Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Year-round waterpark planned for GTA

TORONTO - It’s being billed by its developer as “365 days of summer.”

A year-round, $60-million, 100,000-square-foot, state of the art indoor/outdoor water theme park is about to make a splash in the GTA in 2016. The project is the brainchild of marbleLIVE, the development company that claims Toronto hasn’t built a theme park this size since 1981 when Canada’s Wonderland opened.

“We’re building something that is going to be a crown jewel,” said John Barrack, managing partner of marbleLIVE and co-CEO of the project. “The GTA is underserved both from a local residents’ standpoint, but also from a tourism standpoint. What we’re trying to create is something special and next generation.”

There is a short list of three potential locations being looked at right now, but Barrack said because of “the status of negotiations,” he couldn’t disclose the sites, “but it will be in Toronto or Mississauga. The nice part of our sites is it won’t disrupt any residential areas.”

Councillor Doug Ford said he thinks the theme park would be great and suggested it should be located in the Port Lands, although Barrack declined comment.

“We need more attractions,” Ford said. “We need some more attractions for tourists to come.”

The facility will have a retractable roof and plans for wave pools, watersides, lazy rivers, splash pads, a sandy beach and cabanas. The design also features party rooms and restaurants and a space for live events.

Barrack emphasized this isn’t just a space for kids and families.

“It’s a perfect first date place,” he said. “Think about the number of older people who said their first date was at the Ex. It’s the same idea.”

People will be able to go online and select music ahead of time through the park’s Website to customize what they will listen to as they go down water slides.

“It’s fun,” Barrack said. “Pick your favourite song. Your wristband identifies you going down the slide and your tune starts to play. And because of your wristband, your photo will be taken all through that process and you’ll have a digital photo album at the end of the day or something you can upload to a secure social media site.”

Barrack said the water park is entirely privately funded, of which he is an investor. Construction will begin spring 2015 and be fully operational by fall 2016.

The company said the park will bring in 570,000 visitors in its first year and increase its numbers each subsequent year. It will also employ 230 full-time workers and hundreds of construction jobs.

“I can’t comment what it would bring in for the city, that’s something I can’t speak, but we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it would be successful,” Barrack said.

Barrack wouldn’t divulge admission prices, but noted they would be “accessible to everyone in the GTA.”

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Chan said marbleLIVE is speaking to his Ministry.

“We’re always open to anything that’s helping tourism and drawing people over to Ontario,” Chan said.

Canada’s overall popularity with international tourists is dropping with fierce competition from places like India, China and Brazil, he said.

The federal and provincial governments need to work together to reverse that trend, he said.

“In terms of private investment coming to Ontario, my door is open,” Chan said.

Chan did not appear enthusiastic about locating the project at Ontario Place which is currently under redevelopment, although he did not explicitly rule the possibility out.

“Ontario had a water park before,” he said.
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