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Building Attractions and Managing Risks

Creative economic development projects can substantially boost a city's or town's tourism, but getting creative can expose a municipality to liability it has never faced before. The annual members meeting of the Municipal Association's Risk Management Services insurance programs, the SC Municipal Insurance Trust and SC Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund, will feature two city officials describing how their city tackled the risk management challenges posed by innovative projects.

Neptune Island Waterpark, City of Hartsville
Neptune Island Waterpark won the City of Hartsville a 2019 Achievement Award
from the Municipal Association. Photo: City of Hartsville.

Both of the projects are 2019 winners of the Association's Achievement Awards: North Augusta's Riverside Village development and Hartsville's Neptune Island Waterpark.

The Riverside Village is a $230-million public/private partnership to develop North Augusta's Georgia-facing riverfront with the Minor League Baseball stadium SRP Park as well as a hotel, restaurants and apartments.

North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover, who will present at the RMS Annual Members Meeting says, some insured facilities, namely the parking decks, fall under the category of "traditional municipal offerings," while the city-owned baseball stadium, leased to the GreenJackets, is an example of a less-common facility that nonetheless needs coverage. He noted that when the project, insured by the SC Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund, approached completion, it was visited by the Municipal Association's Risk Management Services staff to assess the type of coverage SCMIRF could provide.

SRP Park at Riverside Village, City of North Augusta 
SRP Park is a major focal point of the award-winning
Riverside Village development. Photo: City of North Augusta.

The GreenJackets have now completed their second season at SRP Park, after seeing a huge boost in attendance in the inaugural 2018 season, counting more than 76,000 attendees in total.

The Hartsville project, Neptune Island Waterpark, presented by City Manager Natalie Zeigler, is a water park with slides, a wave pool and a lazy river. As a facility with open bodies of water, children and full exposure to weather, the overriding concern at Neptune Island is safety, Zeigler said.

"Creating a safe environment came before creating a fun environment. It had to be safe," she said.

The park has more than 20 lifeguards on duty at any time. It employs more than 130 people throughout the season, and the city focuses on their safety as well — making sure they have proper clothing, plenty of water and adequate breaks.

When the city decided to build Neptune Island, it made the decision to serve alcohol at the water park, but only in the designated bar area or at a rented cabana. The decision came from industry research, Zeigler said, showing that banning alcohol will lead to park guests attempting to sneak it in, or periodically going to their cars in the parking lot to drink, which creates liabilities for the city.

"If you do it in a more controlled environment at higher price points, with measures in place to make sure it's not abused, then we could still have a safe and enjoyable environment," she said.

Neptune Island also has a variety signs, warning of areas to avoid because of machinery, areas that are off-limits for alcohol or simply areas to move through carefully. To keep the signs from seeming excessively negative, the city designed them in a way to fit the pirate theme of the park, with many beginning with the words "BEWARE MATEYS!"

Warning sign at Neptune Island Waterpark, City of Hartsville
The warning signs at Neptune Island maintain
the attraction’s pirate theme. Photo: City of Hartsville.

"We didn't want signs just reading 'no' with a big slash through it," Zeigler said.

For the 2019 season, the first full season for Neptune Island, the city set a goal of 80,000 attendees. It surpassed this number by mid-August, ahead of the season closer on September 8.

The Risk Management Services Annual Members Meeting will take place November 12 in Columbia. Learn more about Achievement Award projects such as North Augusta's Riverside Village and Hartsville's Neptune Island online.