N.C. town OKs incentives to lure water park

CONCORD, N.C. -- City officials hope a $1.5.-million incentive package approved last week will be the last step toward bringing a $100 million indoor water park and resort to Concord.

Great Wolf Resorts has said it will build a project in the Charlotte area, and business recruiters expect the company to announce a site within days.

The Wisconsin company has looked at a 37-acre site off Speedway Boulevard as well as several sites in Fort Mill.

Concord City Council members unanimously voted for the $1.5-million incentive Thursday, hoping the city tax break, along with a $2.7-million incentive from Cabarrus County, will draw the project to Concord.

The company filed concept plans with the city for a 465,597-square-foot resort with 409 rooms and an 81,000-square-foot water park that would be open only to hotel guests. The resort would create 400 jobs and generate $68 million in annual visitor spending, city and county officials said.

Before the vote, Concord Mayor Scott Padgett and council members defended the incentives.

The city needs to lure companies to help replace the jobs and tax revenue the city will lose when Philip Morris closes its 2,500-employee Concord cigarette plant in 2010, council members said.

Padgett said the city is already feeling a squeeze from Philip Morris' departure, which will take about $3 million in taxes and fees out of government coffers.

"We're heading toward a wall where we're going to have to make some cuts or we're going to have to adjust our taxes," he said. "The one thing we can do is try to make up some of that tax revenue."

Council members also defended themselves against complaints from some Catawba Valley residents who have said Concord should not recruit a water-intensive business while the region is suffering from a drought and Concord and Kannapolis are asking to draw water from other communities.

The resort would use 70,000 to 90,000 gallons of water a day, according to city officials, who said that figure is line with other big hotels.

Local officials also have said the water park would use less water than a residential development.

Council member Al Brown said the plans for the resort include a system that will allow it to reuse water.

"They have shown to us on paper and to our staff that this is a responsible way to do it," Brown said.

Concord's incentive money would pay for road and traffic-signal improvements near the resort.