MORGAN - Adam Hughes and Dean Graham, representing the economic developer Better City, have unveiled to the Morgan County Council a conceptual overview of the company's proposed Morgan County Fairgrounds and Como Springs Extension project.
"I've spoken to a couple members of the community who remember when Como Springs was a really cool destination venue," Hughes told the council Tuesday. "One person I know, his parents got engaged here. So there's an emotional attachment to this and I think it's a very important asset of the community and one that has great potential for redevelopment."
The project centers around Como Springs' hot springs, and hedges on Better City's bet that, with redevelopment, Como Springs can become a year-round attraction.
The proposal includes a waterpark, cable park so guests can participate in water sports sans boats, sledding hill including a conveyer belt "magic carpet" lift and snow machine, rope course, RV and tent camping, cabins, condos, and a zip line extending from the top of the sledding hill to the tent camping area.
"What we'd like to do is take advantage of the hot springs here and leverage that. It creates a very unique year-round attraction," Hughes said. "The pools would have culinary water in them that would be heated by the heat that the hot springs puts off. Continuing with leveraging the hot springs asset here, would be the creation of a cable park. This would be the first and only one in the state of Utah."
"If you've ever gone sledding with your kids, they're usually very excited for half an hour to an hour before they start getting cold and get bored," Hughes said. "So incorporating this into a much larger park with other features like a waterpark and cable park, I think would be very advantageous."
Council member Lyle Nelson asked if a portion of the waterpark would be indoors. When Hughes told him it wouldn't, Nelson expressed concern that families wouldn't want to go from sledding to an outdoor water facility. Hughes maintained that if the pools were fed by the hot springs, it would still "be something they could enjoy."
Council members Robert Kilmer and Ned Mecham also expressed concerns about the temperature of the water in the hot springs, noting that the water isn't hot, but merely warm.
"I think it may provide some cost savings over heating (the water) from cold, but I don't know that it's going to produce anything like heating your facilities or anything like that," Kilmer said.
Hughes noted that the water temperature would be something that would need to be tested in order to move forward with the concept.
Mecham was also concerned about the waterpark nature of the project.
"Nobody's building waterparks now," Mecham said, stating that swimming pools and waterparks are not profitable and most communities construct splash pads now. "If we don't get the numbers that we're estimating here, neither will this project be profitable. Is this something that's going to be 'oh, so cool and awesome' and then in a few years it's not going to be so cool anymore? It's such a huge investment that it's going to have to be profitable every year."
Hughes said that the nature of the project, a public-private partnership, would mitigate the risk to the county should the project fail. In this arrangement, the county would own the waterpark, cable park, and sledding area, with the remaining area owned by the private landowner. The public-private partnership also allows Better City to seek financing for the project from the Community Impact Board and funding from several other government grant programs.
Hughes said Morgan City would put in $60,000 and would get back $300,000 in a REDLG grant, a federal incentive available to rural communities. Hughes said Better City would approach the CIB for a $1.8 million grant, and would also apply for a Community Development Block Grant and a Rural Energy for America Program grant. The county would be expected to contribute between $90,000 and $150,000. Additional funds would be secured through donations.
Furthermore, since the private entity will be assuming all the losses associated with the project, it will also receive a higher percentage of the net income, which Better City estimates to be $200,000 in the first year.
"This is the 30,000 foot view," Nelson said. "We are not obligating ourselves of anything here tonight; just deciding if we want to pursue the idea. Is this something that this council feels is worthwhile to pursue? It's been a longtime dream of the members of the county and the city. I think it's a good opportunity for us to explore and see if it's really viable within the realms we're dealing with."
Council members voted to add the Como Springs Project to the county's Capital Facilities Plan as an 'A' priority; the motion passed unanimously. They also voted to pursue grant opportunities for the project with the understanding that pursuing grants would not irrevocably commit the county to the project; this motion also passed unanimously.