Ask any longtime local about Wet 'n Wild and get ready for some smiles.
Those who have grown up in Las Vegas or brought up a family here in the last 25 years have fond recollections of summer trips to the 27-acre water park on the Strip adjacent to the former Sahara casino. Before it closed in 2004, it was the family destination, an oasis of water slides, wave pools and lazy rivers in the center of a city all about adult fun.
Then it was gone. It's hard to believe this parched city has gone so long without a proper, accessible water park (hotel pool complexes don't count), but the wait is almost over. Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas will make its debut on Memorial Day Weekend, just west of the 215 Beltway at West Sunset Road.
That’s right, its debut. This is not the same old water park we’re used to. Australia-based entertainment giant Village Roadshow, which owns Sea World and other water parks in Hawaii, Arizona and Australia, announced in October that the planned Splash Canyon would become Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas. (Note the variance in apostrophe styling—that’s how you know this water park is under different ownership.) The development group that had been working on Splash Canyon—which includes investors Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf and was originally set to open in 2012—partnered with Village Roadshow to build a bigger, better and more recognizably named water park.
The new, $50 million Wet 'n' Wild takes up 41 acres along Fort Apache Road in the southwest corner of the Vegas Valley and will offer 25 slides and rides. The Rattler will be a steep, coiled chute with crazy curves. There will be a wave pool, a lazy river, a toddler pool and a seven-story speed slide, all of which sound remarkably similar to that dear old Wet 'n Wild we loved so much.
Capitalizing on collective nostalgia was a savvy move for the developers, but also a unique situation for Las Vegas. Rarely does a celebrated brand name from Vegas’ past get a second life; it’s much more common to kill a name off in favor of a more modern, contemporary label for a similar product. Resurrecting the Aladdin name for a rebuilt casino resort in 2000 didn’t seem to work out, and now it’s Planet Hollywood. Soon we’ll know if Light Nightclub, originally at Bellagio and now partnered with Cirque du Soleil at Mandalay Bay, can pull off a second coming.
There’s little doubt the new Wet 'n' Wild will be a success, as long as the experience is as wet and wild as we remember. The park announced this week it will be conducting eBay auctions on May 23 for the first rides on its Rattler, Constrictor, Hoover Half Pipe and Royal Flush extreme rides, with proceeds benefitting the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education and Opportunity Village. The park opens to gold pass holders May 25-27, season pass holders from May 28 to June 2 and single-day ticket buyers starting on June 3. For more info, visit wetnwildlasvegas.com.