Irvine’s soon-to-be water park broke a four-month social media silence by posting an image of the new Wild Rivers site design on Facebook. While the project has yet to break ground, Irvine residents didn’t hesitate to share their excitement.

The July 24 post included an aerial rendering of the proposed design, and indicated that Wild Rivers had submitted the new plans to the city of Irvine:

“We submitted our site design to the City of Irvine this week. We hope to have the design and environmental reviews completed and in front of the Planning Committee in September. This will let us break ground at the beginning of 2021 and open in May of 2022.”

Since then, the post gained more than 600 likes and had nearly 300 comments from users recalling childhood memories and displaying excitement over the new Wild Rivers site design.

Mike Riedel, president of Wild Rivers Waterpark, said he’s thankful for the community’s continued enthusiasm, considering how long the project has taken.

“We’ve been lucky that we’ve had such great support all the way through this process, and it’s been a long one,” Riedel said during a phone interview with Irvine Weekly. “Everyone’s been really supportive, that includes all the members of the council as well.”

Project roadblocks

Riedel has spent more than a decade trying to reopen Wild Rivers. The two most important aspects of the project – land and funding – have been difficult to acquire at the same time.

During an April 28 Great Park Board Meeting, the board cited an “unforeseen delay” in the land transfer of the planned construction site and recommended the City Council approve a new 20-acre site for Wild Rivers.  

“I’ve been working on this project since 2006 or 2007. We’ve been working on it a long time. We got some lease extensions closed in 2011 and have been trying to find new dirt and get financing — both are difficult, and we never seem to have one and the other at the same time,” he explained. “Now everything seems to be lining up. We’ve got the right partners in place.”

Rieder said the new Wild Rivers site design will include some aspects of the old park, but mainly will become a new, improved version of the Irvine-based water park.

“Where we found success in Wild Rivers 1.0 was that we were able to segregate the bigger kids from the little kids by putting all the little kid attractions on what we called The Island, in between the Lazy River,” he said. “That theme works well in the new park.”

What to expect

In terms of rides, Rieder was excited to announce the new design does include some old favorites from the original 1986 design. However, there will be significant upgrades to the look and feel to the new Wild Rivers Water Park.

“We brought back the Bombay Blasters slide, which is an iconic Wild Rivers ride. It’s a tube slide that goes underneath the ground. And a ride that will be called “Switzer,” which was kind of a transitional ride for the little kids, before they start riding the bigger rides.”

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Rieder says he thinks the project is on track — considering the hurdles that it has already cleared. While he expects the pandemic to keep attractions closed for the foreseeable future, he’s optimistic about targeting 2022 for opening.

“The city has continued to work on the project. I’m not sure we would want to open in 2021, just because I don’t know if we would move forward understanding that COVID is there, and obviously attractions in California, theme parks, haven’t opened yet and probably won’t for quite some time. So, I think we would have ended up in 2022 anyway.”

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