Salt Lake City wants to replace run-down water park with something new

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Security guard Nathan Lancaster walks the property, Oct. 29, 2020. In the 1980's Raging Waters water park was home to the world's third wave pool. Today the property is in such disrepair that Salt Lake City needs to disassemble it and figure out some kind of new park to replace it. Closed since 2018,vandalism and operator abandonment has left the park a liability for the city.

The pools leak, the slides need resurfacing, the snack bar caught fire and the entire park has been stripped of its wiring.

Salt Lake City’s old Raging Waters has bottomed out since its glory days, when it was touted as one of the first wave pools in the world and its waterslides enticed long lines of families on hot summer afternoons. Also formerly known as the Wild Wave and Seven Peaks, the 17-acre, 40-year-old Glendale water park is likely beyond repair.

City staff want the public to weigh in on what should happen next.

“The state of the park isn’t good,” said Blake Thomas, director of Community and Neighborhoods. “The projected cost to restore it is $25 million, possibly more.”

That price tag caused contractor Blue Island Group to bail on restoring the city-owned park’s slides and pools. City staff estimate it will take about $500,000 to scrap the site and start over with something new.

“I’m not happy about the state of affairs at the park currently, but I am happy we have some purchasers who will recycle the slides and other equipment,” Thomas said. “So we’ll get a small payment to offset costs.”

The city has long owned the park property and leased it to various operators. It mothballed the park after opting not to renew a contract with Seven Peaks in 2018. The site has since attracted vandals. Several structures have caught fire and others are not up to code.

City officials are anxious to remove the eyesore and they are soliciting ideas on what to build in its place.

A community survey launched in September to gather feedback on the park’s future and to collect memories from the old Raging Waters. The survey closes Wednesday.

“We know the water park is a beloved place where, for decades, families have made so many memories,” Thomas said. “With this project, it’s really important to me that city residents be part of the decisions that ultimately change the features of their neighborhood, especially public spaces.”

There are a few caveats. Because Salt Lake City purchased the property with the Utah Land and Water Conservation fund, it must remain open space with equitable community access.

“As long as it stays as a publicly dedicated space and park,” Thomas said, “whether it’s water features or primarily green space ... I want for folks to dream big.”

The city has received 3,554 responses so far, Thomas said, and 87% support disassembling the water park. Still, 53% would prefer adding a new water park if cost was not an issue.

Next steps include collaborating with the Salt Lake City Public Lands Division and the City Council. Thomas expects the planning process for the park’s transformation to take about a year.

For more information about the ramshackle Raging Waters and to participate in the survey, visit the Salt Lake City Community and Neighborhoods website.