The first phase of a $75 million water park at The Forks easily cleared one of the usual hurdles at city hall in Winnipeg.

The mayor's cabinet voted Wednesday to provide the builder a $7-million subsidy to help give low-income children access to the facility.

Mayor Sam Katz, however, was not part of the executive policy committee's vote April 18. As soon as the indoor water park proposal arose in discussions, Katz, who is also owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team, excused himself from his cabinet's meeting.

He said he received independent legal advice this week, suggesting he shouldn't vote on the water park because of its expected proximity to the baseball stadium.

"The cautionary approach is to basically recuse yourself," said Katz.

Also missing from the meeting were the full details on how a $7-million subsidy for the water-park builder, Canalta Hotels, will work to ensure low-income children have access to the park.

"I'm not sure that me speaking about what's happening in the negotiation at this time is something that I should be doing," said Clive Wightman, the city's director of community services.

City staff members are negotiating that part of the agreement with Canalta, which might exclude free access for low-income individuals on long weekends and holidays.

"I'm confident that our people are professional and responsible and they're going to negotiate that in our best interests," said Coun. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert).

The regular admission cost could be around $30 per person.

"We wouldn't be able to afford that," said parent Tegan Bettencourt

Several delegations came forward Wednesday, calling for the subsidy money to instead be spent on local splash pads and community centres in Winnipeg.

"I have a hard time thinking access to a water park is the best use," said Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights - Fort Garry).

"I'm hoping to delay it a bit – let's see if we really need it at The Forks," said Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital).

Other Manitobans, however, said The Forks would be a good spot.

"It's central and it's already a congregated place for people to come, so why not a water park here?" asked Phil Nativivad.

Meanwhile, Winnipegger Ty Tran, who has lobbied for years for an indoor water park, said the 50,000-square-foot plan for The Forks is too small.

City staff and Canalta will negotiate over the next 90 days, and more details are expected to be released later about how the subsidy will work.

It will still have to be voted on by city council, as a whole, in upcoming weeks.

As for the design of the water park, that involves a whole separate process that has yet to be worked out. That portion would also have to be voted on.

Mayor Katz said he will also be recusing himself from all future debates and votes on the water park at The Forks. 

- with a report from CTV's Jeff Keele