This is one of the initial visions of Cactus Surf Park’s layout, although the design is still being worked on. (Town of Gilbert)

It’s highly unlikely a much-touted 25-acre recreational water attraction planned next to Gilbert Regional Park will open as anticipated by next spring.

The developer of Cactus Surf Park was expected to open for business in April 2024 but the project is still going through design review with the Town of Gilbert. Adam Port, the contact person for the project, did not respond to a request for information.

“They have had their initial meeting with staff and received comments back,” said town spokeswoman Jennifer Snyder in an email. “They are working on those comments to refine the design, along with the public input that they have received.”

The developer held a neighborhood meeting in August for community feedback.

Snyder added that the revised drawings will have to go through design review approval with the Planning Commission, which meets monthly. She said she didn’t know when the commission will review the project.

“Once the design review process has completed, the construction is estimated to take 24 months,” Snyder said.

The project, featuring a sandy beach and state-of-the art wave technology for surfing has been pushed back a few times already.

Gilbert first entered into a 50-year lease agreement with the original developer John McLaughlin, CEO of The Strand Resorts, in February 2019.

Under the agreement, The Strand project, estimated then to cost $60 million to build, was to go in on town-owned land near Queen Creek and Higley roads and open for play in August 2020.

But Council on Aug. 23, 2020 agreed to delay the opening to August 2022.

The land, however, sat undisturbed and emails obtained by the Gilbert Sun News through a public records request showed that McLaughlin was having a hard time trying to get and keep financial backers on board.

In September 2021, the council approved the sale of The Strand to ACA Arizona, LLC and a project name change to Cactus Surf Park.

Council also at that meeting OK’d a revised agreement, giving ACA a new timeline with a deadline of June 30, 2022 for construction to start.

Operations were expected to begin on or before April 15, 2024 unless the Town and ACA agreed to extend the date or the construction was stalled by an unavoidable delay.

Asked if the water park’s construction was delayed due to inflation pushing up costs and supply chain hiccups, Snyder reiterated that the developer is working on design updates.

“I am not familiar with the specific timeline of this project but I believe any partnership should be equitable,” Councilman Chuck Bongiovanni said. “Developers want us to fulfill our end of the bargain, we should expect the same from them.”

Bongiovanni in February raised concerns with the town’s lease agreement with a developer to build San Tan Adventure Park, which never materialized after five years of staff time while causing ill-will with surrounding residents upset with the proposed gas-powered go-karts.

Although both parties agreed to part ways, Bongiovanni suggested that future town leases include a financial penalty, such as surety bonds or insurance policies, to compensate the town for a developer’s non-performance.

According to the town staff, the Cactus Surf developer has the knowledge and experience from the surf-and-water park industry, including skills in action-sports facility operations, management, design, financing strategy and risk-management.

The amenities remained the same as proposed by The Strand such as a surf lagoon, a cable-wake park, indoor party rooms, indoor arcade, kids play area and a restaurant.

Under the lease agreement, ACA is to begin rent payments to the Town one month after opening for business.

Gilbert is to receive an annual lease payment of a minimum of $253,191 and anticipated annual profit-sharing revenue between $450,000 and $750,000 for 50 years.

These funds are expected to help Gilbert offset its costs of maintaining the 272-acre regional park.

At the time of the original deal’s approval, staff said the project will create 180 jobs and have a $317-million economic impact.

According to the town, the project will have no impact on Gilbert’s water supply. Under the agreement, the developer has to bring its own water.

The project was expected to use less than 200 acre-feet of water per year, compared with a golf course, which on average uses 485 acre-feet of water in a single year, town staff said.

When Cactus Surf Park finally does open it will face competition from a 37-acre Cannon Beach water park featuring a beach and 1.89-acre surfing lagoon in Mesa.

That project is under construction and is expected to open for business this summer, according to its Facebook page.