Why Salt Lake City's mayor wants to turn the abandoned Raging Waters site into a regional park

Why Salt Lake City's mayor wants to turn the abandoned Raging Waters site into a regional park

(KSL TV, File)



SALT LAKE CITY — Could the old Raging Waters site, also previously known as Seven Peaks Salt Lake, become Salt Lake City's next premier regional park?

Perhaps one of the most noticeable aspects of Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall's fiscal year 2021-22 budget request, which was unveiled earlier this month, had to do with the future of the old water park. Mendenhall requested $10 million toward converting the abandoned water park site at 1700 South and 1200 West into a park similar to Liberty or Sugar House parks.

Mendenhall explained and defended the proposal during an appearance on KSL NewsRadio's "Dave and Dujanovic" Thursday morning. She said the city doesn't really have a big regional park west of 500 East in the city.

At the same time, there's the largest concentration of children per capita on the city's west side. The mayor said it only made sense to make use of the land in a way that would improve the city's west side, and the city already owned a plot of land that could give the residents in the area a new park.

It's a spot where there could be future farmer's markets or concerts in the park in addition to giving residents a place to play, she said.

"We need to do better in our parks here in Salt Lake City. I think a slide and swing set isn't really cutting it anymore," Mendenhall said on the show. "Our intention with this installation that we're still putting together, and working with the community on, should have the kind of amenities that attract not just young kids and parents just wanting to push their kids on the swing, but this could be a civic commons where people want to come and walk and exercise and enjoy the outdoors across all ages."

The plan would provide a future for the old water park, which closed in 2018. It was sold to the Blue Island Group a year later, but the sale quickly went into default and the park went more into disrepair, according to the Deseret News.

Chris Lambe shoots out over the pool as he enjoys the hot weather at Raging Waters, Friday June 22, 2001. Photo by Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News.
Chris Lambe shoots out over the pool as he enjoys the hot weather at Raging Waters, Friday June 22, 2001. Photo by Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News. (Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News, File)

Last summer, KSL TV reported that the old water park abandoned had become a hot spot for criminal activity, especially last summer. While the city began a survey about the future of its parks and recreation master plan, it also surveyed residents about what it should do with the abandoned water park.

Mendenhall said the cleanup and removal of the old park was already funded last year; however, that's only a beginning. There's plenty of concrete that would need to be removed underneath the equipment.

At the same time, based on how the land was purchased, it can only really serve as one function. The city originally acquired the 17-acre parcel of land that borders the Jordan River and Glendale Golf Course decades ago when Mayor Ted Wilson was in office, according to Mendenhall.

"We acquired it with some state and federal dollars that required it to be a park in perpetuity — used as open space," she said. "It cannot be developed into housing development or other mixed-use, so that's the kind of framework that we have to work with with the ownership of the land."

A pelican looks for a spot to land in the Jordan River behind the plot of land where the abandoned Raging Waters water park is located in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 16, 2020.
A pelican looks for a spot to land in the Jordan River behind the plot of land where the abandoned Raging Waters water park is located in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com, File)

She also pointed out that the city has a pretty short time frame to get the park completed based on the original funding of the park. It's why the city is aiming to get a new park ready in the next three years.

The $10 million proposal is one in about $50 million in new capital projects proposed by the mayor through Community Sales Tax Bond. Officials from the mayor's office explained that due to the bond there will be no additional cost to residents.

"The clock is ticking, and we're excited to get to work on it," she said.

There were several other projects with the $50 million bond proposal that have ties to the outdoors and recreation in the city. The bond would also go toward shoring up the historic buildings at Allen Park, which briefly closed down during the winter due to snow safety concerns. The city acquired the park last year for $7.5 million.

It would also shore up buildings at Warm Springs Park and the Fisher Mansion, both of which were damaged in last year's earthquake. The Fisher Carriage House, located behind the mansion, is also the future site of a new recreation center along the Jordan River.

The money from the bond would also go toward improvements to the Jordan River, which is emerging as the next recreation spot the city is focusing on. That's on top of money toward "the next phase" of the city's Foothills Trails System Plan and Westside Neighborhood Park improvements.

The final city budget is expected to be adopted before July, and the Salt Lake City Council has the option to make any tweaks to the plan before it is adopted.

Contributing: Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega, KSL NewsRadio

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