The Schlitterbahn and the city of Galveston have signed the deal to bring the water park there, though at the last minute it was revealed that there was another partner involved.
The city had originally planned to sign an agreement with the owners of Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort in New Braunfels. Officials learned recently that the deal, signed Friday, would include American National Insurance Co., headed by Robert L. Moody.
Schlitterbahn formed a limited partnership known as Galveston Island Water with two American National subsidiaries.
Sherrie Brammall, Schlitterbahn spokeswoman, declined to say how much of the $30 million cost of the park would be covered by American National.
The Henry family, which owns Schlitterbahn, has looked for ways to finance the park since talks of bringing it to Galveston began, Brammall said. The family settled on American National because it is a publicly traded lender in Galveston.
But the deal with American National took former Mayor Roger Quiroga by surprise.
"We had a suspicion that either Moody Gardens or one of the subsidiaries was involved in this in some sort of way," said Quiroga, who was mayor when the deal was approved. "We originally thought American National would be a lender."
Originally city officials thought Schlitterbahn, a New Braunfels-based water park giant, was going into the deal alone.
“This is taking me by total surprise,” said Roger “Bo” Quiroga, who was mayor when the deal was approved by city council. “What it tells me is that the Henrys are not as financially strong as they led us to believe.”
Schlitterbahn is headed by brothers Jeff and Gary Henry.
Although the park will be next to Moody Gardens, a nonprofit attraction subsidized by the billion-dollar Moody Foundation and controlled by the Moody family, [ Moody representative Irwin “Buddy”] Herz said there will be no relationship between the two attractions.
The partnership papers for Galveston Island Water Park were signed on Friday. That afternoon, Hertz and Jeff Henry, a Schlitterbahn principal who has been negotiating the deal, signed the lease for airport land. City Manager Steve LeBlanc and City Attorney Susie Green left a retreat with the new city council to finalize the deal.
Herz said the Moody family kept their negotiations with the Henrys a secret out of fear that some council members, including Quiroga, would try to kill the deal if they knew about the partnership.
“We were told there were four votes to kill it if there was any Moody money in it. That’s why the negotiations were extremely private,” he said.
Quiroga called this statement “asinine.” He said he only would have had reservations with the partnership if Schlitterbahn property was taken off the tax rolls.
“Just as long as they are paying taxes they can build whatever they want to build,” he said.
Moody Gardens, as a nonprofit entity, does not pay taxes.