NMB sports complex inches forward, water park on hold

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Officials with the city of North Myrtle Beach are explaining that there's more than just a sign going up at the future site of the sports park. They're planning to lay down the rest of the road and start construction on the project.

This month opens the bids for construction of the actual park, and they say this is a pivotal part of the process.

"Unless you build it correctly, it will not be as functional as it should be," said John Bullard, Director of the North Myrtle Beach Parks and Recreation Department. "So this is the most critical and of course it's the most expensive part of getting the park online."

Officials aren't sure, however, what the final price tag will be of the project. But city managers say they'll shop for contractors all this month to get the best deal.

If they can't nab a price within the overall set $15 million budget, then some plans for the park will be forced to hit the chopping block. But local taxpayers say they're willing to pay more if it means all the work will stay local and stir the economy.

"Talking about costing a little more, it's quality," said North Myrtle Beach resident Glenn Willard. "That I think we can offer around here with local contractors. I think we have quality around here."

Once officials decide on what contractor to work with, then the construction can begin. They're hoping that the start date will be within the next 16 months, so that the park will be open and ready for the spring season of 2014.

When it comes to the water park, which is planned for the same area of the city, things are at a standstill. The delay is because of some negotiations happening now between North Myrtle Beach and the private investors of the park.

"Because of the history we've seen with some of the parks in the area, we want to protect the citizens and the taxpayers from any liability," said Pat Dowling with the city of North Myrtle Beach.

Officials say the Grand Strand has learned its lesson from the empty Freestyle Park in Myrtle Beach. So they want to keep the future water amusement park from turning into a sitting duck.

They've made some demands, and until an agreement has been reached, the water park plans aren't flowing anywhere. Here's what city officials want the investors to agree to: City leaders want to be separated from any financial responsibility if the park goes under. If it does tank, they want the rights to keep operating the park until a new owner is found.

Even though the Sports Tourism Park will be under construction soon, officials say when it comes to the water park, they are willing to wait on the investors to agree to the terms. Even though it's on the same stretch of land, they say there's no rush to get it opened at the same time of the sports complex.

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