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Will Schlitterbahn open this year? The KCK water park still isn’t saying

Aerial view of deadly Verrückt water slide being dismantled at Schlitterbahn

Get a birds-eye view of the cranes and the crews dismantling the Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn water park, in Kansas City, Kan., where a 10-year-old boy was killed in 2016.
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Get a birds-eye view of the cranes and the crews dismantling the Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn water park, in Kansas City, Kan., where a 10-year-old boy was killed in 2016.

Less than two months until Memorial Day weekend, often the opening days of the commercial pool and water park season in Kansas City, Schlitterbahn remains quiet about its plans for its business in Wyandotte County.

Tickets and passes are not for sale on its website for the Kansas City, Kansas, water park. An opening date is not listed on its website. And a jobs website for employment opportunities with Schlitterbahn lists no positions available in Kansas City.

Winter Prosapio, spokeswoman for the Texas-based water park developer and operator, said in an email that the company had no news about the Kansas City water park in response to a question about whether Schlitterbahn had any updates about its 2019 opening.

Meanwhile, Schlitterbahn’s four Texas locations are open for business. Anywhere between seven and 30 positions are open at each of its Texas water parks.

Schlitterbahn has endured ongoing difficulties in Kansas City ever since a 10-year-old boy died on the Verruckt in 2016, at the time the world’s tallest water slide at 17 stories high.

Key employees and associates involved in designing and maintaining the Verruckt were indicted on a series of serious crimes, although they were either acquitted or had charges dismissed because of questions about how the Kansas attorney general’s office conducted itself before a grand jury.

Jeff Henry, who co-owns the Schlitterbahn enterprise along with his siblings, continues to face charges including drug possession and buying sex in Johnson County. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

As a private business, Schlitterbahn is not required to release financial information about the performance of its enterprise.

But a few clues that reflect its difficulties in Kansas City have surfaced in public filings from its mortgage lender.

EPR Properties, a Kansas City-based real estate investment trust, said last year in a public filing that negative publicity associated with the 2016 death, along with the uncertain prospects about whether Kansas will issue continued sales tax revenue bonds to support the development, could affect whether Schlitterbahn can repay the $179.8 million that is outstanding on the EPR mortgage.

In EPR’s annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission from February, it noted that Schlitterbahn had a cash flow shortage during its off-season and needed advances from EPR to cover the shortfall as well as legal expenses.

Oceans of Fun, a water park owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. that operates in Kansas City, North, lists a May 24 opening date and visitors to its website can purchase season passes and daily tickets ahead of time.

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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.
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