A much-loved main attraction on Lakeshore Drive for 34 years is closing for good.
Wild Rapids Waterslide Park in Sylvan Lake will open for its final season today.
Charlie Everest, general manager, said the water park has been the cornerstone of the community for three-and-a-half decades.
But he said everything boils down to economics.
“The pre-season and upkeep is rising every year,” said Everest. “You can see in the future those costs are going to keep rising. The only way to absorb those costs are through the ticket price, which would keep on rising. You can look into a crystal ball and it is no longer viable to keep the water park running.”
The park is operated by Bear Development Corp. It will shut down on Sept. 5.
Everest wanted to dispel the rumor that the park is closing because of safety concerns. He said the water park passed all its inspections and safety is always a priority.
The Town of Sylvan Lake stepped in to buy the 3.5-acre parcel of land for $4.9 million and will apply for a transfer of an additional 1.5 acres from the province.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre said public access to the water is a priority for residents and added public space along the lake is needed.
“Our plan is to return it to the people,” said McIntyre. “This opportunity, with this size of parcel of land in such a sensitive area, comes once in a lifetime. We know Lakeshore Drive means so much to our residents. It is important for us to secure the land and plan for that use of the land together. That way we ensure it serves our community’s best interest. We really see it as an exciting opportunity.”
McIntyre said the town will conduct planning exercises or public consultation with the community to develop a space for the community. He said he is happy to see the land developed in a way that reflects the public interest.
“There are so many opportunities,” he said. “So many people have great memories of the waterslide. It has reached its lifespan now. It’s time for new life on that parcel of land and we’re going to plan for it together.”
The property includes a private parking lot, an outdoor waterslide, and a number of buildings. The property also homes a number of businesses that lease space. Public consultation is expected to start sometime this year.