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Universal Orlando Confirms Wet 'n Wild to Close Next Year

June 17, 2015, 9:33 AM · ...And that is the sound of the other flip-flop dropping.

When Universal Orlando last month confirmed plans for its new Volcano Bay water park, many fans wondered if that would mean the end of Wet 'n Wild. Universal obtained control of the nation's first water park in 1998, and in 2013 bought the 50 acres of land under and around the park. Universal has been shuffling management at the park over the past year or so, and rumors of its closure have been flying as sources in and around Universal have tipped plans to convert the Wet 'n Wild property into budget-priced hotels or even into a third gate for the Universal Orlando Resort.

We don't know yet Wet 'n Wild's ultimate fate, but as of today, we can be certain that it won't be as Wet 'n Wild. Universal Orlando today confirmed that the water park will close December 31, 2016.

Wet 'n Wild
Photo courtesy Universal Orlando

That gives Wet 'n Wild's local fans two more summers to enjoy the park. Wet 'n Wild opened in 1977 — a creation of SeaWorld founder George Millay. It is considered the nation's first water park, and even as imitators opened around the country and world, Wet 'n Wild remained the nation's most popular water park until the end of the 1990s, when Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach passed it. Wet 'n Wild drew about 1.3 million visitors last year, making it the nation's fourth most-popular water park, behind the two Disney parks and SeaWorld's Aquatica, according to the TEA/AECOM 2014 Theme Index report.

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Replies (20)

June 17, 2015 at 9:56 AM · Wikipedia indicates that W&W covers 30 acres of land -- although I don't think that includes the parking lot. Not sure what they will do with the property but that's a heckuva footprint on I-Drive -- an address that continues to add new attractions and entertainment venues.
June 17, 2015 at 10:03 AM · Why couldn't Universal Orlando support two water parks? Walt Disney World has two.
June 17, 2015 at 10:01 AM · Let's see... we've got the "Earful" Tower at Disney, the Orlando "Eye" on I-Drive south of Sand Lake. So, logically, shouldn't the Wet 'n Wild site be home to something involving a nose or mouth?
June 17, 2015 at 10:06 AM · In response to Matthew,

I think that most people agree that Wet 'n Wild, as it stands now, isn't up to Universal's current theming standards. So the choice is either to upgrade it or replace it. (I think that everything inside the two UOR theme parks is facing the same consideration.)

Volcano Bay is the upgrade. I haven't heard anything I consider definitive on what the Wet 'n Wild property will become, but I know that Universal wants to add more hotel rooms at UOR, and its running out of room on land adjacent to the parks, so I'd be surprised if a hotel wasn't at least part of the WnW property plans.

June 17, 2015 at 10:12 AM · Ah, Robert, that makes sense then. Still a bummer to see what's considered to be America's first water park close for good. I'll see if I can't make a trip out there next summer.
June 17, 2015 at 11:01 AM · I wouldn't be surprised if they move a good chunk of the Wet and Wild slides over to Volcano Bay and repurpose them.
June 17, 2015 at 11:01 AM · Universal's current construction patterns suggest this closing may result in the opening of another resort, perhaps discount resort as Robert suggests. I don't see the space as sufficient for a third gate. Universal could have used its Cabana Bay, Sapphire Falls, and Volcano Bay as sufficient space for a third park and buy up nearby property to construct hotel resorts. Now, Universal is landlocked into 2 parks only. They could always revisit the purchase of the Lockheed property for 2 additional parks and nearby resorts. Who knows?
June 17, 2015 at 11:05 AM · Isn't River Country in Walt Disney World the first water park? It opened in 1976.
June 17, 2015 at 11:22 AM · In know, instead of the usual water park - Universal could open a Fire park.

Just think of how different that would be... Visitors from around the world will want to see this new, hot, exciting, (exiting - twitter joke for Robert) thrilling park...

Everyday Universal could pick a child to - Ignite the park after opening..

June 17, 2015 at 11:38 AM · The park itself is apx. 24 acres (Orange County Appraisal Office). The remainder of the acquisition is parking lot, some operation buildings and a portion of the lake.
June 17, 2015 at 11:41 AM · Manteca Water Slides, the first modern tube/flume slides built anywbere, opened in 1974, & closed in 2004.
June 17, 2015 at 11:44 AM · "A portion of the lake?" so they don't own the entire lake?
June 17, 2015 at 1:23 PM · Jim Hill was right! Now about that oh... 50 acre plot of land?
June 17, 2015 at 2:16 PM · TH; Correct. My memory from the diagram I saw last year is in the vicinity of one third or one fourth..
June 17, 2015 at 3:18 PM · I'm hoping they're planning on using the land to make a third theme park. If Universal has three big theme parks on their current standards and a new state of the art waterpark, they'd be a pretty decent compeition for Disney (and hopefully will force the mosue to make big new rides and lands to compete)

Also, I don't know where else Nintendo land will fit in their current two parks, unless they're planning on selling the MArvel rights back to Disney and turning that into Nintendo land.

June 17, 2015 at 9:18 PM · Thomas Caselli is correct. While many credit Wet 'n Wild as being the first water park, Disney's River Country opened first in 1976.
June 18, 2015 at 6:42 AM · Hotels. Hotels. Hotels.

That's about all that will come here. Not enough room for a third park. And to the poster above asking where Nintendo will go, it's going to replace KidZone in USF

June 18, 2015 at 7:26 AM · A lot of the locals have nick-named it "Wet and Ghetto" so I think that tells you it's not up to Universal's standards and it's not the crowd they want to cater too. The land is just to perfect for hotels that will get more people to stay on property and spend more money.... bye bye W&W...
June 18, 2015 at 11:01 AM · Troy: Your assumption is probably correct, though I would doubt Universal would admit that, for obvious reasons. I would agree with insider Sean from Parkscope, and I would expect to see lots of hotel rooms built there. The last couple of surveys I got from Universal were all about prospective hotel resorts. Their chairman has publicly stated on more than a few occasions that they are going to build a lot of hotels. They are following the Disney plan of a captive customer base in on site hotels. This all points to hotel resorts on that property.
June 21, 2015 at 9:24 AM · Welp. We all know what they're going to do with that land given the fact that universals new water park is going south of cabana bay beach resort. They're obviously converting the old wet n wild land into (boring) hotels. Nobody cares about hotels we want new parks and attractions. But I can see where this benefits the resort financially.

There is however just enough space in the wet n wild property to build a third gate if google isn't lying to me. The wet n wild park, part of the lake, the parking lot and a bunch of other little plots of land in the area east of wet n wild south of the parking lot, all of which is owned by universal. You can put your boring hotels elsewhere ie buy out a little plot of land for a hotel since acquiring land for a hotel is so much easier than acquiring land for a theme park.

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