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Worlds of Fun owner has right to acquire KCK Schlitterbahn location as part of deal on other parks

Posted at 9:17 AM, Jun 13, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which owns Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, "has the right to acquire" the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas, as part of a deal to purchase two other Schlitterbahn properties.

The companies announced the agreement Wednesday morning.

Cedar Fair will purchase two of Schlitterbahn's water parks located in Texas for a cash purchase price of $261 million.

Listen: 41 Files podcast breaks down latest Schlitterbahn news

As part of the deal, Cedar Fair may purchase the 40-acre KCK location for a cash price of $6 million.

“We're very confident this is going to take the water park in KCK and move it forward," Mayor David Alvey said. “Someone is going to see the value of that property, and I don't think they would have bought the option if they had no intention of purchasing.”

Schlitterbahn still owes $193 million in mortgage payments to Kansas City-based commercial real estate and investment firm EPR Properties.

In a statement to 41 Action News, EPR Properties Vice President for Corporate Communications Brian Moriarty said Schlitterbahn is expected to pay its mortgage liability from the overall sale proceeds "irrespective of the funds allocated to the KC option."

Cedar Fair's Corporate Manager of Investor Relations Michael Russell told 41 Action News that if the company buys Schlitterbahn in KCK, it would undergo a complete re-branding.

If Cedar Fair adds the property, it would offer different amenities than Worlds and Oceans of Fun, which is located on the east side of the Kansas City area.

It's unclear when or if there's a deadline for Cedar Fair to make a decision about the property. The two Texas parks will continue to operate under the Schlitterbahn brand.

Alvey said Wyandotte County's STAR bond obligations, which were used to pay for Village West development and the subsequent additions of CHildren's Mercy Park and a Cerner campus, aren't in jeopardy even with Schlitterbahn's uncertain future.

“Most of the income revenues generated to pay off STAR bonds are being generated by the other properties that have been developed," he said. "In fact, we have another property coming on, the Menards, that is going to generate significant sales tax revenues, so really we're in very good shape.”

While the Schlitterbahn locations in Texas have been successful, with recognition such as "Best Water Park in the World" and "Best Indoor Water Park in the World" for several consecutive years, the KCK site has been plagued with problems.

Ten-year-old Caleb Schwab died in 2016 on the park's Verruckt slide, which had been touted as the tallest water slide in the world.

Verruckt has since been torn down.

Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry was among three people initially charged with second-degree murder as well as aggravated battery and aggravated child endangerment in connection with Schwab's death, which also was part of a $20 million civil judgment.

Charges were dropped in February against Henry, Verruckt designer John Schooley and former park manager Tyler Miles after a judge determined the Kansas Attorney General's Office abused the grand jury process to obtain the indictments.

Two other former park employees, David Hughes and John Zalsman, were found not guilty of lying to investigators in October 2018.

Henry still faces criminal charges in connection with a separate July 2018 incident. He allegedly hired a prostitute and was in possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in a Johnson County, Kansas, hotel room.

Henry is due back in court July 15 for a motion hearing in the drug and prostitution case.