EPIC In Nature

The ground was broken two Octobers ago. The cutting of the ribbon and the opening of the doors will take place not long after next the October comes. And when those two things happen, Grand Prairie will officially segue from a vibrant suburban hub into an official destination spot.

That’s what Epic thinking does for a community.

The city’s much-talked-about, water-park-anchored development, The Epic, will be everything the name implies. In fact, says Rick Herold, director of the Grand Prairie Parks & Recreation Department, one question marked every step in the process that converted the idea into a remarkable reality: “Is this epic?”

“I know it probably drove the people working on this crazy,” Herold recalls. “But that’s what we asked every contractor involved with the project. We felt we can’t use the term ‘Epic Waters’ if we didn’t create something that lived up to the billing. As I look at how everything has come together, I think we hit a home run.”

The man credited with the genesis of the project, which entails both the Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark and the multi-use entertainment complex, agrees.

Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen wanted the city to make a statement once he took office in 2013. It had the land, and he decided a multi-faceted water park and entertainment center would be an ideal way to put it to use. He drove the proposal through the city council and in 2014 took the idea to the Grand Prairie voters, who gave the OK to a 1/4-cent-sales-tax-increase to fund the project. As a result, the city soon will have a state-of-the-art mega recreation center and water park like no other community has ever seen.

“In addition to the recreation amenities offered,” Jensen says, “we want this to be a place where teens come to have fun and learn, where child and day camps will happen and where the community gathers to enjoy the arts, get fit and have fun year-round.”

The Epic is located in the city’s Central Park, west of State Highway 161 and the future extension of Waterwood Drive. When it opens in November, it will feature a 70,000-square-foot indoor water park with a retractable roof and 3.5 acres of outdoor space. The water park will have one of the longest lazy rivers in the United States after completion. The Epic entertainment and recreation center, set open in January, will feature an amphitheater, a fitness center, a large indoor play area, a cafe, a library, art studios, exercise rooms and teen rooms. Herold says the city will add rides and slides in future phases of the project.

Besides Herold, another key principal in the development of the project – not just from the ground up but even before – is Rick Coleman. He is executive vice-president of new product development at American Resort Management, LLC, an award-winning hospitality management company based in Erie, Pa.

After doing their homework on companies that might be well suited to help them pull off “something epic,” Herold and the Grand Prairie project planning team met with Coleman and other ARM executives, and, as Coleman notes, “We were sold on the first meeting. We met a city that is forward thinking. We loved the idea of a world-class facility built by a municipality.”

In short time, a partnership was formed – and plans for The Epic started taking shape. Dallas-based HKS Inc. was chosen as the project designer. Lee Lewis Construction was made the general contractor. And The Epic’s evolution became steadily visible to Grand Prairie residents and visitors traversing the roads surrounding the complex.

Like Herold, Coleman insisted on thinking in “epic” terms with regards to the project. “We wanted a true theme park with a quality water park that is open every day of the year,” he says. “And that is affordable. A lot of our so-called competitors tend to leave out that last part.”

Coleman, Herold and company didn’t. They set up a plan that features year-long passes, summer and fall passes and daily passes – with discounted rates going to Grand Prairie residents.

They also got to work quickly on creating other partnerships that will serve their customers. The American Red Cross was selected as the authorized training provider for the park’s lifeguarding program. The water park will utilize Red Cross’ training, certification, and continuing education for the estimated 100 lifeguards and lifeguard staff managers who will be responsible for guest safety related to the park’s multiple water slides, attractions, and pools.

“We want to provide a fun-filled but safe environment for all of our guests, including children and people with special needs or limited swimming skills,” says Coleman, who now serves as the waterpark’s principal and senior vice-president of development and operations. “In fact, guest safety is our top priority. That’s why we chose to partner with American Red Cross, the world’s number one-brand for lifeguarding and water safety.”

The Red Cross will provide the park’s lifeguarding team members with lifeguard and CPR training that equips them to prevent, recognize, and respond to aquatic emergencies and provide lifesaving care for medical emergencies, injuries, or sudden illness.

Additionally, Epic Waters and The Epic have awarded exclusive pouring rights to PepsiCo. Under this agreement, park guests will get the opportunity to taste a variety of some of PepsiCo’s fan-favorite beverage brands, including LEMON LEMON™, Aquafina Sparkling, LifeWTR, IZZE FUSIONS™, 1893, Naked Juice and Lipton Iced Tea. Other beverages, including Diet Pepsi®, MIST TWST®, Mountain Dew®, Dr. Pepper, Big Red and Brisk® ice tea will be available on fountain.

The lifeguard team and beverage vendors will be part of another of the benefits The Epic will bring to Grand Prairie, namely employment opportunities. Coleman says Epic Waters will have 50-75 full-time staff members and a seasonal work crew that will number between 150-250.

Herold says The Epic’s recreational/entertainment workforce will include 25 full-time, pro-level employees and 50 to 75 seasonal employees.

Ultimately, all involved with The Epic will be making history. “Anyone can be lucky in time to have money to build a facility,” Herold says. “But how do you bring that to life? That was our goal. We wanted to create something that would make it a DFW destination, and I think we’ve done it.”