SAVANNAH -- Savannah thrill-seekers looking for a splashy family outing could soon have an option that doesn't involve a drive to the beach.
Dream Water LLC, a local group, has unveiled designs for a sprawling theme park - tentatively called Pirates Cove Water & Fun Park - on a 22-acre plot at the northwest corner of Interstate 95 and Ga. 204, a locale already teeming with hotels, restaurants and outlet stores.
The water park project is still in planning stages and hasn't gone before the Savannah City Council for approval, but its planners lack little in the way of ambition.
"We want that 'wow' factor," said Robert Welch, a consultant who's worked two years on the project.
Welch, based in Puerto Rico, envisions massive pirate ships, towering water slides and lazy rivers that offer a leisurely respite for parents. Drier activities, such as batting cages, mini golf or a paintball zone, are also on developers and investors' radar.
"I think it's a great opportunity for Savannah - a place for families and young adults to go," Welch added. "A nice, clean atmosphere."
According to Dream Water, a company formed with the Savannah water park in its sights, the project's 10-acre, $6 million first phase could take only a year to open.
First-phase plans include:
-- A quarter-mile lazy river with a wave pool
-- Inner tube and body slides
-- An interactive pool and play area for children
-- An adult activity pool with volleyball and basketball
-- A pool for teenagers that includes a cargo net
-- A spa
-- Dry activities, such as an arcade and sand volleyball
-- A food court
-- Retail shops
Another five years out, proposed additions include go-kart courses, mini-golf, batting cages, laser tag, paintball and an indoor water park, Welch said.
Funding is "99.9 percent" finalized for the first phase, he added, and engineers are meeting with municipal planners on acquiring proper permits for the venture.
Speaking generally, Dick Knowlton, former president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, cited studies that spoke to Savannah's conduciveness to such a theme park.
"Every one of those (studies) was very positive," Knowlton said, "and they all emphasized that the way our tourist industry is structured, if we could keep people for an extra day, it would have a huge economic impact on the community."
Knowlton, now president of White Branch Consultants in Guyton, noted the success of Splash in the Boro, a popular water park in Statesboro.
"That was a local idea, a local investment, and it's a success economically," he said. "Folks use it, enjoy it and are really happy that investment was made."
Count Chatham County Commissioner Dean Kicklighter among supporters of the water-wonderland idea.
"I think it's the final missing piece of the puzzle for the Savannah area to become the ultimate travel destination," said Kicklighter, in whose district the water park would sit. "We have everything as far as beauty and historic areas that would draw adults. What we really lack are enough things for families to bring their children.
"This would be a nice addition."