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Potential neighbors welcome proposed waterpark, hotel

Though Chicago developer Don Peeples met privately several times with businesspersons, local hoteliers, and town, county and tourist officials, most people were introduced to his waterpark and hotel plan March 16, when The Corydon Democrat revealed his plans.
Downtown merchants have generally voiced enthusiasm over the concept and its potential to boost the entire Corydon economy. This week, neighbors who live next to the proposed site at the abandoned Keller Manufacturing plant shared their views on the project.
Those views were generally positive, even when taking into account the park’s size and possible local impacts.
The waterpark complex could include a 108-room hotel, and the enclosed waterpark building could be 65 feet high. Maximum visitation would be 1,000 people. And as many as 100,000 visitors a year are anticipated.
‘Any use of the property is going to be better than what’s been there for the last year, which is nothing,’ said attorney Ron Simpson, who has lived on Capitol Avenue for 30 years.
Simpson said he considered the waterpark plan an improvement over the noise and soot emitted by the Keller plant during its decades of operation.
Scott Sawyer was concerned that Peeples might deliver something smaller than proposed, but, he said, ‘I do like the waterpark idea. It looks beautiful, it could really help financially, but sometimes that touristy aspect can take away from a city.’
Sawyer and his wife, Cheryl, live in what she describes as her childhood dream home on North Capitol Avenue.
In answer to concerns about the park’s impact on the appearance and tone of Corydon, Sean Hawkins, community development manager with the Harrison County Convention Visitors Bureau, said, ‘The thought is to have it perfectly blend in with the surroundings and the historic nature of downtown.’
‘I hope the people concerned about the design of this building were also concerned about the design of Wal-Mart,’ said Jim Epperson, tourism director with the Harrison County CVB, tongue in cheek.
‘Don Peeples would like to include the neighbors and surrounding property owners in the discussion to create a win-win situation for everyone,’ Hawkins said.
Larry Bennett, who lives in Cedar Glade on the east side of North Capitol Avenue, opposite the most-likely visitor entrance to the waterpark, said the waterpark was an opportunity to take advantage of infrastructure improvements funded through riverboat money.
‘The kids and family could have an opportunity for something to do for years to come, and it could draw a lot of money into the community,’ he added.
Traffic concerns have been prominent in discussion of the waterpark among residents.
‘Yes, we will have more. We better. Traffic means people, and people mean dollars,’ Epperson said.
The Keller access to North Capitol was previously subject to traffic snarls during shift changes. Hawkins said the waterpark scenario will be different.
‘The most important thing to remember is not all these people will be coming at the same time. It’s not like this is a concert or event,’ Hawkins said.
‘Our site plans for the Keller site studied traffic and what Capitol Avenue would be capable of holding, and according to the findings ‘ and this is all done through the American Society of Engineers ‘ Capitol Avenue would be able to contain the amount of traffic that could potentially come to the property,’ he said.
‘Traffic, noise ‘ we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it,’ said Capitol Avenue resident and parent Melissa Mays.
‘I think it will be great for property values. I think it will be great because Corydon needs more facilities for family entertainment, and that’s something I’ve been begging for a long time,’ she said.
Mays, too, referenced her previous experience with the Keller Manufacturing plant.
‘When you’ve lived here and Keller has been in your backyard, a beautiful, clean, nice, indoor waterpark would be a welcome sight, in my opinion,’ she said, adding that traffic, noise and soot was a ‘challenge’ during Keller’s operation.
‘In regards to the noise this project would create, the waterpark we looked at (west) north of Indianapolis called ‘Caribbean Cove’ is a very quiet operation because it’s all contained. It’s a very clean operation at that,’ Hawkins said.
Some residents and local government officials have questioned the economic viability of the park. Epperson agrees that the financial aspects of the project should be subjects of further study. Peeples wants the county to assume financial responsibility for the waterpark while he and his business partners own the hotel.
‘The viability of the business itself and to the extent that you want to be sure that your public investment is going into something viable ‘ I think that’s issue number one. Number two is how does having that change the economic structure of Corydon and the county?’ Epperson said.
Epperson said he’s visited other waterparks in the upper Midwest and felt they were a good investment, but, he said, ‘It would be smart to have somebody on the outside help us evaluate this proposal.’
Epperson likened the waterpark to a convention center with an attached hotel; however, he said, the facility would have its own means to draw people.
‘How does it reshape our economic structure?’ he said.
‘It’s more likely to be a family market than what we enjoy now. They’ll be looking for other things for families to do once the kids get waterlogged. Smart business people are going to be able to find a way to make money off of the new visitors,’ Epperson said.
Should the project come to fruition, Peeples said he’s looking at a two-year horizon and wouldn’t expect construction to begin for 1-1/2 years.