for new recreational attractions throughout the county. Among those new recreational options is a water park.

The water park would be located in a rapidly growing areas on county-owned land between Farrow Road and I-77. It would be one of the latest in a series of franchises operated by Dave Busch of Hawaiian Falls Waterparks.

"China, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri," Busch listed as locations of his water parks. "And now we have under the Hawaiian Falls banner we have seven parks in Texas."

On Thursday, the H-tax committee voted to earmark as much as $20 million in bonds for the water park. Members seemed especially interested after Busch said his company would handle all operational expenses.

"I think that definitely answers the question that council needed answered," Richland County Council member Torrey Rush said. "We can build it but how do you operate it?  And they're willing to put all the dollars into operation."

A motion also passed Thursday, according to Monique McDaniels, to move the report forward to the Economic Development Committee to research more about the water park.

While the county would not have to pay for operations for the water park, that would not be the case for another project on the list.

Council members are also looking at building at possibly building a nearly $16 million multi-sport arena in the Bluff and Atlas Roads area. Councilman Seth Rose has questions about that and other spending proposed for recreation facilities funded by hospitality money.

"Council's playing with fire in allocating $60 million dollars without the due diligence required to make sure these things are going to be profitable," Rose said.

There are other projects to be considered at some point as well including amphitheaters, walking trails, and a $12 million dollar pool and splash pad on Garners Ferry Road.

Rush says each proposal will be considered separately and will sink or swim on its own merits.

Follow WIS:   

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.