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NEWS: Wild Rivers Water Park to relocate to Temecula

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The Wild Rivers team that has been working to build a waterpark in Temecula is now shooting to open the attraction in 2014, a year that also could see the developers opening a sister park in Irvine.


On July 31, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved leasing 17 acres of Orange County's El Toro 100 Acre parcel to Wild Rivers Irvine LLC for the development and operation of a waterpark.


Mike Riedel, Wild Rivers president, said Thursday that he thinks the two projects will create a synergy that will help the team attract investors looking to diversify their portfolios. "We're hoping that it's more complementary than it is competition," he said.


The Temecula City Council in May approved selling 19 acres of city-owned land at the northwest intersection of Dendy Parkway and Diaz Road to the team for $2.34 million. The hope was that the park would become a regional destination for families and boost the area's tourism industry, which is bolstered by the nearby wineries, the Pechanga Resort & Casino and numerous sports tournaments.


To make sure the park was built as soon as possible, the city included conditions that required the developers to put up a hefty deposit on the sale price of $2.34 million and pull building permits by October to hit the mark of a 2013 opening.


Riedel said Thursday that meeting those deadlines for a 2013 opening became too difficult in the current lending market, but he's feeling good about the plan coming together for 2014. "I'm still confident we're going to get it done," he said.


Councilman Mike Naggar, a city official who has made bringing a waterpark to Temecula a priority for years, said Thursday that if and when the Wild Rivers team is ready to move forward with the purchase, the council will determine how to proceed. "Is our appraised value still good? If not maybe we have to have it (the land) reappraised," he said. Talking about the development team's decision to target 2014, Naggar said the city put them on "a very aggressive schedule" to open by next year. "And it's very difficult to get financing for that," he said.


In 2006, a waterpark was slated for land on the east side of Interstate 15 near the Ynez and Winchester intersection, but that project was abandoned because of opposition from a neighboring business park and area residents.


In 2009, the council approved a deal to sell the land at Dendy and Diaz for $6.7 million to another company pitching a waterpark plan. That deal, however, was never consummated because the developers were unable to raise the money to pay the city's asking price.


The original Wild Rivers park, an Orange County institution for decades, closed last year after its landlord decided to put in apartment buildings on the acreage.

Dang, was looking forward to getting some pics of construction soon. Oh well, I'll have to come back from college sometime next year to check it out!

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Hopefully this is just a temporary roadblock. Not really promising if they can't get funding, since they have all the historical data from the old water park about what kind of business a water park in the Irvine area can do...

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Five months after construction was slated to start on Wild Rivers Temecula, developer Mike Riedel said the project is finally ready to kick off.


In a phone interview Monday, Jan. 14, Riedel, president of Wild Rivers, said he has secured financing for the entire project and he expects to begin ground work on the vacant lot at the northwest corner of Diaz Road and Dendy Parkway during the first week of March.


“We’re really excited,” Riedel said. “The money is going to be in place and that’s all we were waiting for. We can’t wait and we know the people of Temecula can’t wait either. It’s been a long time coming.”


Riedel said he hoped the park would open in May 2014. No details about the design of the park or its features have been released.


Riedel had originally hoped to begin construction in October 2012. Today, the lot remains unkempt brush and dirt.


In May 2012, the Temecula City Council agreed to sell 20 acres of land for $2.34 million to Wild Rivers Temecula for the construction of a water park.


In 2009, the property had been appraised at $6.5 million, prompting some residents to question the wisdom of selling city-owned land in a down economy.


Council members, however, said bringing an entertainment venue of that type to the city justified selling the land for less. And the delay, Mayor Mike Naggar said, is representative of a national financing problem.


“The banks and traditional lenders are just not lending due to the uncertain financial climate,” he said. “In this case we have a great property, a proven business model, a city that will cut through all the red tape, to do a project that will hire 300 youth and create economic development for the region; the economy just stinks.”


Although it would be a first for Temecula, the region already is home to a water park.


Mulligan Family Fun Center in Murrieta recently added a water park feature to its miniature golf, laser tag, go-carts, arcades and carnival-style rides. The water-related rides include five speed slides, multi-level platforms, interactive aquatic controls and what is being called a “Big Splash Pumping Station.”


Future additions could include a lazy river and some more extreme water ride elements, according to a release from the fun center.

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It's been a while since I heard anything about the new park in Irvine. The website still says that "Construction is slated to begin in the summer of 2013" and "the new Wild Rivers Irvine opens in May 2014." However, with it being December and still no signs of groundbreaking or updates to the website/facebook page, I knew something was up. Every once and a while I'll look for news articles or some sort of city/county agenda. And nothing ... till now.


Here is an article I came across from the OC Register explaining what's going on:




Whatever happened to Wild Rivers?

The Wild Rivers water park won’t be opening south of the Orange County Great Park next summer, as hoped. Funding issues have beset the plan long before the first stream of water is expected to flow down a single slide’s slope.


