Macedonia -- A local firm proposing a waterpark in Longwood Park provided information about it during a presentation at City Council's Dec. 13 meeting, but it will likely take some time before it is a done deal.
Mayor Don Kuchta told the News Leader the next day that he is intrigued with the idea, but it is only in the "conceptual" stage and must go through a series of steps before construction could begin, starting with time for the public to comment and a requirement that Fluid Motion Water Sports, the firm making the proposal, get financing for the project.
"If they get past those hurdles, we'll get down to the nitty gritty," said Kuchta.
The presentation was given by business partners Rob Lewis and Eric Einikar. Both men said they have worked as professional water skiers, including for 10 years at the former Sea World in Aurora, and Lewis is a Macedonia resident and a lieutenant on the city's fire department.
Councilor Ken Martin, who serves as Council's representative to the city's planning commission, said at the meeting that Einikar and Lewis talked to the commission about their proposal Dec. 3.
"The planning commission said this is a project that should be further pursued," said Martin.
The proposal would place the park in a field formerly used for the city's Home Days festivals, east of the Macedonia Family Recreation Center. The project would involve the digging of an oval-shaped lake, about 6 to 8 feet deep, said Lewis, with an island in the middle, forming a ring of water. Five or six towers would be placed around the lake, each with a quiet electric motor at its top. Running cables attached to the towers pull wakeboarders, water skiers, and kneeboarders under the control of a trained operator.
"It's a very consistent controlled system at all times," said Lewis.
The facility would accommodate both beginners and expert participants, who would be required to wear safety equipment, including helmets and U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests.
"You don't even get on the dock without these things," said Lewis, adding that staff would be fully trained, including in CPR.
The facility would also include a separate swimming area.
"We've talked about having a nice beach where people can come," said Lewis, adding that weather permitting, the facility could also be used for ice skating in the winter.
The facility would have as many as 15 employees and Einikar and Lewis said that with towed water sports becoming increasingly popular, it will bring more people to the city, improving economic activity.
"It's a sport that's really taking off," said Einikar.
He said the idea for such a park is hardly new, with the first one opening in Spain in 1952 and more than 200 now operating in more than 30 countries, 12 in the United States.
"It's really a very family-oriented sport," said Lewis.
John Cassmer, president of the Longwood Manor Historical Society and a city resident, said he is worried because preliminary plans seems to indicate that the lake would include the site of the former home of Col. William Frew Long, which the LMHS is attempting to renovate.
"It will affect the Manor House. It will submerge it," he said.
Lewis, however, said there are no intentions to eliminate the structure.
"By no means whatsoever have we said we want to sit this over the Manor House," he said.
Cassmer's wife Rose said she believes the city needs to take its time before making a decision, including performing a thorough cost/benefit analysis.
"I'm not really opposed to this. I would just like to see the city do its planning," she said.
Kuchta said that once the public has time to comment and Lewis and Einikar arrange financing, the city's law department would have to review legal details, including liability protections for the city.
"Going through the law department is utmost," said Kuchta.
He said his office received the proposal around mid-October and he met with all of the department heads to discuss it, with no objections raised in exploring it further.
"I specifically asked my staff to shoot holes in this because if there's a problem with it, there was no point in going forward," said Kuchta.
He said the city parks and recreation commission also discussed the matter and "said it sounded like it was something worth investigating."