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. Signing of the lease has not yet been confirmed, but the plan was approved and the design process is in motion. 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 Update
According to the Wild Rivers official Facebook page, Wild Rivers and the Irvine City Council are close to a deal that would allow for a May 2021 opening. Assuming an agreement is reached, the city council may vote on a lease as early as February 2020.
The New Wild Rivers
The new and improved $50 million Wild Rivers Water Park 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. Development of the water park will also include a 1,200 space $11.7 million parking lot.
The water park will be built on 20 acres across from the sports complex along Skyhawk instead of the originally planned location along Marine Way. The agreement would include a 30 year lease in which the city would receive either 4.5% of gross revenue or $550,000 per year. The new development area is also large enough to accommodate a lazy river and more water slides.
The water park will still 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, firefighting museum, a permanent amphitheater, and a lake. Some design changes and an environmental review will be required before construction can begin at the new site, but Wild River’s President Mike Riedel hopes to get things started in July with plans to open the new water park by Summer 2021. Visit the Wild River’s Website to see the new park layout.
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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.