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Theme park competition

White Hall’s proposed aquatic theme park could have some expensive competition if approved by voters in a May 14 bond referendum that would finance the park and community center.

Competition can prove expensive for two different venues that have announced major expansion plans.

Wild River Country in North Little Rock has new owners who have promised to pump big bucks into the 28-year-old water park following their purchase in November for more than $5 million.

Chris Shillcutt, vice president of operations for Aquapark, said more than a $1 million will be spent to refurbish the 29-acre park.

Wild River was closed by the state in early 2005 for nonpayment of sales taxes and later filed for bankruptcy protection.

Magic Springs Water and Theme Park at Hot Springs announced plans earlier this year for an interactive water play structure featuring 10 water elements, new seating, shade and room to relax.

White Hall Mayor Noel Foster said his proposal, scheduled to open in 2014 if approved by voters in May, said the local facility can be competitive in price with the North Little Rock and Hot Springs facilities, offering a less-crowded environment for families.

Traffic at North American water parks drew an estimated 85 million people in 2012, up about 3.7 percent from 2011, according to the World Waterpark Association. In 2010, 79 million people attended a water park, which includes all municipal and private water parks.

Foster said the White Hall theme park will cater to church and youth groups, drawing residents from a large area of south Arkansas.

He said White Hall is following successfully established patterns for municipally owned water parks with an eye toward promoting retail trade in the community “for a lot less money than the two older parks.”