If you jog along the trails at Shadow Cliffs or walk your dog there, as I do, you've no doubt seen two steel frame buildings under construction just west of the waterslides that seem as if they've been there forever. They're actually part of the $10.7-million California Splash Water Park that was approved in a 3-2 vote of the City Council after more than a year of public meetings and debate. The new park, patterned after Knott's Soak City U.S.A., was supposed to open in May 2005 based on a conditional use permit issued by city planners. Now it's 2008 according to the latest posting on its Web site, www.californiasplash.com. Conditional use permits generally have a one-year shelf life, although they are extended if the city officials believe there has been significant progress toward completing the project. But except for a few truckloads of sand dropped at the site and occasional work on the steel buildings, not much has happened. Still, officials say they're satisfied that Glenn Kierstead and his company, California Splash LLC, are making progress and, like the East Bay Regional Park District, which owns the 16-acre site, seem willing to give the developer more time to move forward.
Two problems have slowed, and sometimes stopped Kierstead in his ambitious goal to expand the old four-flume Rapids Waterslides that he opened at Shadow Cliffs in 1980. Just a year after gaining city approvals, he developed a staph infection that sidelined him in the hospital and his home in Vacaville. Relatives were even standing by to fly here from the East Coast as his condition worsened. After a long recovery, he faced another problem, which continues today. Investors he had lined up to fund the new water park took their money elsewhere, and he was left with more than $1 million of his own funds invested in a project that once was estimated to cost $7 million, and now is well over $10 million. His investment firm is seeking a $5.4-million loan and a $2-million loan from the Small Business Administration, and another $4.7-million equity investment which should more than cover construction and start-up costs. A 35-page business plan posted on the Web touts high investor return with a project revenue stream of $4.4 million this year and $5.3 million in 2008. It's unlikely that with only two skeleton buildings standing that the projected returns for this year will be realized and, unless construction starts soon, that the water park Kierstead envisions will be ready to open next May.
This is no small neighborhood water park. As proposed, it will offer eight slides, a 24,000-square-foot Wave pool, a Lazy River water ride, children's wading pool, food service, and a corporate picnic area that would have its own water-related amenities. With the popular Manteca Waterslides turned into a housing development this year, Kierstead's new park would have only two competitors: Raging Waters in San Jose and Waterworld USA in Concord. Kierstead intends to market California Splash with an aggressive $380,000-advertising and promotion budget to reach the 2.9 million population base within driving distance of Pleasanton. With no other water park within 25 miles of the city and projections of up to 200,000 visitors in a typical warm weather summer, about double what Rapids Waterslides now generates--and with the sales tax and extra business these families would bring to Pleasanton--it's no wonder city officials and the park district are giving Kierstead all the time he needs to find new investors and build California Splash. What's surprising is that with all of the protests against this project in 2003-04 and the current uproar over possibly more traffic from a proposed Home Depot that no one is complaining about the delay. Many I've talked to who joined in the once-stormy protest campaigns think California Splash has gone away. It hasn't.