Bradley targets $70M-plus indoor waterpark

H&LA is excited about the opportunity to work with the Village of Bradley, Illinois on the feasibility study for the proposed indoor waterpark.

Published: September 2023
Published by: Daily Journal/Lee Provost

Swimsuits and floaties may soon become a vital part for anyone on their way to Bradley and not just for the summer months.

The Bradley administration received approval Monday from village board members to move forward on a feasibility study to locate a $70-million to $100-million year-round indoor waterpark on village-owned property in the general area of the Northfield Square mall.

While the best site for the indoor waterpark will be determined by the study, the village is eyeing a glass-enclosed structure than would cover some 90,000 to 100,000 square feet or about 2.5 acres.

The nearest indoor waterpark to the Kankakee County region would be Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee and the Grand Bear Resort near Starved Rock.

The village has been studying such a development for at least a year.

A formal study would likely take at least four to five months.

When coupling the indoor waterpark with the already-announced baseball-softball complex along St. George Road, the village could be committing upwards of $135 million.


On Monday, the village board unanimously approved a resolution approving a market feasibility and financial analysis study at a cost of $45,000 with Cleveland, Ohio-based Hotel & Leisure Advisors, LLC.

Bradley is banking its future on tourism. Bradley Mayor Mike Watson said the attraction of an indoor water complex is it would not be seasonal, meaning it would be an attraction not based on Midwestern weather.

If all goes as hoped by the village, the study will show Bradley is ideally suited for tourism based on its proximity to not only the Chicago region to the north, but to the Champaign area to the south.

“I’m game for big stuff like this,” Watson said Monday.

He said H&LA has the expertise to lead the village. He said the village is focused on family-friendly entertainment and the indoor park and the baseball-softball complex will anchor the village and provide year-round tourism.

Rob Romo, Bradley finance director, has been deeply involved in these developments. He said the projects are about driving economic impact.

“We will take what they [consultants] say and see if it makes sense,” he said. “If people are staying [overnight] here, what can they do?” The waterpark, he said, is an obvious answer.

“There are those who say this is radical,” Watson said. “I don’t believe that.”

The village is also setting forth plans on a $30- to $35-million, multi-diamond youth baseball and softball complex on 126 acres immediately east of the Super Walmart store at St. George Road.

Together the projects represent the opportunity to bring large numbers of visitors and their wallets to Bradley specifically and Kankakee County in general.


The funding of these projects is slated to come through the 1 percentage point sales tax within the village’s business district, which encompasses the village’s retail hubs.

According to projections from the village administration, the 1% business tax rate could generate in excess of $168 million during the course of its 23-year life span.

The targeted area — village-owned land in every direction around the long-struggling mall — provides what could be viewed as prime location for a such a development.

This area is located immediately off of Interstate 57’s 315 interchange which drops motorists at the mall’s entrance where numerous hotels already stand. The village board purchased the Carson’s site in Oct. 2019 for $1.1 million.

The village also owns the vacant former JCPenney store on the southeastern side of the mall. It bought the former mall anchor store in June 2021 for $577,500.

David Sangree, H&LA president and founder, noted in a report the economic and health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, said it is imperative to consider the current development climate. The study, he said, will take into account the ramifications of the pandemic-induced economic downturn and provide projections not only for market recovery, but also how the waterpark will perform after opening.

H&LA has completed studies for more than 700 waterparks, amusement parks and waterpark resorts within the United States and Canada.

The study will look with great detail at the site; area, demographics and neighborhood analysis; park use projections and pricing; financial analysis; feasibility study; as well as a comparison of value created to projected costs.

The study will also take a detailed look at available lodging.

Simply put, the study will determine whether the location and the surrounding market provides for a successful development.

“We would like to attract tourist dollars that are going to the Wisconsin Dells,” Watson said.

It is his thought that once people start coming to the area for the baseball and softball complex at St. George Road, they will quickly realize how easy a destination point Bradley is.