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The water slide glistens in the sun but there are no laughing children waiting in line to come speeding down from the top. In fact, barely a sound can be heard. The whole water park is bathed in eerie silence. Is it because it’s too cold – because the park closed already for winter? No, the sense of abandonment and desolation runs deeper.
From amidst the tubes, looking over the white rapid run.
Sadly, the water park has closed its doors forever and has long lain deserted. There’s something eerie about abandoned places in general, but defunct and dried up water parks seem especially creepy. Perhaps it’s because they tell tales of past merriment – but are now forsaken, and increasingly smothered by shrubs and other vegetation. Yet, despite all this, the ten aqua parks we have found exude a strange fascination that puts one under their spell.
10. L’Aquatic de Sitges, Catalonia, Spain
Just half-an-hour’s drive from Barcelona is a water park that’s probably more famous in its derelict state than it ever was while still in use. Built in the early ‘90s, the park is said to have lasted only two seasons before it had to close its doors because of a cash crunch – and, urban legend has it, due to a fatal accident. According to one rumor, the wave machine sucked a child under! We shudder to think!
Because the police have turned a blind eye for so long, today the aqua park in Sitges is a haven for skaters and graffiti artists, and has even been used for the occasional fashion shoot. The area is sealed off, but there are holes in the fencing, and the determined are not deterred. Even bands wanting to rehearse without disturbing anyone have used this decaying urban space with its still-standing slides. We can see why.
One blogger who explored L’Aquatic described the experience thus: “This place is large, empty and a bit creepy… You can almost hear the laughter and splashes of water... Walking around these empty ‘shells’ of what used to be… kitchens, changing rooms, ticket offices, you can’t help but feel sad.”
9. Indoor Complex, Moscow, Russia
This water park never had a chance. Said to have been planned and approved in 1997 in preparation for the World Youth Games – which were held in Moscow in 1998 – the ambitious project didn’t get finished in time. Construction was then suspended in 2002 before the building and grounds were sold off in 2007, say sources.
What remains is a behemoth of a ruin. It’s an indoor water park that would have been gigantic – a miniature city dedicated to swimming and fun, built on 1.7 hectares of land, and spread over 12 stories beneath a state-of-the-art glass sloping roof.
Various different pools and water slides would have awaited visitors, together with an athletics arena, a hotel for visiting athletes, offices, cafes, and a physical therapy and medical center. Alas, but a broken dream.
Today, like a giant ship stranded in the mega-city that is Moscow, this complex is a fascinating, if melancholy, reminder of how urban planning can go wrong. What’s more, its days are truly numbered now: it’s apparently slated for demolition, in order to make space for a shopping center.
8. Bulli & Pupe, Anzio, Italy
This 15,000 meter-square water park in Italy by the name of Bulli & Pupe (meaning Guys & Dolls) used to boast a semi-Olympic-size swimming pool, five smaller pools and various water slides – like this snaking outdoor chute. Sadly, these attractions have now been left to the elements.
Photographer Pietro Pasqui used his camera to expertly capture all the details of the Italian water park’s slide, still beautiful even in its defunct state. The view from the top of the slide is breathtaking!
In this picture, don’t miss what looks like a palm tree growing right in the midst of the tubes. The dense undergrowth is a sure sign that no one has used this place in a while.
7. Orfű, Hungary
Close to the town of Pécs, in southwestern Hungary, lies Orfű, a small resort town situated beside a lake. In its day, vacationing Hungarians would surely have made the place feel very much alive, but now all the log cabins are boarded up, and the old water park has been abandoned too.
Nowadays, the impressive looking slides have almost been overgrown by weeping willows, while the stagnant swimming pool emits a rather foul-smelling stench, according to photographer Daniel Lloyd.
6. Avtozavodskiy Rayon, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia
This old Soviet water park in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod Oblast has seen better days – decades ago when circumstances were very different. Today, the water slide is a rusting piece of junk – an ironically decrepit reminder of the innocent frolics that must have taken place here each summer.
Having inspected the structure, photographer and urban explorer Sergey Podatelev commented: “The slide was built probably around 20 or 30 years ago, and abandoned about 20 years ago, but is still solid enough to hold people, kids at least.” However, some sections are missing, so we wouldn’t recommend it.
5. Styx River Water World, Loxley, AL, USA
Photographer Dean Jeffrey took this photo in 2002 when he was driving by Styx River Water World in Loxley, Alabama. Even then, not much was left of the once sprawling park – which Jeffrey reckons was operational between 1977 and 1993. Not much left except for knocked-over fiberglass statues and other evidence of vandalism.
