An Epic Undertaking

Rick Herold—Parks, Arts, & Recreation Director for Grand Prairie, Texas—is at the center of an effort to bring a large recreational hub to the city

On the TV show Parks and Recreation, Parks Director Leslie Knope always tried to bring the next big attraction to her town, and though her idealistic plans often seemed untenable, she never gave up until those plans came to fruition.

That shoot-for-the-moon attitude is shared by Rick Herold, a real-life director of Parks, Arts, & Recreation for Grand Prairie, Texas, which is spearheading the Epic Water Park. The monumental project will bring a 110,000-square-foot indoor water park with a retractable roof and 3.5 acres of outdoor space to the city.

The nearly $80 million development was made possible by a 25-cent sales tax approved by Grand Prairie voters in May 2014.

Among the many notable features at Epic Water Park is the retractable roof, which Rick Herold says will make the attraction the first water park in the United States to be able to remain open all 365 days of the year.
Among the many notable features at Epic Water Park is the retractable roof, which Rick Herold says will make the attraction the first water park in the United States to be able to remain open all 365 days of the year. (Rendering: HKS Architects, Inc.)

“Epic is something that hasn’t been done before,” Herold says. “We are creating a world-class water park that will be something very special for the city. Our citizens are very pleased and have a lot of trust in our political leaders and the dreams we all share.”

To get the ball rolling, the department hired Dallas-based HKS Inc. as its project designer and reached out to noted water park consultant Daryl Matzke to help with its lofty goals.

Design Team: HKS Inc.

Contractor: Lee Lewis Construction

Water Park Consultant: Daryl Matzke

Targeted Opening: Summer 2017

Estimated Project Cost: $75–$80 million

“We wanted to get a team of the best water park designers in the world because we knew we wanted to create something better than anyone’s ever seen,” Herold says. “We went to Toronto and found this incredible retractable roof, so now we’ll be the first water park that can be open 365 days a year. We’re very excited about that.”

Once completed, the water park is also expected to have one of the longest lazy rivers in the United States, as well as slides and rides that are unique to the venue.

Herold has been with the Parks, Arts, & Recreation department since graduating from the University of North Texas in 1988 and it’s his mission to support the city and community as best he can.

Six years ago, he led the charge on the formation of the $23 million Summit, the country’s first Baby Boomers facility that offers everything from a theater to water aerobics for adults aged 50 and older. The success of such projects encouraged the community to get behind the ideas of the department today.

More Than Water

Although the water park will be the main attraction, there are numerous spaces in the Epic project that will entice people to the area.

Components of Epic include a large indoor play area, an amphitheater, a state-of-the-art fitness center, library, café, art studios, teen rooms, and even a sound-recording studio.

“We envision Epic as a rec center on steroids,” Herold says. “There are incredible health components to the facility. All the fitness equipment is there. Then we have these indoor climate-controlled trails, but we took it a step further and [created] an adventure trail, à la American Ninja Warriors, with an obstacle course in the middle.”

The art studio will house an artist-in-residence who will teach his or her skills for three to four months to the community. Once that time is up, the artist will leave a piece of art to become a permanent part of the Epic venue.

Epic By the numbers

110,000 sq. ft.
size of the water park

118,000 sq. ft.
size of the recreation center

10 acres
lot size of PlayGrand Adventures area

As a way to appeal to teens, Epic is including Zone 13–17, which is dedicated to those 13 to 17 years of age only.

The department took a unique approach to that room, letting 60 different teenagers, aged 13 to 17, design the room rather than experienced designers, Herold says. “The kids designed what they wanted.”

There’s also a professional kitchen that will feature a variety of healthy-eating demonstrations and hands-on opportunities for aspiring chefs.

Finally, a major component of the endeavor will be Epic’s PlayGrand Adventures—a 10-acre, all-inclusive, barrier-free playground for people of all abilities. As Herold explains, the idea is to separate the playground into several adventure lands, each able to stand on its own, but ultimately functioning as one. The lands will incorporate inclusive features so all visitors can associate with each other regardless of their abilities.

“Epic takes the conventional and makes it a life center [where] people will spend lots of time,” Herold says. “We look at this as a game-changer for the city. It’s a legacy project in that it will be something that the people will utilize [now and in the future], and it will touch thousands upon thousands of lives.”

Ultimately, Grand Prairie will add new rides and slides in future phases of the project.

Epic - Track 01
Besides the water park, Epic also includes a large indoor play area, which features basketball and volleyball courts, in addition to a state-of-the-art fitness center and amphitheater. (Rendering: HKS Architects, Inc.)

What’s To Come?

Looking ahead, two hotels are already in contact about possibly building on the site, with restaurant and retail operators also ready to take advantage of all the visitors the water park is expected to bring to the area.

Epic is expected to hold a grand opening in late summer 2017.

“It’s been an honor being a part of Parks and Recreation and seeing unique projects like this come about,” Herold says. “When people come to Dallas or Fort Worth, they will know Epic and want to come out for all it has to offer.”

Click here to see a video about this epic project.