$5 million water park to open in Poplar Bluff

Friday, December 13, 2002

Business Today

POPLAR BLUFF -- Bluff Falls, a 12 1/2-acre water park, is scheduled to open here in May. It is expected to cost $5 million and will employ 60 people during the summer.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in late November. The water park will be built off Cheshire Boulevard, which is a new street behind McDonald's South that can be accessed off of highways 53 and 142.

Bluff Falls will have a 75-by-200-foot wave pool that will gush waves 3 to 4 feet high.

Another major attraction will be a 43-foot-tall water tower complex that will have three 350-foot slides -- two for tubes and one for body sliding. There will be a 5,000-square-foot kids pool that will have a dump bucket.

The water park will also offer a lazy river, where floaters can meander along at a more leisurely pace.

The large complex will also include a dry park that will house a miniature golf course, a Go Kart track and batting cages.

Rick and Shirley Cheshire and Dr. John and Christina Patty, owners of the park, are excited about its possibilities.

"We just wanted to build this park to provide entertainment to everyone, especially little children and young adults," Dr. Patty said.

"I think we will draw from eight counties," Rick Cheshire said. "The closest water park to us is Farmington and it's not as big."

Julieanne Keele of St. Louis will be the park's general manager.

"A large explosion is going to hit Poplar Bluff," Keele said. "This is well overdue for the kids. Kids are going to have a place to go. This is just fantastic." Keele said she and her husband, Buddy Keele, will be moving to Poplar Bluff.

"I've watched Rick (Cheshire) for years. He's going up and up," Keele said. "That's why I quit my job. This is going to be huge. I'm really excited."

Cheshire said he and Dr. Patty purchased 86 acres, which will include the new park, in August. Initially they talked about building a few ball diamonds then started talking about doing something to generate revenue in the area. They talked about building a dry park, then started traveling around and looking at water parks.

"We thought that was something Poplar Bluff needed," Cheshire said.

Bluff Falls will have a main building near the park's entrance that will house a concession, and it will have rooms that can be leased for birthday and church parties. Cheshire and Patty said the dry land part of the park could be finished by April 1. They expect the water park to be open in May.

Construction started the first week of November. Several contractors are working on it. Tom Makowski of Aquatic Pools and Construction Inc. of Erie, Pa., is building the water park and is overseeing the project. Pryor Construction of Van Buren is doing the concrete work. Harris Golf of Wildwood, N.J., is building the miniature golf course. Tim DeBoad of Georgia is building the batting cages and Go Kart track.

Amusement Leisure of Alberta, Canada, is providing the slide complex material. Sunny Spencer of Poplar Bluff is doing most of the escavating.

"All of the building material other than the slides are being bought locally, even the rocks for the waterfall," Shirley Cheshire said. "If we're going to spend that kind of money, I want it spent here."

Some of the many local suppliers being used include Foust Plumbing, Rains Electric, Buttry Construction, Gamblin Lumber, Mills Iron & Supply and Winnelson Co.

Makowski said the excavating work is done and they have started the foundation work. He expects the miniature golf course to be completed by the first of the year and the Go Kart track and batting cages sometime in January.

Makowski said his company built a water park at Williamsburg, Ky., which has a population of 6,000 people and in the first year the park drew 130,000 visitors.

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