Dean Jeffrey also recalls a return trip to Styx River in 2010, which shows how much can change in so little time: “The ticket booth was still there… which had inexplicably somehow managed to survive, but except for a weedy and overgrown parking lot, any other trace of the water park was gone.” Strange to think that such an expansive park simply got taken over by nature.
4. Williams Grove Amusement Park, PA, USA
This water park might well have the farthest-reaching history out of those featured here. The predecessor of Williams Grove Amusement Park was actually little more than a bunch of picnics that the Williams family began hosting outside of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
Soon, the picnic grove grew into a park and then a fairground, with the first rides appearing in 1928. Hurricane Agnes almost destroyed Williams Grove Amusement Park after it changed hands in 1972, and although it was rebuilt, it finally closed its doors in 2005, having provided decades of fun. Now, it is being reclaimed by nature, of course, and by the looks of things, the slides of its water park will soon be buried under vegetation.
3. Atlantic Park, Algarve, Portugal
Atlantic Park was a water park near Quarteira, in Portugal’s beautiful Algarve region. Being right in the middle of a popular tourist destination certainly helped the aqua park fill up with eager sunbathers, but it had to close in around 2007.
This twin waterslide sure is bumpy – still bearing witness to the fun that old and young visitors alike must have had at Atlantic Park.
Many local urban explorers like photographer Bruno Santos have fond childhood memories of the park from the ‘80s and ‘90s, when it was a hugely popular attraction. And judging by the look of the place – which has resisted decay, at least for now – we can see why.
2. Lake Dolores Waterpark, Newberry Springs, CA, USA
Among America’s most famous abandoned water parks is Lake Dolores Waterpark – also known as Rock-A-Hoola – located in Newberry Springs in the Mojave Desert. A water park in the desert makes for a pretty big attraction, and Lake Dolores pulled in a huge crowd for many seasons between 1962 and 2004 – although it was closed through the late ‘80s and much of the ‘90s after a slump in popularity.
The water park operated under several different names during its lifetime. In 1998, it opened as Rock-A-Hoola, but financial difficulties and ensuing bankruptcy saw it renamed once again in 2002 as the Discovery Water Park. The Discovery Park in turn closed its doors for good in 2004. Since then, the park’s water slides has been dismantled and are currently being reused in other parks; "Big Bopper", for example, is now "Colossal Canyon" at Cultus Lake Waterpark, close to Vancouver.
Today, nothing much is left of the place that once advertised itself as “The Fun Spot of the Desert!” The park did, however, find itself in the spotlight in 2009, when it was appeared in an episode of the MTV show Rob & Big – to be skated by pro skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and some of his buddies. And, as sunset pictures show, there’s still a certain charm to the dilapidated old place.
1. Sports World, Shizuoka, Japan
The images of Sports World in Shizuoka look almost surreal, with the bright blue chutes among dense green forest apparently leading nowhere. And they might as well be leading nowhere, as Sports World was demolished in 2010. In a sense, then, we’re looking straight into the past.
Ruins photographer and sci-fi and fantasy author Michael John Grist lives in Tokyo and has visited Sports World three times between 2008 and 2009. In his words: “On the last trip I just stood on top of the white chute ride and looked over the whole of it, breathing deep and feeling a weird kind of pride. Of course the place wasn’t mine to be proud of, but that’s the beauty of ruins. You can feel like it’s yours while you’re there, and since it’s a ruin there’s no-one to tell you otherwise.”
As the name suggests, Sports World was not only a water park but also a large sports complex, with gym facilities and tennis courts plus a hotel and restaurant on the premises. No expense was spared, as the appearance of one of the hotel rooms, even post-abandonment, suggests. The gigantic wave pool, meanwhile, is said to have boasted a machine that could produce 2 meter-high waves!
Sports World opened in 1988 and stayed standing for almost 20 years. However, apparently it had to close its doors in 1996 after the company running it went bankrupt. Whatever the underlying reasons were for Sports Word’s failings, it’s sad to know it’s gone, because a place so beautiful even when abandoned must have been truly stunning when still operational.
Water parks falling into ruin evoke feelings of loss – almost akin to the unexpected departure of a loved family member or friend. Such is the nature of decay: it is beautiful and haunting all at once, reminding us that the eternal clock stops for no one.