Glendale approves massive water park development with hotel, restaurants and more near Westgate

Glendale could see a new resort-style development, anchored by an 11-acre water park and a massive hotel, near its Westgate Entertainment District by the time the city plays host to the 2023 Super Bowl.

The Glendale City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the project — dubbed Crystal Lagoons, Island Resort — that will let visitors swim and use nonmotorized devices like paddleboards, boogie boards and scuba diving gear. It potentially could let visitors use water jetpacks.

Besides the water park, plans also call for:

  • 630 hotel rooms.
  • Amusement park-style rides.
  • Aerophile’s Aerobar, a space that will offer food and drinks at 130 feet in the air, giving customers a high-up view of the Valley.
  • A 4D theater and a “fly theater,” similar to the “Soarin’ Around the World” ride in Disney’s California Adventure theme park.
  • Space for offices, retail shops, restaurants and bars.
  • A massive helium balloon that will take visitors nearly 400 feet into the air for an aerial view of the Phoenix area.

It’s scheduled to break ground in the fourth quarter of this year and to open by October 2022.

The company behind the water park is also named Crystal Lagoons. This project will be different than most U.S. projects for the company, which started in Chile, Vice President Eric Cherasia said at the Tuesday meeting. The developer is ECL Glendale.

lopments around the world, including in Dubai, Egypt, Japan and Chile.

“I am just so excited,” City Council member Joyce Clark, whose district includes the project, said at the Tuesday meeting. “(This is) a blockbuster project that’s going to put Glendale on the map, not just in the Valley but in the Southwest.”

Leaders hope to draw visitors during warmer months

The Crystal Lagoons project is planned between Loop 101 and 95th Avenue just south of Cardinals Way.

City leaders hope the project will be a popular draw from April through October and hope it will give the area a second wind in the time between the baseball spring training season ending and the Arizona Cardinals and Arizona Coyotes season beginning. Those months tend to have a dip in activity for the area, City Manager Kevin Phelps said at the Tuesday meeting.

“It really sets us up for being the city of mega-events,” Phelps said at the meeting, adding that a development like Crystal Lagoons, Island Resort would be a boon for large events such as the Super Bowl or the NCAA Final Four.

Phelps in an interview said the project will be cutting edge, using entertainment like laser shows at night to keep people in the park past dark. He compared it with the “World of Color” light shows in Disney’s California Adventure theme park that use lighting technology to show scenes from Disney movies on the water.

“It’s not just being in the water. They are creating a fully immersive part of an experience that won’t go stale after just coming one time,” Phelps said. “You’ve got to give people a reason to stay past dinner.”

He said he sees the project as a win for the Valley and a draw for people in neighboring states.

Phelps said the developer has not shared with the city how much the project will cost.

The developer did not respond to a request for comment.

The Crystal Lagoons project will add to the increased development around Westgate.

The City Council in May voted to approve two new projects that will bring more housing, retail and dining to the area. One project will bring nearly 200 bungalow-style rentals to the southeast corner of 91st and Orangewood avenues. The other will bring dining and retail, including Starbucks, Raising Cane’s and Honey Go Nails, to the northwest corner of 91st and Glendale avenues.

City isn’t paying developer, but it will waive $1M in fees

Glendale leaders at a Tuesday City Council meeting touted the development agreement as a fiscal win for the city, as it isn’t paying any direct financial incentives to the developer.

But the City Council did vote to waive permitting fees and to use an economic incentive that critics say is too friendly to developers.

The Glendale City Council voted to waive up to $1 million in permitting fees and give the theater, hotel, retail spaces and concession vendors a “partial” 25-year Government Property Lease Excise Tax, known as a GPLET. The GPLET agreement means Glendale will re-take possession of the property for 25 years so the developer can lease it back and not have to pay property tax. The property will revert to private ownership after 25 years, under the agreement.

GPLET agreements are meant to encourage growth in blighted areas, but they are often used to sweeten the pot for development in areas with high real estate values, such as downtown Phoenix and downtown Tempe.

City leaders pointed to the sales and hotel taxes that visitors will bring into the city. Glendale projects its share of taxes generated by the project over the 25-year agreement will be $240.5 million.

“I am so proud of the continued successes in the Sports & Entertainment District,”  Mayor Jerry Weiers said in a statement. “An amenity of this magnitude adds to Westgate’s mega-event appeal and will generate significant revenue to support residents, businesses and the state as a whole.”

The resort is also expected to bring 1,800 jobs to the city once it’s open, according to the city.

The Glendale City Council will vote Sept. 22 on selling a piece of city-owned land to the developer for an employee parking lot. Glendale is one of two cities of its size in Arizona that is able to sell city land without publicly disclosing its location until the deal is ready for the City Council to vote. Mesa is the other.

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