Project Wants Mesa to Become ‘Surf City’

Credit: East Valley Tribune

By Jim Walsh for East Valley Tribune 
A developer already has “Surf Mesa’’ tee-shirts printed, hoping that his proposed two-acre “surf lagoon” turns into a regional attraction near Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport. 
But while the lagoon is the centerpiece of Cannon Beach, it also includes 475KSF of commercial space, a gym, a climbing wall, a go-cart track, a 65-foot tall hotel and retail space. 
All of this would be built only about a mile northwest of the airport, in an overflight area where housing could not be built without a permit because of aircraft noise. 
The developer, Cole Cannon, said “there’s a huge, transplanted population from Southern California’’ that yearns to go surfing again, but can’t return home every weekend. 
He said his focus is on a 25-45-year age bracket that highly values unique experiences, such as hiking a national park or surfing, rather than just acquiring possessions. 
Cannon envisions travelers using the airport and staying at the hotel to either surf or just enjoy people-watching and a beach ambiance transplanted from Southern California to the Sonoran Desert. 
Cannon said he has retained experts in water dynamics that will help him realize his dream – including a contractor who has built facilities for the Navy SEALs. 
Working with large bodies of water can be tricky and probably will be the hardest part of completing the project, Cannon said. 
“We are fully expecting a lot of trial and error,’’ Cannon said. “We have the (capital) to do this. We have built simulators of it.’’ 
Cannon declined to release a price tag but said he would like to start construction next spring.  
With the best technical help available, he said, “we want to get a perfect wave.’’ 
Cannon anticipates his beach project will turn into a major destination, but added, “We need cooperation from the city and we need cooperation from COVID-19.’’ 
Wave parks are becoming trendy in the desert. Another one is planned at the Gilbert Regional Park.  
Jerry Lehman, a former nationally ranked surfer, said he is planning to build two Surf Town attractions – one each in the East and West Valleys. 
Lehman declined to release the locations until he has land deals sown up, but he said he has an investor willing to finance both parks.  
Developers of The Strand in Gilbert announced recently that their $60M water park would be delayed a year, with a summer 2021 opening planned. 
The Strand would be a 25-acre project at the new Gilbert Regional Park under construction at Queen Creek and Higley Road as part of a public-private partnership solicited by the town. 
Cannon Beach will use about one-eighth of the water now used at the site for agriculture, Cannon said.  
The 40-acre site is on the east side of Power Road, north of the Loop 202 and south of Warner Road. 
Cannon Beach won a unanimous recommendation for approval from the board. The project would go before the City Council next for consideration of the necessary zoning changes. 
The proposal covers nearly 60 acres, but the south 20 acres are merely conceptual, with more details to come later.  
It would change the zoning from agricultural to general commercial, with a planned area development overlay that signifies a certain standard or theme. 
A council use permit would be required to allow outdoor dining and seating in the airport over-flight zone. A boardwalk would circle the lagoon and lead to other attractions, such as the restaurants and the hotel. 
A second section would include some additional entertainment options, including an indoor trampoline and the go-cart track. A third section would be rezoned for light industrial nearer to the airport. 
Restaurants, office space and indoor recreational activities including a gym, go-cart track and climbing wall would be included. The south portion would be oriented more towards work than fun, featuring light industrial uses compatible with the airport. 
Read more at East Valley Tribune. 

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