?by Scott Gibson Residents of Las Vegas waited nearly a decade for a new public waterpark after the last one closed.
But that waiting came to an end in May, when the $40 million Wet ‘n’ Wild park opened on 20-plus acres in the southwestern part of the city.
The last public waterpark ended a 20-year run in 2004 when the company holding its lease decided to do something else with the property. According to the Las Vegas Sun, at least two entertainment companies considered opening a replacement park in the years that followed, but the recession was especially tough in Las Vegas. The city became known as the foreclosure capital of the country.
Now the economy is on the rebound, and last fall, a group of investors that included tennis greats Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf pushed ahead with plans to build a new waterpark. Still, says a spokesperson, it took a partnership between Howard Hughes Corp. and Clark County to get the project off the ground. The majority owner is Village Roadshow Ltd., an Australian entertainment behemoth with interests in film and DVD distribution, cinema production and theme parks.
The park was built by California Commercial Pools based in suburban Los Angeles.
The new venue opened over Memorial Day weekend to big crowds and traffic jams on nearby Fort Apache Road. People have been unfazed by the $40 general admission fee for visitors 42 inches and taller (if you’re short or a senior, you can get in for $30).
The venue’s 25 rides and attractions include Constrictor, a Top 5 pick of the Travel Channel’s “2012 Xtreme Waterparks” program, and Rattler, a four-person ride and the first of its kind in North America.
For locals who mourned the closing of the park in 2004 (also called Wet ‘n Wild, but under different ownership), the reopening rekindled long-lost pleasures. “Going on the Royal Flush made me feel like I was 11 again,” one local wrote on the Nevada Public Radio blog this summer.
Wet ‘n’ Wild officials are already “in the planning stage” for an expansion, and the area could see a second company open its own waterpark next year in nearby Henderson.
The Cowabunga Bay Water Park had been aiming for a Memorial Day 2013 opening for its $23 million park, according to vegasinc.com. But this spring, owners said that due to a variety of setbacks, the half-completed park wouldn’t open until 2014.
In August, vegasinc.com reported the Cowabunga property had been sold for half its original purchase price to Tom Welch, who led efforts to bring the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. The seller, Shane Huish, said the sale would actually aid a 2014 opening for the area’s second waterpark.
Water comes at a premium in Las Vegas. Water levels in Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam are falling steadily. For more than a decade, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has been paying residents of Las Vegas to rip up their lawns and replace turf with plants that don’t require as much water.
The park uses some 10 million gallons of water a year, yet waste is kept to a minimum, and the facility actually goes through much less water than typical houses, apartments or golf courses, officials said.
A variety of conservation measures help. For instance, water tanks are underground to decrease evaporation, and park landscaping includes drought-tolerant plants and an efficient drip-irrigation system.
At the end of the season, much of the park’s water will be sent back to Lake Mead for a water credit.