There’s a new water park set to splash into Orange County! Wild Rivers Water Park is planning a come back – and bigger than before. Developers secured financing as of July 1, 2021 and ground breaking is scheduled to begin immediately.
The popular Southern California water park was located in Irvine, operating for 25 years from 1986 to 2011. The park was located on land that was originally home to Lion Country Safari, a drive through zoo that opened in 1970 and closed in 1984. When Lion Country went bankrupt, they subleased the land to Wild Rivers, Camp Frasier (a youth summer camp, now Camp James), and Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. The Irvine Co. chose not to renew the lease for Wild Rivers past 2011.
The original water park was a favorite among locals, with wave pools, lazy rivers, and a variety of slides to offer a place to cool off during the warm summers. In 2007, Great Park officials voted against setting aside land for the water park, but Wild Rivers advocates never gave up. After a series of talks and negotiations, an agreement between the water park and city officials set the stage for a newer, bigger Wild Rivers to come back to Irvine.
Wild Rivers Water Park Update
The Wild Rivers theme park will be returning to Irvine at the Orange County Great Park. Wild Rivers will break ground in 2021 with an anticipated opening of Spring 2022 (timeline is subject to change). Wild Rivers will pay for the construction of the water park, while the city will pay for and maintain a parking lot with approximately 1,225 spaces.
The New Wild Rivers Theme Park
The new and improved $60 million Wild Rivers Water Park (privately funded) will be located at the Great Park in Irvine. The new design will be a total of 26 acres – an almost 50% increase from the original park’s 14 acres – and will include an uphill water coaster, a longer lazy river, a bigger wave pool, water play structures, the original Wild Rivers’ popular Congo River Rapids, a reimagined version of Bombay Blasters, and of course, more water slides.
The water park will be built on 20 acres across from the sports complex along Skyhawk and Great Park Blvd instead of the originally planned location along Marine Way. The agreement includes a 30 year lease in which the city will receive either 4.5% of gross revenue or $550,000 per year, whichever is higher.
The city maintained 14.7-acre parking lot includes precise grading, landscape planting and irrigation plans, lighting plans, striping plans, and utility plans. The parking lot is to provide spaces for the future Wild Rivers Water Park and for visitors to the Cultural Terrace during Wild Rivers’ nonoperating season. The design budget is $11.7 million.
The park is expected to be open during the late Spring, summer and early fall seasons. Wild Rivers also hopes to keep the park open for events during the other months of the year.
The water park will be within the Cultural Terrace portion of The Orange County Great Park. The Cultural Terrace is the final piece of the Great Park’s Master Plan to be developed and may include a veteran’s cemetery, library, California fire museum, a permanent amphitheater, and a lake.
|Orange County Great Park||Orange County Great Park Sports Complex|
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|City of Irvine||Orange County Guide|
Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, an expert at exploring all that Orange County has to offer, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.