Thursday, Aug. 12, 2004 | 11:06 a.m.
After 20 years as an oasis for children on the Las Vegas Strip, the Wet 'n Wild waterpark next to the Sahara hotel-casino will close for good on Sept. 26, the last day of its regular season, park officials said today.
The move is the latest indication that the owner of the land is making progress on longstanding plans to build a resort or other major project on the 27-acre parcel.
Landlord Archon Corp. notified the waterpark a few weeks ago that it planned to redevelop the site and remove the park. That was the first official notification from Archon in spite of multiple public announcements by the company over the past year that it someday planned to build a casino resort on the site, Wet 'n Wild Marketing Manager Hannah Johnston said.
Wet 'n Wild had held out hope of operating for the 2005 season until late last week, when it received a second communication from Archon confirming the redevelopment plans, Johnston said.
Waterpark owner Palace Entertainment is interested in building another park in Las Vegas but can't guarantee it because of myriad obstacles including rising land prices, Wet 'n Wild General Manager Mike Fijas said.
Some of the park's 30 year-round employees will be transferred to other Palace Entertainment waterparks nationwide but most have received termination notices, Johnston said. The park employs 300 to 600 people during peak periods.
About 80 percent of visitors are locals and the remainder are tourists, she said. Palace Entertainment, one of the nation's largest chain of family amusement centers and waterparks, operates 33 parks nationwide.
Archon in February 2003 received approval from the Clark County Commission to build a 50-story hotel with more than 3,000 rooms and timeshare units anchored by a 12-story ferris wheel and a man-made lake. But a business partner in the deal, Voyager Entertainment International Inc., pulled out of the project and decided instead to build a giant ferris wheel at the Rio hotel-casino. That deal also fell through.
Archon has declined to discuss the project further and officials could not be reached this morning.
The company has been seeking a joint venture partner to redevelop the site and more recently rejected an offer to sell it, according to a source familiar with the plans. The company hasn't ruled out the option of selling off the land to developers, the source said.