Broward News

Schlitterbahn Owner: I'm Psyched to Build Waterpark in Fort Lauderdale

Earlier this month, Schlitterbahn Waterparks owner Jeff Henry got the good news — a project he has been working 16 years to secure was close to becoming a reality. Fort Lauderdale was on the verge of sealing a deal that will bring a water park back to Broward for the first time since Six Flags Atlantis closed in 1992. Since that news came, Henry and his team haven't come down off that high.

"We're excited. I've been working on this project since I was 44 years old, and I'm 60 now — so it's time to get this thing going," Henry told New Times. "I cannot wait to be there, and I can't wait to build this park. I am so excited and happy; it'll be the biggest day of my life."

Schlitterbahn for years eyed the 64-acre lot of land next to the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Concerns of the Federal Aviation Administration stalled the project for years. However, the FAA recently conceded that the site won't be needed for future airport expansion, so the current plan is for the city to purchase the land and then lease it to Schlitterbahn.  

The $1.3 million payment of the $12.1 million total purchase price must be paid before August 1. At that point, Henry and his team can start to formulate their plans to proceed, and they plan to waste no time in doing so. "We are scheduled — assuming the city council approves everything at their next meeting — to sign the lease right away," Henry said.  The next commission meeting is set for August 18.

Schlitterbahn is already known for putting together the most extravagant water parks in all the land — its five other locations (four in Texas, one in Kansas City) are famous for their over-the-top slides and rides — but according to Henry, we haven't seen anything yet. "It's going to be the biggest, baddest water park ever built on the face of this Earth. People will have never seen anything like it."

When the humongous Schlitterbahn water park project was first confirmed to be nearing reality last week, most were excited, but some expressed a distaste for something that might unnecessarily eat up taxpayers' money. Henry assured New Times that beyond payments for the land itself, taxpayers have nothing to worry about when it comes to footing the bill for the park. "There will be zero public financing for the park, nor should there be," Henry said. 

Plans are set to open the park sometime in 2018, but first the groups must hold hands with the city and leap through a few more hurdles at the end of the paperwork line in the coming weeks. After every detail is worked out, Henry and his team can start to put together a plan for breaking ground. 

"Once we sign the lease, we will begin our commitment period in which we have 270 days to get the plans drawn, get the financing in place, and get everything ready to go." 

Many have pointed out that the site includes Lockhart Stadium, and some have speculated on social media if the water park might be a part of a revamped stadium for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers soccer team, as part of a larger, state-of-the-art multiuse facility. To that, Henry would say only that he is extremely familiar with the people behind the Strikers and plans to continue a relationship with them once the park is built. 

"We love the Strikers. We've been talking to the Strikers for many, many years. We definitely look forward to working with the Strikers."
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi