The opening of the Typhoon Texas waterpark in Katy, Texas, in May 2016 will represent Hlavinka’s biggest departure when it comes to business diversification. Typhoon Texas is the largest privately developed waterpark to be constructed in North American in more than a decade.
“I don’t see where it’s going to necessarily complement any of our current businesses,” says Terry Hlavinka, general manager of Hlavinka Equipment, a multi-store farm equipment dealer group based in East Bernard, Texas. But it’s been a goal of our family for a long time to do something to take advantage of the tremendous growth in the Houston metropolitan area.
“We’ve missed a lot of opportunities,” he says in recalling a story about his grandfather and the one that got away. “Reportedly, in the 1920s or ‘30s, my grandfather looked at some property in downtown Houston. He and his brother went there and kind of kicked the dirt around a little, but decided it wasn’t good enough to grow cotton. They didn’t buy it.”
That land is currently under the medical center in Houston that Hlavinka says today sells by the square inch.
More importantly, he says, “This is something that fills a badly needed void in the marketplace. We believe that the Houston market is missing high quality family entertainment. So the new waterpark is going to be kind of neat and deliver a service that makes kids laugh and families smile. You know, when we put a $20,000 engine in a guy’s tractor, he’s not normally smiling. So this is a fun project, and, people always seem happy to pay $8 for a hotdog.”
The 43 acre development, officially dubbed as Typhoon Texas, is the brainchild of Hlavinka and Texas A&M classmate Keith Dalton. “About 3 years ago, we were finishing up a project and decided we wanted to do something else together. We came up with the waterpark idea. Neither one of us had done anything like this before.”
“The real hard work came in learning the industry and enough about the business to take it to the bankers and other investors. Once we were comfortable enough to do this, raising the money was probably easier than either of us anticipated. We brought about 35 investors into the project, including my dad and my brother. They are my partners in our other businesses and I wanted them as partners in this,” says Hlavinka.
Is this setting the stage for other new ventures for Hlavinka? “Right now, our intent is to build one first-class, high quality family waterpark,” he says.