New water park to make large economic impact in the Hub City

Serengeti Springs, a water park that will be an expansion of the Hattiesburg Zoo, is a $10.5 million project.
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Serengeti Springs, a water park that will be an expansion of the Hattiesburg Zoo, is a $10.5 million project.

However, the park is set to bring in roughly $2 million more in revenue than it cost to build within its first season.

“Very, very conservative estimates at this point show that it would put $12 million in visitor spending,” said Rick Taylor, Executive Director, Hattiesburg Convention Commission.

It’ll also create new jobs.

“We’re looking at between six and eight full-time jobs that will be year-round to deal with the water park,” Taylor said. “Keep it going, of course, administer it, prepare it for the new season. And then, we’re looking at probably 40-50 seasonal employees that will work while we’re operating.”

According to Taylor, the goal of the water park is to supplement the zoo’s 230,000 annual visitors with the hope that tourists stay in Hattiesburg longer to visit both attractions.

“We think it’s going to be very powerful for us in terms of creating a longer stay by our guests,” Taylor said. “The ability to do both the zoo and the water park in a single day is unlikely.”

Longer stays in town would likely increase the city’s sales tax revenue.

“Destinations bring people here,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. “People don’t just go to the destination and then go home. Usually, they stay, and they eat a meal or two meals. Maybe they stay the night at one of our hotels. Either way, that just compounds the economic impact of those destinations.”

Barker said he hopes the projects will help push Hattiesburg ahead of Gulfport in sales tax revenue collected.

“Gulfport is a big town during the summer,” Barker said. “They have a lot of casinos. They have other amenities down there, and most of the year, they’re number two in sales tax. We’re number three. One of our goals is by the end of this decade for Hattiesburg to be the largest retail economy in the state.”

The water park is set to open on Memorial Day weekend of next year.

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