Joey McCollough and Norman Agan II, both of Douglasville, are trying to raise $150,000 as quickly as possible for a down payment on property that contains the remnants of Sun Valley Beach.
For more than 40 years, Sun Valley Beach at 5350 Holloman Road, just outside the Powder Springs city limits in southwest Cobb, offered area residents the opportunity to gather in a pleasant, wooded area for a wide range of activities, including swimming in a massive public pool.
But, in the summer of 2008, the community hot spot was the scene of two tragic deaths. On May 27, 2008, 16-year-old, Ifeanyi Odihe, drowned in the pool while attending a school-sponsored outing. Then on August 10, 2008, a 5-year-old, Kavi Patel of Smyrna, drowned.
Odihe’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owners of Sun Valley Beach, Wayne and Ann Powell.
The business went into foreclosure in 2011 and did not reopen the following 2012 summer season. McCollough said the land has changed hands a few times in recent years.
McCollough said he is fueled by taking on impossible challenges, and his desire to reopen Sun Valley Beach comes from being a kid at heart.
“I like making people smile,” McCollough said.
Sun Valley Beach first opened as an amusement center and water park in 1964, according to promotional material from when the attraction was still in operation.
The brochure stated, “You don’t have to leave town to go to the beach.”
Sun Valley Beach offered everything from a place for company picnics to summer camp for kids to pony rides.
And of course, the biggest draw was the chance to take a dip in the largest pool in the Southeast, which McCollough said can hold 1.5 million gallons of water.
The 33.8 acres of commercial property is listed for $580,000 on real estate website LoopNet.
According to LoopNet.com, that price includes the buildings and equipment still sitting on the property, and owners are asking “for less than the land value.”
McCollough and Agan, who both have experience working in theme parks, formed Noumena Inc. to purchase and manage Sun Valley Beach. Agan has drafted a 40-page business plan.
McCollough, owner of Remember This Paint Studio in Hiram, has worked for Six Flags and Walt Disney World. Agan said he has been in the insurance business for three years and was the head of security for a haunted house attraction.
Agan said they are two men “with great contacts who never sleep.”
Noumena Inc. already has received four construction bids on the cost of renovating the pool area, ranging from $500,000 to $5.5 million.
The higher bid was for a full-scale water park, but McCollough said their budget is for $1.25 million with a more traditional pool and concession area design.
Odihe’s parents claimed in the lawsuit the pool water was unclear, resulting in their teenage son not being seen by lifeguards.
If Noumena Inc. is successful in purchasing Sun Valley Beach, McCollough said the new operation would be better managed and maintained than when it was last open.
But, McCollough added he has budgeted $10,000 a year in liability insurance and knows that insurance companies do factor deaths into coverage rates.
McCollough said planned improvements will also go a long way to making the pool safer, such as fully cementing the pool. Sun Valley Beach started as a pond, and some unfinished underwater areas had dirt bottoms.
A new beach front would be added to lead into the shallow area, and the deep end would not be the original 12 feet, but 10 feet at most.
“If we can’t do it right, we aren’t going to do it,” McCollough said.
McCollough isn’t sure what features of the old pool – which had 11 slides, Tarzan ropes and a log roll – will remain.
The business plan includes fixing what is broken and upgrading the water park, perhaps by adding a lazy river.
The property owners want to quickly sell the acreage, according to McCollough, so Noumena Inc. needs a quick influx of cash before the chance to restore the local gem is snatched by someone else who many have different plans for the vast amount of land.
The duo said $150,000 would be enough to secure a down payment. Agan said they want to enter into negotiations after a large fundraising event in early September.
Agan said the pool could reopen in the summer of 2014, which would be 50 years after Sun Valley Beach was created.
Other attractions outside of the pool area could open much sooner, like a drive-in movie theater or a retro video arcade.
Agan said there are at least three serious personal investors, not firms or corporations, who are anxious to sign on to the project.
“It all starts with an idea. It doesn’t matter if you have money or not,” McCollough said.
If Noumena Inc. purchases the property, the business partners promise to keep the Sun Valley Beach name to honor the nostalgic feel many community members have for the park.
McCollough said he doesn’t want Sun Valley Beach to become a tourist stop, but a local destination that will play a big role in the lives of nearby residents of Cobb, Paulding and Douglas counties.
Agan said the goal is to offer a clean, safe and affordable place, and that both men know from experience: “Customer service is key.”