ST. PETE BEACH — A new 20,000-square-foot floating playground is set to open next month along the waterfront behind the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort.
The new Splash Island Water Park may not rival the parks in Kissimmee, but it has the potential to become one of the city's premier attractions.
"Calling it an aquatic Disney World would be a stretch, but this will be the largest water park of its kind in Florida," says Keith Overton, president and chief executive of the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort.
With an opening date of March 11, the park will offer a variety of inflated slides, jungle gyms, trampolines, rafts and loungers floating in a roped-off area along the resort's shoreline.
Here are just some of the park's planned offerings:
• A slide with a climbing wall and "bounce cave" dubbed the "Summit Express."
• Free Fall, a slightly smaller version of the Summit Express with an enclosed splash zone.
• Jungle Joey, complete with a mini-slide and ladder log.
• Rockit, described as a "huge, inflatable island" suitable for rocking and rolling on the water.
• Revolution, where guests can climb to the top or use as a giant see-saw.
Large canopied loungers and oversized rafts will surround the park — offering a place for parents to relax while watching their children play.
TradeWinds, at 6000 Gulf Blvd., has 584 guest rooms, ranging from standard rooms to penthouse suites, and encompasses about 20 acres and 1,200 feet of beach along the Gulf of Mexico.
Overton says the park complements TradeWinds' upscale but laid-back reputation for offering guests a wide variety of activities including putt-putt golf, waverunners, parasailing and paddlewheel boats. Even dogs have their own play area.
Several years ago, the hotel installed a three-story water slide on its beachfront.
"Our people really liked it and over time identified us as the hotel with a water slide. We think the same thing will happen with water park," Overton says.
The park will be open to TradeWinds guests and the public.
The lack of nearby public parking is one drawback for the general public.
Parking at the hotel is restricted to its guests.
Also, using the park won't be free. Visitors can opt for a daylong pass or pay by the hour. Prices start at $15.
Under current St. Pete Beach land development rules, TradeWinds is allowed to control access to its waterfront. Visitors entering the park must wear life jackets and watch a training video that explains safety rules, Overton stressed.
Lifeguards will be on duty at all times, he said, adding that Splash Park can accommodate about 150 people. The actual number allowed at once will depend on the mix of children, teens and adults, he said.
The water equipment will be anchored in place and will be dismantled each night.
Overton declined to say how much setting up the park is costing the hotel, saying only that it was "not as much as you might think."