Orlando Surf Park Project Clipped

As reported on www.orlandosentinel.com

Tourists will not be surfing in Orlando anytime soon.

Festival Bay Mall has given up on the original deal for the Ron Jon Surfpark, a partially built International Drive attraction slowed by repeated delays in the four years since it was announced. Also, Cocoa-based Ron Jon Surf Shop has pulled its name from the project, and the attraction’s developers say they need more cash before they can continue.

“We had some flaws in the technology and invested quite a bit of money in fixing that,” said Jamie Meiselman, founder and chief executive officer of the company behind the project, which calls itself Surfparks LLC. “The good news is we were able to solve the problems; the bad news is it came at a cost.”

The surf park’s developers had promised an artificial lagoon with as many as six perfect waves a minute, each one as much as 8 feet high, capable of sending a surfer as far as 100 yards. They secured more than $9 million in funds to build the facility on a large parcel alongside the I-Drive mall, but most of the money wound up being spent on unexpected research and development.

To finish the partly built complex, “They’ve got to go and raise the money,” said Steve Baker, founder and chief executive officer of Orlando-based Baker Leisure Group. Baker, who serves on the Surfparks LLC board, said he thinks the concept will move forward someday, though maybe not in Orlando.

“It’s on hold, for sure,” he said.

Festival Bay, a 1.1 million-square-foot mall at the north end of International Drive, issued a statement saying the original project “will not happen due to the current challenging financial market.” The mall said it is pursuing “alternative concepts” for the site on which the partly built surf park sits.

Festival Bay, which opened in 2003, features Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sheplers Western Wear, Vans Skatepark, and Cinemark 20 Theatres. The surf park’s demise would free up at least 100,000 square feet of potential retail space on the mall’s back side, in an area about as large as the space allotted for the movie megaplex.

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