The construction of a private, cable-operated wakeboarding park at Tumbleweed Park in Chandler is being lauded as a revenue producer that reinforces the city's appeal to young people and families.
Construction on the 26-acre, two-lake, resort-style park - it will be just the 11th such facility in the nation - is scheduled to begin as soon as July, with a targeted opening of spring break 2012.
"The city was looking for something that would bring people in on the weekends," said James Smith, Chandler economic development specialist. "We're a strong business travel market, but we wanted to find things that would bring people in for a major event, and we were looking for a venue like this ...
"We want to attract young technology workers that like those unique experiences, and the fact that there are very few of these parks is attractive."
Chandler's median age is 31.2, and the city has built much of its business identity on technology. That is a target demographic for wakeboarding, an "extreme" sport that combines elements of water surfing, snow boarding and skiing. At the Chandler facility, participants will be attached to a cable instead of a boat.
The park's owner and operator is Valley-based 1440 Cable Factory, who agreed to a 25-year lease with Chandler for $180,000 annually in the first 10 years, with incremental increases afterward.
"We see Chandler as the next Scottsdale," 1440 co-owner Todd Arnold said. "A lot of people are spending time there, and it's a vibrant, beautiful, young community. We approached the city and said we were looking for land. We offered to develop the west side of Tumbleweed Park at our expense and came to an agreement."
Tumbleweed Park, located on the southwest corner of McQueen and Germann roads, is Chandler's largest, featuring an indoor recreation facility, tennis center, playground and several fields.
Arnold said that the park will include a 30,000-square foot structure with a restaurant and bar, boat showroom, pro shop, rental store and rock-climbing wall. Both lakes will have beach space with six volleyball courts and 30 cabanas serving food and drinks.
"We really want it to have a resort feeling," Arnold said.
The facility is expected to host one, and possibly two, World Wakeboard Association competitions in its first year. Those events will be the primary drivers of an economic impact of 4,000 hotel-room nights, 170 jobs and $9.6 million in overall spending in Chandler.
By the fifth year, the facility is projected to generate $15.2 million for the city, Smith said.
Wakeboarding in Arizona should also receive a boost. The sport is expensive, since it typically requires access to a boat and lake. Arnold and Shannon once regularly went to lakes with friends to wakeboard on weekends, but that group dwindled after some of its members lost jobs due to the economic downturn.
"It will make wakeboarding accessible to everyone," said Christine Cameron, president of the Arizona Wakeboard Association. "With this park, you won't need a boat or even your own equipment - you'll be able to rent it there."
The AWA holds about five events annually at lakes. Cameron said the organization plans to stage one event per month at the Chandler park.
"That should really help expand the sport here," Cameron said.
Arnold said that a resort-style swimming pool and wave machine could be built at the park in the future.