With five weekends left before it closes for the winter, the Wild Rivers amusement park in Irvine says it expects that the final visitor tally for its inaugural season will be about 300,000.
"We're very happy," said Steve Luckenbach, a spokesman for the $6-million water-themed park built on a portion of the grounds that once were home to Lion Country Safari, which closed in 1984.
Luckenbach said construction will get under way in about six weeks on a new "thrill ride" type of water slide that will be added to the park. A final decision on the design of the ride has not been made, he said.
In addition to the new slide, the park's 300-seat theater will be remodeled and a large hot-tub type warming pool will be built, he said.
Although Luckenbach declined to detail the park's finances, he did say it generated enough revenue to pay its bills and to enable its operators to secure financing for the construction projects.
At present, the park has 19 water slides, the highest of which has a vertical drop of 50 feet and uses 6,000 gallons of water a minute. In all, the park pumps 24,000 gallons of water a minute to the slides.
The park also has three swimming pools, several smaller water slides for children and a "river" ride.
Built by 40 Investors
Wild Rivers was built by a group of about 40 investors who formed the Splash, a limited partnership. The managing general partner, Colton-based American Sportsworld Inc., also operates a family recreation center in Colton called Fiesta Village.
Wild Rivers opened July 4 on 15 acres subleased from Lion Country Inc., which in turn leases its 100-acre parcel from the Irvine Co., which has said it will not renew the master lease when it expires in 1997.
"That's a long time off, so we don't know what's going to happen," said Bill Draney, secretary-treasurer of American Sportsworld. "We're not worried about it yet."
Wild Rivers plans to close for the winter on Oct. 12, but will reopen on weekends beginning May 16 and then every day beginning Memorial Day.
Jeff Rowe is a free-lance writer.