Volcano Island Indoor Waterpark Resort

Michael Vecchio (from left), Mark Tampoya and David Rees talk after ceremonies announcing the Volcano Island Indoor Waterpark Resort, an $87-million facility, coming to the former Sharon Steel property on the East Side of Fairmont.

The children of three Morgantown developers pulled away tarps to reveal giant renderings of an $87-million development proposed at the site of a former coke plant Monday afternoon.

The brainchild of developers Michael Vecchio, Mark Tampoya and David Rees, who make up The Water Works LLC, Volcano Island Indoor Waterpark Resort is only the first phase of a redevelopment plan for the 107-acre property on the site of the former Sharon Steel plant on the East Side of Fairmont.

The children will probably be among the first to

experience the 12 water slides, surf machine, water roller coaster, the giant bowl slide that erupts water periodically on passersby and many of the other features at the indoor/outdoor waterpark.

But they may have to stand in line behind a U.S. congressman, the state’s governor and the county commission president, all who expressed an interest in being the first down the water slide at the resort when it opens in the fall of 2008.

There will be more than just water features when the resort opens. In addition to the 50,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, the 107-acre planned development will include a 30,000-square-foot conference center, 300-suite hotel, an outdoor waterpark, marina and recreational lake. The master plan also includes millions of dollars in retail development, an additional hotel, an RV park, multiple restaurants, a day spa, movie theater and more.

That’s a huge step for a site listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s national priorities list for cleanup. The land had been used since 1918 as a coke works plant, and dangerous byproducts had left their mark there. Turning coal into coke produces coal tar, ammonium, benzene, toluene, xylene and coke oven gas.

Since 1993, the site has been on the radar of federal and state environmental agencies. Cleanup activities continue there, though the 25 acres where the first phase of the Volcano Island resort have been released.

Three years ago this month, property owner ExxonMobil, the EPA, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the City of Fairmont signed a custodial trust agreement, pledging to bring the property back to a beneficial use for the community. Throughout this process, the Fairmont Community Liaison Panel and later the Real Property Management Committee began to investigate the redevelopment of the property.

“I can tell you that ExxonMobil has been an active and a nurturing partner for this site and our panel and this community,” said Mayor Nick Fantasia, a member of the property management committee. “They’ve made a great effort stepping up and taking responsibility for what has occurred here. And they’ve made an even greater effort in making sure that this site will become an asset to this community.”

The transformation of the Sharon Steel site from an industrial use to a destination resort is one of the state’s greatest examples of brownfield development, Gov. Joe Manchin said.

“Good, flat land is precious here,” Manchin said. “Good land that has amenities and infrastructure is even more precious. Most of it has been used before. We’re showing you how you can reuse it.”

The governor described the Volcano Island Indoor Waterpark Resort as “the model for our continued brownfield development across the great state. We’re using industrial and commercial land.

“As governor, I have been quite passionate about brownfield development because I know the great potential of the lands we have sitting idle right now,” he said.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Manchin said following the event. “It speaks volumes for the state. We’ve had a lot of obstacles, and we’ve overcome them. The quality of life is going to change in this area.”

Manchin also applauded the Volcano Island developers, who have used private financing to make this project work.

“The good thing about economic transformation is that once it gets going, it feeds off of itself,” U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan said in a letter read during the event. The congressman was unable to attend the event Monday because of a previous commitment.

“One project begets another project. One plan expansion brings new services and new employees, which builds the infrastructure and further expansion and so on,” Mollohan said. “You would be hard pressed to find a better example of this transformation than turning an old coke works project into a destination resort that will bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to the local economy.”

Features of the indoor/outdoor waterpark include:

• More than 50,000-square-feet of indoor aquatics areas open year round.

• Environmentally controlled air temperature is 86 degrees and water temperature of 84 degrees.

• 12 water slides designed for all ages.

• A flow-rider wave-making surf machine.

• A state-of-the-art water roller coaster that travels throughout the water park.

• A bowl slide enclosed in an erupting volcano.

• An endless river with an adventure zone and multiple water features.

• A themed multi-level tree house with a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket.

• Children’s splash ’n play area.

• Activity pool and an indoor/outdoor whirlpool.

• More than 500,000 gallons of water.

• Food court and retail outlets.

• Large themed wave pool.

• Boomerang water slide.

• Rock climbing wall.

• Children’s splash pad.

• Expansive sun deck.

• Private cabanas with butler service.

E-mail Misty Poe at mpoe@timeswv.com.

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