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water park

In 1998 as part of the master plan for the redevelopment of Randall’s Island Park, the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation (RISF) in conjunction with Manhattan Community Planning Board 11 sought to identify park amenities that would meet the recreational needs of the community. As a result of this process, it was determined that a family-themed attraction with water would be extremely desirable to local constituents. Everything we hear makes clear that this remains true – very significant numbers of local residents go to waterparks today and want to go to one closer to home.

In 1999 the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Parks Department, working with RISF, began seeking a developer and operator for the “creation of a dynamic urban park,” a description which could include but did not specify development of a waterpark. An 18-month assessment process preceded the February 2001 designation of Aquatic Development Group (ADG) as the developer with the most exciting and feasible proposal, which outlined construction of a waterpark.

EDC’s extensive research, which included speaking with companies who had worked with ADG and attending industry conferences, identified ADG as a company with a unique track record and qualifications. Outreach during this period determined that a number of operators were unwilling to be involved in a waterpark in a major urban center. Indeed, we are aware of no other waterpark in the country located in the middle of a city. ADG expressed significant interest in creating an urban waterpark and is the only company offering turnkey design, engineering and construction in this highly-specialized industry. ADG has designed and built 50 major waterpark projects in the last 15 years.

The waterpark went through an extensive environmental review and approval process with elected officials in 2004. Manhattan Community Planning Board 11 overwhelmingly approved the ULURP in 2004; the board was particularly interested in the job opportunities and myriad community benefits—including the year-round swimming academy.

The list of community leaders who have expressed support for the plan is wide-ranging and include Former Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Council Member Phil Reed, State Senator Olga Mendez and State Assembly Member Adam Clayton Powell.

The construction of the waterpark is scheduled to break ground in spring of 2007, with the indoor portion slated to open March, 2008 and the outdoor portion opening in time for summer of that year. Projected attendance is approximately 900,000 visitors between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The indoor waterpark would attract approximately 600,000 visitors during the other months of the year (i.e., non-summer).

The project cost of $168 million will be completely privately financed, representing significant economic investment in the park and the city. The projected concession fee will guarantee a base of at least $1 million annually plus a percentage of the park’s gross revenue and sponsorships, to be allocated directly to guarantee ongoing operation, development, maintenance and, most especially, free youth programming at Randall’s Island Park.

Community Benefits & Access
As part of the overall concession, ADG will specifically design, construct, and operate lifeguard training and a free swim academy for local children. Over 2,000 children a year ages 6-18 will learn the fundamentals of swimming, with four levels of Red Cross swim instruction. The academy will reach out to partner with public schools and community-based organizations located in Harlem and the Bronx, to ensure that they are able to make full use of the facilities. In addition, over 200 children per day who participate in the free Randall’s Islands Kids summer camp will be able to go and enjoy the waterpark as part of their daily activities.

The waterpark is expected to employ 600-700 seasonal workers during the peak summer months, and approximately 125-150 year-round employees. Moreover, approximately 25-30 managerial positions would also be available. Since many of these employees are expected to come from East Harlem and the South Bronx, ADG will undertake a comprehensive outreach effort to engage and hire members of the local labor pool. ADG will work with Manhattan Borough President, Manhattan Community Planning Board 11, Bronx Community Planning Board 1 and the Department of Small Business Services to develop a comprehensive job notification and outreach strategy. Additionally, ADG will reach out to high schools in the surrounding area and collaborate with the Department of Small Business Services-Employment Division to promote employment opportunities at the waterpark.

Admission, projected to be $30 for adults and $25 for children, will be at or below nationwide pricing for similar attractions, and will provide an entire day’s worth of entertainment and activity.

There will be a myriad number of discounts available including:
* Group Discounts for schools, churches, community-based organizations and family reunions
* Cross-promotional mass transit discounts
* Seasonal passes – significantly reducing the cost of going on a daily basis

In addition, a picnic grounds will be available near the waterpark for those desiring to eat non-waterpark concession food. Attendees at the waterpark will be able to leave the park and return later in the day.

The site of the waterpark is in the northwestern area of Randall’s Island. It is not a particularly popular or accessible part of the island, as it abuts an industrial area. In addition, any loss of athletic playing fields at the site will be replaced by a significantly greater number of fields of a higher quality as part of a sports field redevelopment project. This project will break ground in 2006, to create over 60 playing fields across the island. The success of the fields project, and the ongoing redevelopment of the Park as a whole, will be greatly fostered by the revenue produced by the waterpark. This funding would not otherwise have been available.

When completed, the waterpark will provide a major recreational center for New York City families and their children, and will add significant momentum to the ongoing economic development of Empowerment Zones in neighboring East Harlem and the South Bronx. The family-oriented attractions will be situated in a location convenient and visible to all New Yorkers, bringing excitement, jobs and vitality to our City.


Aimee Boden, Executive Director
Randall’s Island Sports Foundation

24 West 61st St., 4th Floor
New York, NY 10023
(212) 830-7722

City of New York Parks & Recreation
Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor
Adrian Benepe, Commissioner