KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Schlitterbahn opened to much fanfare in 2009.
It was going to be a grand project, promising development of a village outside of the park including hotels, a riverwalk and other amenities to make it a vacation destination for out-of-towners.
But that plan has collapsed, and there are a lot of clues that the water park is following.
In 2016, 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed while riding Verruckt, the 17-story water slide that was billed as the world’s largest at the time.
Schlitterbahn, its co-owners and other employees were later charged in connection to Caleb’s death in Wyandotte County, but those charges have since been dropped. The Verruckt water slide has also been torn down.
But now, all signs are pointing to a quiet season at the once-bustling water park, and it appears Schlitterbahn may not open ever again.
At the four other Schlitterbahn water parks, tickets and season passes are available — but not in KCK.
To operate a water park, you need employees. The KCK Schlitterbahn isn’t listed on the jobs page of the Schlitterbahn website. One year ago, KCK popped right up along with the four other locations.
Schlitterbahn in KCK doesn’t have permits to operate throughout the season. According to the Kansas Department of Labor, permits for seven of the 11 rides expire June 20. The remaining rides expire July 29. Schlitterbahn is in compliance with Kansas law but only until mid-summer.
Sources tell FOX4 that KCK police are using Schlitterbahn for training. FOX4 also spotted the Topeka PD motorcycle unit using the parking lot for drills. Sources say KCKPD has also used some of Schlitterbahn’s buildings for training, and the condition of the inside of those buildings indicates the water park will not be reopening.
FOX4 has reached out to Schlitterbahn executives several times for comment, and our numerous calls have not been returned.
A spokesman for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County said no one with the UG knows about the future of the water park because they have had no contact with Schlitterbahn.
Perhaps the biggest question looming over the failed project is financial.
The Unified Government used $82 million in STAR bonds to help finance the water park. Those STAR bonds are repaid by state and local taxes generated by the project.
A spokesperson for the Department of Commerce sent the following statement:
“Commerce believes there will be sufficient sales tax generated within the District to make debt service payments on the bonds. We anticipate the water park opening again in the future and continuing to be a strong attraction in western Wyandotte County.”