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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

$200 Million Water Park Planned for Moscow

Construction of a $200 million water park at the Moskva-City development complex is scheduled to begin this month.

The project — Aqua-City-Palace — will open in 2 1/2 years with water rides, restaurants, shops and a hotel, said Konstantin Gaaze, head of public relations with the City Stroi company, which specializes in the construction and equipping of sports facilities.

"We want to provide everything a family needs for a day out," said Gaaze.

Gaaze predicted the new water park will break even in 10 to 12 years, assuming the complex, located in the Krasnopresnensky district, can attract 12,000 visitors a day at $6 a head.

Aqua-City-Palace is part of a City Hall program for developing physical education and sports in the capital and is the city's second such project. The $120 million Aquadrom complex is set to open this summer on Aminevsky Shosse.

Sergei Labetsky, general director of City Stroi, said the two water parks will serve different functions. Aqua-City-Palace will be aimed specifically at entertainment, while the Aquadrom also will host sporting events.

What the two projects do have in common is their system of financing.

Two years ago, the Moscow government approved a specially targeted program for developing physical education and sports. Under the project, structures built as part of this program "are financed from the funds of enterprises and organizations freed from the payment of profit tax to the city budget."

According to a recent report from the city's financial watchdog, the Audit Chamber, gas giant Gazprom channeled 1.5 billion rubles ($53 million) into Aquadrom in 1999. The city had rerouted Gazprom's profit taxes from the municipal budget to go directly to the water park's construction.

As far as Aqua-City-Palace is concerned, Gaaze declined to name the source of financing, saying only "it will partly include City Stroi's money."

Gaaze did not confirm that Gazprom was involved in the project, though he did not deny it.

However, a source in the city administration who declined to be named said Gazprom's profit taxes are also funding Aqua-City-Palace.

"A water park on the territory of Moskva-City will be built specifically from Gazprom funds under the same scheme as with Aquadrom. City Stroi had not planned to invest its own funds in the Aqua-City-Palace project," the source said.

The Audit Chamber report said that in 1999-2000, Gazprom ploughed 1 billion rubles ($35 million) into the Moskva-City development complex, but it does not specify which Moskva-City project.

"As a commercial organization, it's all the same to us whether we pay this money into the municipal budget or transfer it to finance-specific projects in the city," said a Gazprom tax specialist who declined to be named.

"For example, funds for the Aquadrom or city projects are transferred directly by Gazprom, bypassing the city budget. It's convenient. Settlements can be made with promissory notes, for example."

Mikhail Beskhmelnitsyn, an official at the Audit Chamber who worked on the Gazprom audit, agrees that the gas monopoly's funding is disinterested.

"The park can in no way be considered a Gazprom project," he said.