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Six Flags to Manage Magic Waters Waterpark in Rockford, IL

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Rockford Park District Board Approves Lease Agreement

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — October 9, 2018   The Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners has approved a lease agreement that allows Six Flags Entertainment Corporation to operate Magic Waters Waterpark starting in the spring of 2019. This lease agreement is expected to be signed in the near future, and allows the largest regional theme park company in the world to bring its unique and innovative brand to the Rockford market.


Magic Waters Waterpark, a 43-acre waterpark located in Rockford, Illinois, has been owned and operated by the Rockford Park District since 1988.  The park features a wide array of tube slides and body slides; an expansive children’s play area; a 1200 ft. lazy river; and Tsunami Bay, Illinois’ largest wavepool.


“We are excited about the prospect of welcoming Magic Waters to the Six Flags family of parks,” said Six Flags Great America Park President Hank Salemi. “This is a fantastic property that complements our theme and waterpark in Gurnee and provides tremendous added value for our Season Passholders and Members. We look forward to bringing our unique and innovative brand of thrills to this important market.”


The lease agreement is expected to be finalized in the near future and commence in spring of 2019.


"The Rockford Park District has always had a strong culture of collaboration,” said Jay Sandine, Rockford Park District Executive Director. “Partnering with Six Flags means great things for our community and will enhance the experience for local families looking for affordable family fun. By having the Six Flags brand in this market we expect a major increase in tourism which will have significant economic impact for our community. Six Flags will continue to make capital investments in the waterpark, which frees up District resources to invest in our communities’ priorities such as parks, playgrounds, and youth.”


When the lease begins, Six Flags Gold Season Passes and Memberships will offer admission to Six Flags Great America, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Magic Waters and any other Six Flags theme park, as well as free parking and special admission offers for friends.


About Six Flags Entertainment Corporation

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation is the world’s largest regional theme park company and the largest operator of waterparks in North America, with $1.4 billion in revenue and 25 parks across the United States, Mexico and Canada. For 57 years, Six Flags has entertained millions of families with world-class coasters, themed rides, thrilling water parks and unique attractions. For more information, visit www.sixflags.com.


About Rockford Park District

The Rockford Park District was proudly citizen-created in 1909 and is the third largest park and recreation system in Illinois with 179 parks and facilities.  The Rockford Park District improves the quality of life for citizens by providing a vibrant and relevant park system which increases property values, stimulates economic development, decreases juvenile crime, and improves our community’s health. A vibrant and relevant park system also protects the environment, employs hundreds of area teens, and brings our diverse community together in unity, through the common love of play. For more information, visit www.rockfordparkdistrict.org.


Here is an image to give a better idea of the distance from Magic Waters to Six Flags Great America.



This article has more details on the deal:



Rockford Park District to lease Magic Waters to Six Flags


ROCKFORD — The Rockford Park District will turn over management of Magic Waters water park to Six Flags Entertainment Corp., which operates approximately 30 amusement parks worldwide, including Great America in Gurnee.


Park district commissioners unanimously approved a 10-year lease agreement with Six Flags during Tuesday’s board meeting.


For months, the financially struggling park district had been seeking to lease or sell Magic Waters as part of a community-driven strategy to shift resources toward neighborhood parks and youth programs.


Magic Waters has been a financial drain on the park district in recent years because of maintenance costs and declining attendance.


“What we heard loud and clear from our community is they want the park district to be focusing on neighborhood parks,” said Jay Sandine, the district’s executive director. “This is going to allow us to really do that. It’s perfect timing for just coming out of this year of engagement that we’re really excited about.”


The agreement calls for Six Flags to pay the park district $425,000 annually for 10 years, with options for an extension. Magic Waters staff members will be Six Flags employees. Six Flags has also agreed to make a minimum capital investment in the property, though it’s unclear what that minimum investment will be.


“There are some things we want to do,” Six Flags Great America Park President Charles “Hank” Salemi said. “Obviously, we’re going to capitalize both from marketable attractions, whether it’s water slides or pools or whatever we decide to do as we get into the process and some of it is maybe paving more of the parking lot or putting new facilities in.”


The park district will continue to own Magic Waters. The lease agreement is contingent upon the extension of property tax abatements on the property.


“We’re asking these governments to maintain the status quo,” park board President Ian Linnabary said. “They don’t collect taxes on the property right now and we think in exchange for that agreement and allowing this to go forward, there’s a lot of value that will be realized by those communities in a lot of different ways.”


The Rockford Public Schools, Rock Valley College, Winnebago County and the village of Cherry Valley are among the 11 taxing bodies that will be asked to extend the property tax abatement.


While the park district is currently exempt from paying property taxes on Magic Waters, the tax-exempt status would change once the property is put to a for-profit use through a lease arrangement, Linnabary said.


Six Flags representatives approached the park district about Magic Waters earlier this year.


“We came and visited the water park and it blew us away,” Salemi said. “As we looked at it, we thought this is one we ought to pursue.”


Magic Waters was privately owned and operated when it opened in 1984. The park district acquired the water park in 1988 and has operated it ever since.

The park district has borrowed millions over the years to pay for maintenance and new attractions at Magic Waters.


