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FOX 13 News 360: What to do with dilapidated 'Raging Waters' site

Posted at 8:59 AM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 16:24:27-04

SALT LAKE CITY — It sure was a fun place to be in its heyday – Raging Waters on Salt Lake City's west side.

It had some of the first of its kind features for a water park – the wave pool and massive slides – but it went through a number of operators and then a decline in popularity and now sits dilapidated and shut down.

An eyesore for neighbors and a liability for the city which owns the property.

FOX 13 goes in depth and takes a 360 look at the former water park, where it stands now and what comes next for this site.

READ: Community council pitches 5 ideas for abandoned SLC water park

“There's a lot of fond memories and it's unfortunate we're at this point.”

This is the former Raging Waters property at 1200 west and 1700 south in Glendale. This is what it looks like after the previous operator walked away.

In this FOX 13 360 report, you'll hear from the Salt Lake City Assets Manager, the Glendale Community Council, and people who live near the run-down water park.

Despite security on site, the property has fallen victim to vandals, arsonists and thieves who have stripped any valuable metals or items.

It opened in 1979 as “Wild Wave.” The 500,000 gallon pool was one of only three wave pools in the world. It became “Raging Waters” in 1983 when new owners invested millions, building sky high slides, a 70 foot cliff dive, the world's first water roller coaster, hot tubs, kids pools and more.

It was seen as a destination for families to enjoy some safe summer fun.

Fast forward more than four decades from its beginning and a couple more operators coming and going and the park is now considered a safety hazard.

City officials walking through on a recent day with contractors putting together a bid for demolition and disassembly, while folks with the parks department looked to see if anything was salvageable.

“Most of the experts agree they would need to start over,” said Salt Lake City Assets Manager J.P. Goates. “As you see right now, it's a liability and we want to turn it into a community asset just like any of our city parks.”

“To find that kind of undeveloped land in Salt Lake City, in a neighborhood that's growing like ours is, is really unusual. so we have a really great opportunity,” said Glendale Community Council Chair Turner Bitton.

He says they've been trying to get input from residents on what they'd like to see here at this 17 acre site that sits just north of the glendale golf course. “It's often hard to build a consensus, you know, on a project like this. you're looking at a blank slate.”

“To have this open area, what's the goal to kind of keep that as a community space and as an area that's a community park or gathering place, you know, instead of just being developed into some sort of commercial area,” asked FOX 13’s Amy Nay.

“Yeah and I think it's very important that we do something to create a gathering space as you mentioned,” Bitton answered. “Here in Glendale, we have some remarkable features like the International Peace Gardens and Jordan Park, and our golf course, but what we really lack is a community space for outdoor concerts, say an amphitheater or even staged plays.”

The community council put together five different scenarios this past fall asking for public input - also possibilities, a new water park, sports courts, a regional park, public pool, splash pad and more.

“The thing that I am so excited about this site is that we can do all of the above,” Bitton said. “We can build pickle ball courts, or a beach or volleyball or all kinds of ideas that have been thrown out, the site is big enough that we can build a remarkable, incredible space for our neighbors.”

“We live so close to it, so to be able to have a nice park here, it would be nice,” said M.J. Baer, who lives nearby the site with his family and says it has been attracting the wrong kind of crowd in recent months. “It's kind of depressing, in all honesty.”

Baer welcomes any kind of improvement there, reminiscing about the good times he had there as a kid himself.

Vika Satini lives right next to the park and also has fond memories.

“I remember taking the water slides down and using the cool wave pool,” she said. “I loved it when it was open, because during the summertime all my kids would go swimming and then walk home to come home and eat and then they would go back again or hang out with friends.”

Satini loves the neighborhood but she's really missed the water park since it closed nearly 2 years ago - adding a new recreational area – hopefully with some sort of water involved - can't come soon enough.

“I would hope for like a public pool or a splash pad or something for families to go hang out there,” she said. “I mean there's already a park here, so something for the kids to get wet and go have fun because not a lot of people in the neighborhood have swimming pools.”

The conditions have taken a real slide since this ad in just 2010 and from what most people remember about the park. Now, it's what to dive into next.

“You're asking thousands of neighbors their vision for that site,” Bitton said while adding that can take some time. A consultant is now being hired by the city to solidify those options and public opinion. “When residents have all the information they need of the cost, and the conditions and the difficulties with a particular site, it makes it easier to build that consensus and bring people together on a shared vision for the site.”

READ: Survey asks what to do with abandoned water park in Glendale

The land does have some restrictions, because of how it was purchased. It needs to remain accessible to all and as some sort of active outdoor recreation area, but exactly what that may be, remains to be determined.

“We really do need everyone's voice,” Bitton said. “We want everyone's voice in this process.”

It could take months or even years before we'll see the re-imagined park.