Loveland whitewater park won’t be built with state tourism dollars

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the share of the whitewater project that would have come from the state.

LOVELAND — The city of Loveland has withdrawn from a state economic-development award process that it hoped to tap to help build a whitewater amusement park and hotel.

The move came Sept. 24; an announcement was made today.

It puts plans for the state-supported whitewater park in limbo, but the park is only mostly dead and could be resurrected in another form, a city spokesperson said. The withdrawal means the park won’t be built with tourism money from the state.

“There’s some consideration of this concept moving forward but not with the RTA,” Justine Bruno said.

Kelly Jones, city economic development director, said the city would be talking with local developer Martin Lind, who was among the parties first involved with the regional tourism effort that could have built projects in Windsor, Loveland and Estes Park.

RTA is the state Regional Tourism Act. The Colorado Economic Development Commission chose five projects statewide to participate, the Loveland layout among them, and set an “award process that would have provided financial support for the Loveland Whitewater Adventure Park” the press release said.

The park’s costs were estimated at $200 million with about $12 million coming from state grants.

“We’re not able to show ‘substantial progress’” to this point on the project, said Bruno, assistant to the city manager. The state deadline for evidence of progress would have been Nov. 12.

“There was no way to bond a … project in that amount of time,” Jones said.

Project progress had been plagued by financing difficulty for several years, the press release said, and this year by the departure of previous developer, P3 Partners, which had presented a new, slimmed-down idea.

The council had moved the project forward in August, after P3 left.

Three developers had responded to a new request for proposals from the city, and Loveland said in September it wanted to finish reviewing their proposals by early this month.

The three were Stand Rock Partners in Madison, Wisconsin, which developed the Wisconsin Dells Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort; Johnson Consulting Services in Minneapolis, with, its website said, $4 billion worth of project experience; and Lind’s Water Valley Co. in Windsor, which has built projects in Weld and Larimer counties.

A finalist had been selected, and City Council review of a proposal or a development agreement was scheduled for Oct. 19. But the city decided it couldn’t meet the state EDC’s definition of substantial progress and it withdrew.

“There’s still a lot of interest in this type of development in Northern Colorado, maybe in Loveland,” Bruno said. 

“Loveland’s leadership believes that rescinding the state’s financial award is the most prudent choice we can make,” Loveland councilman John Fogle said in the release. He also chairs the Northern Colorado Regional Tourism Authority, which has been involved in the effort since it began six years ago.

Jones said the city will be talking with Lind next week. “Martin as a finalist brought an A team and brought property to the table. He’s steps ahead, although that doesn’t preclude us from talking to others,” she said. A scaled-down water park is not likely to be built on the previously disclosed site east of the Loveland Sports Park in east Loveland, she said.

“The project won’t look exactly like the state mandated. Now, [the question is] what does it look like without the state money? How can we create a destination tourism project? It will have to morph.”

Jones said the only remaining project in the original regional tourism authority plan is the horror film venue planned for the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. That’s still in the works. 

Because the regional tourism authority still exists, a share of sales taxes paid in Loveland and Windsor, along with Estes Park, go to support the Estes project if it is built. That tax money is part of taxes already paid and not a new tax.

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