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Old 09-05-2018, 01:46 PM   #1
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$650M water park and resort proposed in Palmer

PALMER – A development duo is proposing a $650 million water park and resort complex on 250 acres of forested hilltop that was once considered for a Mohegan Sun casino.

Winthrop Knox and Michael J. D’Amato are announcing Wednesday that their planned development south of the Massachusetts Turnpike would draw visitors from as far as 300 miles and include a hotel, two indoor water parks and other indoor-outdoor sports and recreation facilities.

Paul Robbins, a spokesman for what has been informally named the Palmer Sports Group, said the timing of construction and opening has not been determined.

“We’re hoping by the end of this calendar year to have all the infrastructure needs identified,” Mr. Robbins said. “There’s been some initial outreach to the commonwealth. The initial reaction has been very positive.”

Mr. Knox, who goes by the nickname Trip, is a consultant who has helped design and build water parks and recreation facilities. Mr. D’Amato is a construction and development manager who has worked on casinos, resorts, office towers and other building projects.

Mr. Robbins declined to say how the project in Palmer would be funded, but he said Mr. Knox and Mr. D’Amato would seek investors.

The land targeted for the development sits off Thorndike Street (Route 32), not far from a Mass. Turnpike interchange. At the core is a 152-acre parcel owned by Northeast Realty Associates LLC.

State corporation filings list Leon H. Dragone of East Longmeadow as a manager of the company.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates a Connecticut casino, leased the 152-acre parcel in 2008 and proposed building a casino. Town voters narrowly rejected the plan in 2013.

The new proposal includes the Northeast Realty parcel and land surrounding it, describing the additional parcels as available for development.

Town Manager Charles T. Blanchard said municipal officials have not yet received plans for the development but are enthusiastic about the proposal.

“We’re very anxious to see what they move forward with, and when they move forward with it,” Mr. Blanchard said.

It’s possible the developers could ask the state to fund infrastructure improvements in the area, according to Mr. Robbins. He said he did not know if developers would also seek property tax relief from the town of Palmer.

I've been to similar complexes as I have a child who did the national club sports circuit and I've always wished we had something similar in NE. That said, is this thing really viable here? The estimated costs seem quite high for something literally in the middle of nowhere with the ROI pretty distant. I suspect that what gets built will be a severely scaled back version with just some playing fields, ala Progin Park in Lancaster.

Any thoughts?

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Old 09-05-2018, 02:50 PM   #2
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Re: $650M water park and resort proposed in Palmer

Skeptical because of the bigness in a very small town makes sealing the deal so very difficult, but I like the idea a lot and think it scratches a viable itch.

Palmer is actually very convenient to get to on the Pike or by the proposed intermediate stop between Worcester and Springfield on the Amtrak Inland Route. The Inland plan also includes ancillary bus scale-up to UMass and Amherst College, so last-mile integration and attracting more private buses (some lines running the BOS-WOR-SPG circuit already make limited campus stops) isn't hard if that rail node gets implanted. So the car-free travel options in/around Palmer project pretty robust over the long-term and easy to hook into the water park if/when the state bites on the Amtrak build.

Since the town also has hilly geography it's well-suited to building expansive water slides and/or roller coasters on the hillside at lower cost than at ground-level, meaning the park can debut at pretty good size and not need decades on the installment plan to fill it out. Site-wise that makes it well worth shooting for even in a strong headwind of provincial small-town politics. Since Six Flags New England and Canobie Lake are primarily 'dry' parks there's an big unfilled void in Southern New England for a great big water park accessible to large chunk of the megalopolis. Nearest ones of similar scope are Lake Compounce in CT (still majority-'dry', but has massively expanded its water park in the last decade) and Water Country in Portsmouth. Throw in the fact that local amusement parks have finally learned how to make bank in the offseasons with Halloween haunted houses, Fall foliage days, and Xmas villages the location would also have some multipurpose upside to tap in colder weather.
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Old 09-05-2018, 08:20 PM   #3
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Re: $650M water park and resort proposed in Palmer

(Slow nodding of the head).


Palmer is too close to Six Flags and Lake Compounce.

If developers wanted to do anything with that land, then why not a giant mini-golf course with go-karts and open space for seasonal activities like Spooky World in the fall and in the winter, a Holiday Village?
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Old 09-06-2018, 01:52 PM   #4
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Re: $650M water park and resort proposed in Palmer

Looking at the plan ... this looks like a sports-themed hotel & condo development with a lot of tennis/basketball and (indoor) soccer, plus a small indoor waterpark that's more like a nice YMCA than like a regional destination waterpark ... it's comparable to what you see now at a lot of ski resorts, but without the skiing....
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