Published Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 | 1:40 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 | 7:20 p.m.
When he was a teenager, Las Vegas tennis star Andre Agassi used to cool off at the Wet ‘n Wild water park on the Strip.
And, when he was older, he took the Davis Cup tennis team there for an evening celebration after a big victory.
The park, a family attraction for locals as well as tourists, was closed in 2004 when landowners where the attraction was located made plans for a casino resort that was never built.
Now, Agassi’s children and Las Vegans young and old will get to experience a new Wet ‘n Wild in Summerlin.
Representatives of Australian entertainment giant Village Roadshow Ltd. announced during a media event today that it is renaming the Splash Canyon Water Park as Wet ‘n' Wild Las Vegas. The water park will be run by a different company than the original Wet 'n Wild (note the apostrophes) but will offer many similar features.
The 41-acre park, which already is under construction on Fort Apache Road near the Las Vegas Beltway and Sunset Road, is scheduled to open on Memorial Day.
The announcement of the Wet ‘n' Wild brand should heat up a brewing water park rivalry in Southern Nevada. The developer of a park in Henderson said today that his company is partnering with the owners of Cowabunga Bay in suburban Salt Lake City to bring an attraction that will be the first of its kind in the world.
Agassi has vivid memories of his favorite attraction at the park.
“When they built that capsule on the top of Der Stuka and you’d get in, push the button and the floor would open up underneath you … that was really cool,” he said.
Der Stuka was a seven-story tower that abutted Las Vegas Boulevard on the western end of the lot just south of the Sahara. When the park’s owners installed the Bomb Bay, it introduced a new element of suspense on the ride. The floor gave way and the rider suddenly plummeted about 20 feet before falling into the groove of a slide that rocketed them another 50 feet into a pool below.
The $50 million new park will have 25 slides, including the Rattler, a steep, twisting coiled chute with high-banked curves that is part tube and part flume, giving riders the experience of being both inside and out. The park also will feature a wave pool, lazy river, water playground and toddler pool, as well as a seven-story speed slide and head-first mat racer.
The attraction will be built on land leased from the Howard Hughes Corp., and investors will include Agassi; his wife, Steffi Graf; Dr. Steven and Karen Thomas, members of the Thomas family of Thomas & Mack Center fame; and Roger and Scott Bulloch, of SPB Capital Partners.
Village Roadshow is a 51 percent owner in the project and will manage the park. The entertainment company manages theme parks and movie theaters and owns music and film production and distribution facilities. The company has produced 66 films that have earned $10 billion at the box office, including the updated “Ocean's Eleven” with George Clooney, and its two sequels.
The Melbourne, Australia-based company also operates Sea World and Warner Bros. Movie World parks, as well as Wet ‘n' Wild parks in Hawaii, Phoenix and the Gold Coast of Australia, one of that nation’s premier tourist destinations.
NBCUniversal, a separate company, owns and operates the Wet 'n Wild Emerald Pointe Water Park in Greensboro, N.C., and Wet 'n Wild Orlando, a part of the Universal Orlando Resort.
Roger Bulloch, co-founder and managing principal of SPB Partners, said one of the most appealing aspects of the project is that the company will be able to provide 300 to 500 summer jobs for youths. In addition to the seasonal employment, the project is providing more than 200 construction jobs.
Bulloch said the partners sought an experienced theme park developer to operate the Las Vegas project and was impressed with Village Roadshow’s credentials. When Tim Fisher, CEO of Village Roadshow Theme Parks, entered the picture, everything clicked.
“I’ve been blown away by the reception we’ve received here,” Fisher said after the announcement, which was made at the World Waterpark Association conference and trade show, attended by more than 1,500 people at the Paris Las Vegas. “It seems that Las Vegas residents are dying to have a water park again.”
Locals and tourists have long bemoaned that Las Vegas has no full-scale water park. Wet ‘n Wild shut down in 2004 after nearly 20 years in operation on the Strip. Although developers have floated proposals for a replacement, no projects have come to fruition.
Most notably, in 2006, a former Disney and Universal Studios executive announced plans for Las Vegas Wet, a $10 billion combination indoor water park, ski slope, casino and hotel. It was supposed to open on Las Vegas Boulevard south of Interstate 215, but the idea burst along with the economy.
Now, two parks are expected to open in different locations in May.
Shawn Hassett, the developer of a 22-acre water park at Galleria Drive and Gibson Road, has announced that the new park would be called Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas. The owners of Cowabunga Bay in Draper, Utah, also operate parks in California, Oregon and Washington.
Hassett said his company, Vegas Residential LLC, recently closed on the deal for the acreage and is in negotiations to acquire adjacent land for other park amenities. Ground is expected to broken on Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas within weeks, and Hassett said the park also expects a May opening.
Hassett said the park would feature an attraction that would be the first of its kind in the world. He said he couldn’t disclose details of the attraction, which is being designed and built by a Turkish company, Polin Waterparks and Pool Systems.
Polin had an exhibit at the water park trade show, but representatives of the company said they were still a few weeks away from announcing anything about the new attraction.
Hassett said the attraction hasn’t been named, but “it’s going to be a unique and thrilling ride.”
CORRECTION: Corrected to say that Der Stuka was south of the Sahara. | (October 5, 2012)