Corpus Christi City Council members recently showed unanimous support for a potential Schlitterbahn development on North Padre Island.
Jeff Henry, a member of the Henry family which owns the Schlitterbahn water parks, went before the council on Sept. 27 to speak about the possibility of bringing Schlitterbahn to Corpus Christi.
The development would include not only a Schlitterbahn water park resort, but also a pedestrian center with mixed use potential. The city council is currently considering a resolution that would allow for the creation of a pedestrian bridge over Park Road 22 at Padre Island, which would allow easy access for foot traffic from one side of the island to the other.
The bridge was part of a 2004 voter approved bond election. As part of the project, Phase One would include the design of the bridge and canal system, which, if approved, could take 12 months to complete.
Phase Two would include construction of both infrastructure items.
Pete Anaya, director of city engineering services, said a resolution ready for the council to vote on could be prepared by Tuesday’s meeting. The costs for the bridge was estimated to be $1.4 million at the time of the bond election. Anaya said the city would be studying additional funding options, including state and federal grant opportunities.
Henry said he had been in talks with local developer Paul Schexnailder for a number of years on a Corpus Christi Schlitterbahn park.
“Schlitterbahn is not really a water park, it’s more of a water resort,” Henry said.
He noted the New Braunfels Schlitterbahn operation has received nearly 1 million visitors this year. Of that number, 20 percent were visitors from outside of Texas, Henry said.
In Galveston, the park received 50,000 visitors over the week of Spring Break, he added.
City Council Member Kevin Kieschnick said he grew up attending water parks like Schlitterbahn with his grandparents and extended family.
“As I grew, you guys grew,” Kieschnick said. “I would be honored to have your park here.”
Councilman Mark Scott pointed out that there were 7,000 members of the North Padre Island Facebook page in support of bringing the park to Corpus Christi. Scott said he had one friend who took his family to Schlitterbahn eight times this summer.
“We appreciate your interest and are looking forward to making it real,” Scott said.
Marez, also a frequent Schlitterbahn attendee, said bringing the park to Corpus Christi is really about making this part of the state a better place to live.
“I hope everyone in this room and this community will support this,” Marez said.
Councilman Larry Elizondo said there are already a lot a great attractions in Corpus Christi, but a Schlitterbahn water park would be an anchor that would make further development happen.
The council chambers were packed with supporters in favor of the development, but not all the residents were on board with the preliminary plans.
Island resident Robert Nash alleged that supporters of the park had flooded resident emails, telling all of those in favor with the development to pack the council meeting.
“The island has always been a residential community. The businesses there don’t create a lot of noise or traffic. The (North Padre Island) committee does not speak for the community that lives there,” Nash said. “There has been no effort to determine the wishes of the people who live there.”
Keith Arnold, with the Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau said the city lacks interactive family entertainment when the beaches are closed. He said the park is a chance for jobs and prosperity for the future.
“(Schlitterbahn) works well with communities and are sensitive to their communities. We are, right now, a five-month-a-year tourist destination, but this is an opportunity to stretch that to eight months or more, and an opportunity for other mixed use development,” Arnold said.
Schexnailder, during his presentation to council, emphasized the importance of the bridge development to the entire project.
“Without that bridge, this concept doesn’t work. With the ability to move from one side of the resort to another, we start to create an island that is pedestrian, like a river walk,“ Schexnailder said. “It is going to take a number of years to develop to these stages, but this cannot happen without that platform.”
The development is currently being called the Schlitterbahn Beach Country Resort, to mirror the section of Central Texas nicknamed the “Hill Country,” Schexnailder said.
Developers are still working on funding for the project, though they do expect that construction would require a mix of different zone districts at the island location, much as what was required during the development of the Riverwalk area in San Antonio, Schexnailder said.