GALVESTON

Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston, one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions, has been sold to an Ohio-based company as part of a $261 million deal.

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company announced Thursday it had purchased the Galveston property, as well as Schlitterbahn’s park and resort in New Braunfels.

The company also has acquired the rights to buy Schlitterbahn’s property in Kansas City.

“These properties represent new markets for us with attractive demographics in the growing Central Texas region, and they align with our strategy to identify compelling opportunities to accelerate our growth and profitability,” said Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair’s president and CEO.

In a statement, the Henry family, which has owned the Schlitterbahn company for 50 years, said selling the Galveston and New Braunfels properties was a difficult decision made after “several challenging years.”

“We believe Cedar Fair, with their approach to embracing parks that have a unique footprint, will be a phenomenal owner, and with the talented people that are the Schlitterbahn Family, will take Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts to the next level of world-class family entertainment,” the family said.

The sale is scheduled to close in the next 30 to 45 days, said Winter Prosapio, Schlitterbahn’s corporate director of communications and government relations.

The Galveston park will remain open, and the sale will not affect tickets or season passes that people have already bought for the 2019 season, Prosapio said.

Schlitterbahn does not know how employees at the waterpark will be affected by the sale, she said.

Schlitterbahn was facing a deadline to repay EPR Properties, a Kansas investment firm, $179.8 million on a loan it had taken out for the Kansas City water park.

In addition to advancing money to Schlitterbahn to develop that park, EPR Properties also provided a loan to the company to cover legal costs related to the 2016 death of a 10-year-old boy on a water slide.

Schlitterbahn settled with the family of Caleb Schwab for $20 million in 2017.

Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry also was indicted and charged with second-degree murder in Schwab’s death, though the charges were dismissed in February.

In 2018, Schlitterbahn auctioned off its Corpus Christi water park to IBC Bank after its developer, Upper Padre Partners LP, defaulted on a $16 million loan, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. That park is now operated as Waves Resort Corpus Christi Featuring Schlitterbahn Waterpark.

The Henry family said the Corpus Christi park will continue to be operated by its current ownership, Diamond Beach Holdings LLC.

The family will continue to own and operate the Schlitterbahn waterpark on South Padre Island, although that park will be rebranded, the family said.

Cedar Fair Entertainment owns 13 amusement parks across the United States, including its flagship park, Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio.

Schlitterbahn opened its Galveston park, at 2026 Lockheed Road, in 2006.

Schlitterbahn, a privately held company, does not disclose annual attendance numbers, Prosapio said. In its release announcing the transaction, Cedar Fair said the Galveston and New Braunfels parks combined to welcome 1.2 million guests in 2018, and generated $68 million in revenue.

Cedar Fair is a publicly traded company.

Schlitterbahn leases the 26 acres the park sits on from the city of Galveston. As part of the terms of the company’s lease with the city, the city council will have to vote on assigning a lease to a new company, a city spokeswoman said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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