DARBY — Amid brisk temperatures straining to inch out of the low 60s, Benjamin Nagengast talked snow. He even used a spray container of water to ceremoniously melt frost adorning an ice sculpture containing the logo for his newest venture — Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park.
Nagengast, whose companies own the neighboring TreeHoppers Aerial Adventure Park and the Halloween attraction Scream-A-Geddon in rural east Pasco County, unveiled the snow park’s name, logo and renderings Thursday morning to reporters and officials gathered at TreeHoppers.
Expected to open in November 2020, the park’s centerpiece hill will be 400 feet long and 60 feet tall, down which customers will ride red and black rubber sliding tubes. Preliminary plans call for 20 individual lanes for riders to use and Nagengast said they will return to the top via two automated conveyors known as Magic Carpet Lifts.
The park will feature actual, man-made snow and operate on a weather-dependent schedule of several weeks each year. Under its Pasco County permit, Snowcat Ridge can operate up to 120 days annually and cannot be open simultaneously with Scream-A-Geddon.
Other planned amenities include a play area to build snow sculptures within a 10,000-square-foot, fabric-covered "snow dome,'' a bonfire site, restaurant and evening light shows projected on both the snow hill and the 30-foot-tall dome.
"It’s the idea of entering a winter wonderland,'' said Nagengast, who first unveiled the idea nearly 14 months ago. "This is not something in a mall or inside a warehouse.''
To construct the hill, builders will use dirt removed from a planned lake on 58 acres of property at the corner of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard and St. Joe Road in Darby, a rural hamlet 9 miles west of Dade City. The "Alpine'' reference in the snow park’s name is a nod to the 1,000 fir trees that will be planted on site.
Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez, a member of the Pasco Tourist Development Council, lauded Nagengast’s investment. She said it will help Dade City showcase its attributes to new visitors.
Likewise, Adam Thomas, director of Florida’s Sports Coast, Pasco County’s tourism promotion department, said the snow park adds to the diversity of the area’s outdoor activities and should "really drive visitors and international visitors here.''
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The park is expected to employ 100 people, most of whom will be seasonal workers, Nagengast said, though administrative and maintenance staff will be permanent jobs.
Nagengast’s companies opened TreeHoppers and Scream-A-Geddon in 2015. It also has similar parks in Anderson, Ind.