Spotsylvania EDA Approves ‘Spread’ Loan for Kalahari Water Park | Local News
The Spotsylvania County Economic Development Authority on Thursday recommended approval of an amendment to the county’s agreement with the company that plans to build a water park in Thornburg.
The authority, which has seven members appointed by the supervisory board, held a special meeting regarding funding for the Kalahari Resorts & Conventions project through the state’s tourism development funding program. In the agreement, the county and the state would join the Kalahari for a “spread” loan covering approximately 25% of the cost of building the water park.
The estimated cost to the county for its contribution would be $74.8 million. The county and state portions of the spread loan would be paid for by tax revenue collected at the water park.
Earlier this month, the Supervisory Board approved a public hearing to address the spread loan. The special EDA meeting was called because it needs to join the county and state in approving the deal.
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In July, the Board of Supervisors approved the rezoning of nearly 135 acres between US 1 and Interstate 95 from agriculture to planned commercial development so the Kalahari could build the resort. The property is in an area designated for growth, intended for tourism, near the southernmost I–95 interchange in Spotsylvania.
The Wisconsin-based Kalahari Company’s resort plans call for more than 1.38 million square feet of retail space, a 267,429-square-foot indoor water park, a 10-acre outdoor water park, a 900-room hotel and a 156,278-square-foot convention center.
In an effort to lure the Kalahari to Spotsylvania, the overall deal includes significant tax breaks on revenue generated by the resort over 20 years, amounting to approximately $185 million in savings for the Kalahari.
The water park is also expected to pump millions into county coffers.
Supervisor Kevin Marshall told the EDA on Thursday that the park could generate an average of $6.8 million a year in tax revenue for Spotsylvania, according to a county estimate based on 75% of Kalahari projections.
After Thursday’s meeting, Marshall said supervisors would eventually figure out what to do with the extra revenue, but it could be used to improve county services or reduce taxes.
Spotsylvania Administrator Ed Petrovich told EDA members that the water park will not only bring in tourism revenue, but “you’re also making Spotsylvania a destination” through the Kalahari, Lake Anna and Dominion Raceway, which is located in Thornburg.
Petrovich also stressed to EDA members that the county is not responsible for the Kalahari loan. The agreement states that Virginia, the county and the authority assume no responsibility for payment of the loan and will not suffer any consequences if the loan is not paid.
EDA member Vincent Burchett Jr. asked what state leaders thought of the water park.
The state is fully on board, Marshall said. After the meeting, he said he spoke with Governor Glenn Youngkin about the project.
Burchett was the only EDA member to vote against the amended Kalahari deal. He said after the game that he was not against the Kalahari. He thinks the water park will be good for the county. He voted against the change because he doesn’t think the Kalahari needs more tax incentives.
Burchett is also concerned about the capacity of the county’s infrastructure to handle the impact of the water park.
During the meeting, Petrovich said the county is ready with its current infrastructure and plans to upgrade US 1 and nearby Mudd Tavern Road, as well as the county’s water supply system.
The oversight board will hold a public hearing on the Kalahari deal amendment, likely this month.