MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A water park in Montgomery whose funding drew controversy during the legislature’s budgeting process in 2023 is officially open.

State and local officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday said Montgomery Whitewater will be an economic boon for not just the area but the entire state.

The project, however, is still short $20 million in funding.

The shortfall comes after the park expected $25 million from the legislature this session — that’s what Gov. Kay Ivey called for in her education budget.

Lawmakers instead allocated $5 million toward the park. State representatives for the area said they’re still looking to make up that $20 million and hope the governor’s initial support can lead to more money.

“I hope that she can find it or we as the legislature we can find it somewhere, so we’ll take the lead on it,” Rep. Kenyatte Hassell (D-Montgomery) said. “But I really believe that she do support this and that we’re going to find the funding.”

The governor’s office would not comment on any future support for funding.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-District 7) said she expects the whole state will feel the economic impact through new jobs and more tourism.

“It’s not just a local project,” Sewell said. “This project, because it’s right off the interstate, has a way of booming not just Montgomery but literally up and down 65.”

According to the park’s CEO David Hepp, Montgomery Whitewater is one of just three in the world like this. It includes kayaking and whitewater rafting options for people of all skill levels.

Since it’s near Maxwell Air Force Base, park officials hope it will also give service members and their families a recreational outlet.

“Just having something like this in an urban setting, that is so close, it is awesome,” Hepp said.

Hepp says this water park is only phase one of a larger plan to add land sports, including a trail system, climbing wall, zip line and more in the coming years.