George Millay, the ?father of the waterpark,? passed away in his sleep Feb. 6. Millay had been fighting cancer for several years and died in his San Diego home. He was 76.
Many credit the native Californian for creating an industry based entirely on water play. He opened SeaWorld San Diego in 1964, which was his first ?waterpark.? In 1971, Millay debuted California?s Magic Mountain. By 1977, he combined the two ideas water and amusement to develop Wet ?n Wild Orlando. This was the world?s first introduction to the waterpark. Wet ?n Wild mixed playgrounds, amusement park thrills and summer water fun into an industry that?s still growing worldwide.
With SeaWorld, he introduced Shamu, the first killer whale to live and flourish in captivity, to the public. He later took his SeaWorld shares and built new waterparks.
Though Millay had been battling cancer for years, he continued to travel the world. In 1994, he was inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions? Hall of Fame. In 2004, the World Waterpark Association presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award and a proclamation naming him the ?father of the waterpark.? In Millay?s biography,The Wavemaker, author Tim O?Brien details the innovator?s life, calling him ?a man who turned water into gold.?
Millay leaves his wife of 42 years, Anne; three sons; a daughter; and seven grandchildren.