Irvine Welcomes Return of Wild Rivers Water Park in 2022

Irvine Welcomes Return of Wild Rivers Water Park in 2022
A file aerial photo of Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif., on July 2, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Brad Jones

Wild Rivers Water Park will again be flowing with excitement—albeit at a new location at Orange County Great Park—after closing its gates nearly a decade ago.

Irvine city planning commissioners approved the construction of Wild Rivers with a 4-0 vote Nov. 19, completing the final hurdle in the approval process.

The new 35-acre project is expected to open to the public in May 2022.

The long-awaited project has been “anticipated since the closure of the original site at the Meadows Amphitheater,” Irvine Mayor Christina Shea told The Epoch Times via text message. She said the water park promises to be a popular attraction for families and will provide summer jobs for hundreds of young people.

“The design and features of the new water park will blend into a fun-filled adventure theme park for all family members no matter what the age,” she said.

The original Wild Rivers Water Park closed Sept. 25, 2011 after its lease with The Irvine Company expired. It was located at 350 Gitano, Irvine, which now houses Los Olivos Apartments.

The new waterpark will feature 10 attractions on opening day and two future attractions. Other amenities include food and beverage services, changing and locker areas, and a gift shop.

It is to be built in the Cultural Terrace district at the southeast corner of Great Park near the intersection of Great Park Boulevard and Skyhawk.

Plans also include a 15-acre parking lot with 1,232 parking spaces (plus the 20-acre waterpark make up the 35-acre project). The company will use the parking spaces during the summer, and the city will manage the lot during the off-season. Wild Rivers will pay for the construction of the waterpark, and the City of Irvine will cover the costs of the parking lot, estimated to be $11.7 million.

Under the lease agreement approved by city council in April, the city will receive 4.5 percent of the waterpark’s annual gross revenue with a minimum lease payment of $550,000 per year. The annual lease is expected to bring in anywhere from $550,000 to $1 million to the city, according to a city staff report.

The water park is expected to employ 12 full-time workers and 165 part-time staff. It hopes to attract up to 4,350 visitors per day, and will be open daily between 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., from mid-May to mid‐September.

“We have missed having a water park in Irvine,” former city councilwoman Melissa Fox wrote on her blog in April. “I was a kid sliding down the water slides at the old Wild Rivers and I was a young mom taking my son there on hot summer days. We know that Wild Rivers provides fun and safe water parks, and they’ve always had a great relationship with the residents of Orange County.”

The nearest homes are about 0.4-miles east of the project site.

“It is a great addition to the Great Park,” said Planning Commission Chairman Greg Smith at the meeting on Nov. 19. “My family used the facilities in the older days, consistently, and when Wild Rivers lost its opportunity to operate, we were disappointed. …This is very good for our city.”

City staff received two email inquiries about the project: One person was opposed to the project because of traffic concerns, and a second requested clarification of information about the project. No public comments were received during the Nov. 19 meeting.