Big Surf Waterpark in Tempe is being demolished

Tempe’s iconic Big Surf Waterpark, summer destination for more than 50 years, is now nothing more than a memory. The legendary Valley attraction is currently being demolished after being sold to new owners in April.

Crews from Phoenix-based company Arizona Specialty Demolition have demolished the various buildings, water slides and facilities in the 35.5-acre water park since early June. According to the city of Tempe, the demolition process should take another couple of weeks to complete.

It has transformed what was once a colorful oasis of water slides and sparkling azure pools into a rubble-strewn wilderness dotted with the winding remnants of Big Surf’s various slides and attractions.

Broken turquoise fiberglass pipes are randomly arranged in a huge pile in one corner of the park. Big Surf’s historic Waikiki Beach wave pool is filled with pieces of crushed concrete. Broken wood and broken signage are everywhere.

click to enlarge Big Surf is now a wasteland of ruined concrete and demolished buildings.  - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

Big Surf is now a wasteland of ruined concrete and demolished buildings.

Benjamin Leatherman

It’s the final chapter in Big Surf’s long legacy that stretches back five decades. The water park originally debuted in 1969 and contained the first wave basin in the United States

After entertaining locals in the sun for more than 50 years, Big Surf closed in March 2020, after its owners, Texas-based LLC Inland Oceans, closed the park after the COVID-19 pandemic reached Arizona.

Several other local water parks, including Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Glendale and Mesa’s Golfland Sunsplash, have since reopened, while Big Surf remained closed and its wave pool and water slides remained dry.

click to enlarge The interior of Big Surf's historic and iconic wave pool.  - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

The interior of Big Surf’s historic and iconic wave pool.

Benjamin Leatherman

With the exception of a few concerts in May 2021 (Punk in the Park and Back to the Beach festivals) in the Big Surf wave pool and various pop-up drive-in movies and flea markets in the parking lot, the property was a relatively ghost town.

As Phoenix New Times first reported in February, Inland Oceans put the property up for sale and auctioned off all of the water park’s assets.

click to enlarge One of the many water slides inside Big Surf.  - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

One of the many water slides inside Big Surf.

Benjamin Leatherman

In April, Inland Oceans sold Big Surf and its surrounding property to Southern California-based real estate developer Overton Moore Properties for more than $ 49 million.

OMP has not announced what its plans are for the property. The company is described as having “an extensive background in developing quality industrial projects throughout the South West”, and its website lists such past projects as industrial parks, warehousing facilities and department stores.

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