Business

What's happening with Cedar Bayou?

Newstrack: Water park and recreation complex still looking for a home

This drawing shows the Cedar Bayou water park that Nick Ford hopes to build in Cedar Rapids. (Provided rendering)
This drawing shows the Cedar Bayou water park that Nick Ford hopes to build in Cedar Rapids. (Provided rendering)

It’s been more than three years since Nick Ford first announced his hope to bring Cedar Bayou, a water park and recreation complex, to Cedar Rapids.

Ford proposed the water park in 2015 for a site south of Lincolnway Park near 66th Avenue SW and J Street SW.

In October 2016, the expected site moved to a location next to Hawkeye Downs.

Then, in May 2017, Ford announced he had land under contract for a third site, just east of Interstate 380 and north of Wright Brothers Boulevard.

WHAT’s HAPPENED SINCE:

The contract for the proposed third site has expired, Ford said, but he is still pursuing Cedar Bayou and is in talks with cities up and down Interstate 380.

“My goal still is to get one here. I haven’t given up on that,” he said in a recent interview.

Ford said he had been in discussions with Cedar Rapids about financial incentives, but those did not move forward.

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“The location of Cedar Rapids is not easy to do something like this in. It’s a very conservative area,” he said. “We had some pitfalls along the way that we weren’t expecting, and it’s been a learning process. This is my first project.”

Now, Ford said he is eyeing a bigger park and resort concept than what he initially announced, similar to what visitors would find in the Wisconsin Dells.

For instance, he wants the resort to have a 300-room hotel and 400,000 square feet for a sports complex, in addition to water rides.

He still needs to find a site, he said, and the location may depend on whether he can get financial support from a city, such as tax increment financing.

“I am still pursuing it, but I’m not locked into any location. We’re trying to make a smart decision on where it’s going to go,” he said.

The bigger concept, which includes a bigger price tag, was needed to attract investors on the East and West coasts, he said.

“Part of the problem is we made it too small, so we lost a lot of interest in the major investment groups out east and west,” Ford said.

Ford said he has raised money for the project but would not say how much or who the investors are.

He also did not have a timeline for when construction might get underway.

“Every year I’m hoping to break ground the next year,” he said. “In my mind, I would have liked to have this open four, five years ago.”

Asked if the project would become reality, Ford said he plans to keep pushing for it.

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“I’m still breathing. I’m retired military, and this is my dream,” he said. “My dream is to bring this to other locations as well, but especially here.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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