“We have a $580,000 bond payment every year for the water park,” Sandine said. “So that $425,000 (from Six Flags) is going to help offset that and bring it down to a smaller gap, and then we believe we’re going to have other savings districtwide not having to support this huge operation. This is more of a break even for us.”


The park district’s bond payments for Magic Waters are scheduled to continue for 17 years, Sandine said.


Six Flags expects to take over operations at Magic Waters in the spring, provided the lease deal is finalized.


“We do everything in house,” Salemi said. “Food and beverage and retail and rentals and parking. We’ll do all of that in house. It will be Six Flags employees that do that. We just have to look at the market.”


Also to be determined is how the lease deal will affect Magic Waters admission prices and whether parking will remain free.


“This isn’t going to be a sticker shock,” Salemi said. “When we have price increases at our existing parks, it’s a very gradual process. We don’t jump out and raise prices ten dollars.”


One component of the deal, Salemi said, is that season passes to Magic Waters will be good for admission to every Six Flags property. Conversely, season pass holders at Six Flags parks will be able to visit Magic Waters for no additional admission cost.


Magic Waters has three full-time employees and approximately 300 seasonal workers each summer.


“They have an opportunity to become Six Flags employees,” Sandine said. “If they don’t want to be, then they’ll remain park district employees. But, they’re going to stay out there and help out at the water park until they’re at a point where they feel comfortable.”


Six Flags is the largest amusement park company in the world based on the number of properties owned and is ranked seventh in terms of attendance. Six Flags properties hosted more than 30 million guests in 2017.


“First and foremost, we don’t talk about our culture without talking about safety,” Salemi said. “It’s everything we do, it’s everything we talk about, it’s everything we preach. We have a mantra that we train and talk about and really reinforce in everything we do is extremely clean, fast and safe service. It is absolutely a guest service culture.”


Park district officials say the lease agreement with Six Flags will benefit Magic Waters customers and park district residents.


“Taxpayers are going to get a better product,” Linnabary said. “They bring resources to bear that the taxpayers simply can’t match, so the community will get a better-run water park with better attractions and we’ll get the benefits of all of the increased traffic that they anticipate they’ll be able to bring.”


The anticipated attendance spike would benefit other local tourism and entertainment venues, Linnabary said.


“We’re talking about increased sales tax revenue, more heads in (hotel) beds, more traffic in our restaurants and at our hotels and other local attractions,” he said. “It allows us to do that cross-marketing for our sports tournaments, which is really part of the park district’s bread and butter.”


It’s unclear whether Magic Waters will be renamed.


“Six Flags has the ability to use the name Magic Waters if it chooses to,” Salemi said. “Our water park brand is called Hurricane Harbor. There’s a lot of brand equity in Magic Waters. It’s been here since 1985. I think we have to take that into consideration.”


Magic Waters attracted 135,780 customers over the summer. That’s down 27 percent from 2015 figures. The water park routinely attracted more than 200,000 customers in the early 2000s and drew nearly 300,000 people in 2001. Magic Waters ran a $573,478 deficit in 2017. This year’s preliminary deficit is $117,509 but the figure is expected to climb.


“It’s such a weather-dependent operation,” Sandine said. “We’ve had some bad weather years where the taxpayers have had to subsidize the operation of Magic Waters and, in my estimation as a taxpayer, we shouldn’t have to do that.”


The lease agreement with Six Flags is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the park district, Sandine said.


“This is one of those rare instances where it’s really a win-win for everybody,” Sandine said. “For the park district, for Six Flags, and most importantly in my mind, it’s a win for the taxpayers and the community.”


Edited by Medusa42
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This is more interesting from a municipal government point of view, personally.  I can't imagine my local municipality managing a huge water park - they're not really good at managing garbage pick up.  Then again, that may be why they're leasing the park to Six Flags.  

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Six Flags approved to take control of Magic Waters after vote by 11 taxing bodies

Posted: Dec 11, 2018 06:26 PM CST


ROCKFORD, Ill. - A vote by the Rock Valley College Board of Trustees now clears the path for Six Flags to take control of the Magic Waters Waterpark.


The tax abatement vote gives the theme park company a break on property taxes when it takes over the park on April 1st, 2019.


RVC was the last of 11 taxing bodies that had to approve the measure.


Those entities are not losing money due to the vote: an abatement had already been in place for Magic Waters for the last 30 years, when it was managed by the Rockford Park District.


“We are excited to add Magic Waters Waterpark to the Six Flags family of parks and continue to foster a great partnership with the Rockford Park District,” said Six Flags Great America Park President Hank Salemi. “We look forward to the many opportunities we will have with Magic Waters and the community. We can now offer tremendous added value to guests of Magic Waters by including Six Flags Great America and Hurricane Harbor in their Magic Waters Combo Season Passes.”


Six Flags plans to begin hiring for Magic Waters in the new year.


“Privatizing Magic Waters Waterpark was something our community told us should be a priority to achieve. I cannot think of a better organization to partner with than Six Flags Great America as they have been outstanding to work with and our mission, vision, and service expectations align. They are the industry experts and will have more resources to invest in the waterpark.  The District will now be able to invest its limited resources into our communities’ priorities for 2019 and beyond such as parks, paths, free family events, and youth,” said Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine.


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