Lender says Schlitterbahn has cash flow troubles, needed money to cover legal expenses

Schlitterbahn is experiencing a cash flow shortage during its off-season and has needed advances to cover its shortfall, as well as costs associated with its ongoing legal issues, according to a public filing.

EPR Properties, a publicly traded Kansas City-based real estate investment trust that issued a mortgage loan to Schlitterbahn to develop its water park and other property on the western edge of Wyandotte County, said it had agreed to advance the company additional amounts under the mortgage.

The principal amount outstanding at the end of 2018 was $179.8 million, according to EPR’s annual report, issued on Thursday. Water parks are seasonal in nature and it’s unclear whether Schlitterbahn has received advances in previous off-seasons. EPR’s annual report from a year ago made no mention of advancing money.

An EPR official was not immediately available to comment, nor were Schlitterbahn spokespeople.

EPR noted in its annual report, as it did a year ago, that criminal proceedings against Schlitterbahn related to the 2016 death of a 10-year-old boy on the Verruckt water slide in Kansas City, Kan., could imperil its ability to repay the loan.

Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry and others associated with the design and operation of the 17-story water slide were indicted nearly a year ago by a Wyandotte County grand jury on charges as serious as second-degree murder. The indictments portrayed the slide’s designers as pursuing the world’s tallest water slide without regard to safety or expertise, charges the company and its attorneys deny. Caleb Schwab was killed on Aug. 7, 2016 when his raft went airborne and he collided with a metal pole.

Those indictments were dismissed by a Wyandotte County judge on Feb. 22 after finding that the Kansas Attorney General had shown a grand jury improper evidence to obtain indictments.

The Kansas Attorney General could continue to pursue criminal charges, but has not disclosed its plans.

EPR Properties said it anticipates that one source of repayment for its mortgage on the Schlitterbahn property is state-issued sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds. But its annual report said there is no assurance that Kansas or the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., would agree to issue future STAR bonds.

“In addition, negative publicity may have a negative impact on attendance at the Schltterbahn waterparks, which may reduce the funds available to (a corporate affiliate of Schlitterbahn) to repay the mortgage loans,” EPR’s annual report said.

In January, Schlitterbahn would not confirm its plans for the Kansas City water park for 2019. Its website then, as it did on Thursday, provides no way to buy 2019 passes, whereas visitors can purchase single-day tickets and passes for its Texas water parks.

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Steve Vockrodt is an award-winning investigative journalist who has reported in Kansas City since 2005. Areas of reporting interest include business, politics, justice issues and breaking news investigations. Vockrodt grew up in Denver and studied journalism at the University of Kansas.