Mayor’s memo: Water park proposal gains nonprofit partner

Maybe you’ve heard about the water park proposal. Bloomington residents and businesses can’t help taking notice of the project’s scale and scope. Here’s an update on how things are moving along.

This year, the City of Bloomington has taken more steps to analyze the proposed water park, which would be connected to Mall of America (MOA) in the South Loop District. After discussion by the Council and Port Authority in July, a recommendation was made to move forward to negotiate and draft an agreement between the City and the nonprofit Provident Resource Group (Provident) to deliver the water park project. I believe this project will benefit Bloomington and surrounding communities.

Provident’s nonprofit mission is, in part, to lessen the burdens of government and provide economic development. Both are official terms the IRS uses to grant Provident its 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Using a nonprofit like Provident for this project truly does lessen the burdens of the City in a number of ways, and the project promotes
economic development.

With multilevel interior areas adding up to more than 300,000 square feet, the proposed indoor water park would be one of the largest in North America. The estimated cost of construction to the site—located north of the existing mall—is $250 million.

The plan is for MOA to lease the land for the water park to the City. In turn, the City will sublease to Provident who will be the leasehold owner of the water park and borrower of the debt. Provident will own the water park while the bonds are being repaid. This will provide the financial framework necessary to construct the water park.

We have to be sandwiched in there, but the City doesn’t have any financial risk for that water park payment. If there is low water park revenue, we don’t have to pay that water park loan. If there are excess revenues, they will go to pay the loan off early. This is a complicated yet efficient way of financing a recreational project with the nonprofit.

The water park proposal will continue to be analyzed by the City. Bloomington Port Authority staff is working closely with Provident as well as consultants who specialize in the design, development and management of water parks across the country.