In a lease agreement between the county and Wild Rivers Irvine LLC signed last July, the water park company agreed to pre-pay the county $3 million in rent by Feb. 23. It didn’t, but the county gave Wild Rivers more time, until Sept. 11. When it didn’t pay by then, the county terminated the lease.


That doesn’t mean the project is sunk, says Wild Rivers president Mike Riedel.


“There’s time left, but it’s not limitless,” he said of working with the county. “I know they still support the project and even if the lease is terminated I hope we could negotiate a new deal once funding is in place,” Riedel said.


Riedel said unfulfilled promises from funding sources that fell through – he wouldn’t name them – set the project back, but he’s recently tapped a more reliable source of funding and says he is positive the water park is going to happen.


Different kind of park

Riedel said the plans he has for the new Wild Rivers include slides paired with educational elements that will be regularly refreshed. He’s talked with the Discovery Science Center about a partnership.


“That’s never been done before,” he said.


He also wants the park to produce its own power, at least as much as it needs or preferably more.


He’s now aiming to open by summer 2015.


“It’s a really good project. It’s wildly popular - no pun intended - and it’s a good fit,” said Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer. But if Riedel gets the financing, he’ll have to come back to the county to get a brand-new lease agreement approved. “We would have to start from scratch.”


Great Park neighbor

The county owns a sliver of 100 acres south of the Great Park that it wants to develop into a mixed-use project. The county has been negotiating with developer Lowe Enterprises to possibly make that happen if it ultimately hires the company as its master developer for the property.


Spitzer said whether the water park moves forward or not may depend on if Riedel can get financing before a deal is made with Lowe Enterprises to oversee development of the entire 100 acres or just 83 acres, minus the 17 that had been carved out for Wild Rivers. He said the deal with Lowe could be ready for a vote of supervisors in the next month or two.


“We can’t keep that 17 acres open forever,” Spitzer said.


Ultimately he wants the county’s 100 acres to appear seamless with its neighbor the Great Park, owned by the city of Irvine, he said.


Spitzer said the county is under no legal obligation to continue to work with the water park but he has been talking with Riedel.


“I want him there. But we can’t get him capital,” Spitzer said. “Mike’s going to have to put this together.”


County won’t wait forever

Riedel said he understands that the county needs to be realistic. He doesn’t know when he’ll have the $3 million to give the county for the lease payment.


“I can’t expect them to wait forever,” he said. “But the ball’s in my court and I’ve got to perform.”


He also said he wouldn’t make any more promises unless he had total control of the situation.


He’s also not actively looking at other sites, but if the deal with the county fell through entirely, “I would obviously go to the Great Park and see what their situation is.”


Last July, the county agreed to lease 17 of its 100 acres south of the Great Park to the water park.


Wild Rivers had been a 27-year-long mainstay for Irvine and Orange County residents, providing some 1,200 summer jobs, while it was on land owned by the Irvine Co. near Interstate 405.


That company’s Los Olivos apartment development resides where people-filled inner-tubes once floated.

Wild Rivers promised to spend no less than $5 million to build the park and in its lease with the county represented that it had enough money to complete construction.


Riedel has also been working with the city of Temecula to build a water park there but that project also encountered funding hurdles and missed deadlines which will require the company to come back to the city with a new agreement, according to a report from the Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside.


The Deal


Orange County Supervisors approved a lease with Wild Rivers Irvine on July 31, 2012. The county agreed to supply parking. Here's what Wild Rivers agreed to:


- Pay $3 million in refundable rent within 180 days of the full execution of the lease (effective when the 100-acre quitclaim deed from the city of Irvine to the county was recorded).


- Pay $250,000 security deposit.


- Accept 25-year term with two 10-year options to mutually renew the lease, making it a potential 45-year lease.


- Pay escalating annual minimum rent from $500,000 the first three years to $1.5 million every year for the last five years of the 25-year lease.


- Pay an annual percentage based on gross receipts to the county.


Source: Orange County Board of Supervisors staff report from July 31, 2012


I really do hope that they are able to secure funding and work out a new deal with the County. South OC is really missing a local water park. The location is perfect, the timing seems right, and I know there is a demand. Crossing my fingers here for a 2015 opening date.

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Side note: it's still ridiculous El Toro wasn't converted into a commercial airport.




Because of the Marine Base, the land under the flightpath was already zoned for other than residential. So, it's not like noise was really going to be much of an issue for homeowners. If anything, there would have been less noise because of the restrictions commercial aircraft have on sound. In comparison to the military jets and helicopters, it wouldn't have been a big deal.


In addition to less noise, there would also be less homes and therefore less traffic. As soon as the airport was killed, the City of Irvine was manipulated by The Irvine Company to rezone land to allow residential buildings. This is the exact reason why Wild Rivers (and soon to be Irvine Meadows/Verizon) was demolished in favor of homes.


The promise of a park was a sham. As time progresses, more and more "park" land is being concerted into land for homes. Damn shame.

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