You won’t find complete agreement on which
waterpark was the first, but nearly everyone agrees who the “Father of the
Waterpark” is: George Millay. Millay is a creative genius who came up with the
idea of SeaWorld in 1964, which took the idea of sea-life parks to new levels.
In 1977, he did the same to the amusement industry—changing it forever—when he
opened the gates of Wet ‘n Wild in Orlando, Fla.
As biographer Tim O’Brien writes, Millay is
“a man who turned water into gold—a modern-day Poseidon with the creativity,
stamina and smarts to conceive recreational opportunities centered on the sea
In 2004, the World Waterpark Association
honored Millay with a Lifetime Achievement Award, the first ever given by the
Association. WWA also presented Millay an official proclamation naming him
“Father of the Waterpark.”
After Wet ‘n Wild opened in 1977, other
parks began springing up around the country. Huge, concrete slide structures
were the norm back then. The industry became more focused in 1981 when the
World Waterpark Association was formed. They brought together the wave pool
from Europe, the leisure river and speed slide from the Asia-Pacific region of
the world and the waterslide from California—among
other remarkable innovations—to create what is known today as the waterpark
Today, waterparks are being built at an
astounding rate all over the world. They come in a multitude of shapes and
sizes, from small aquatics centers that have a few waterpark features—such as a
waterslide or leisure river—to city-owned facilities that rival some of today’s
major parks, as well as indoor waterpark hotels/resorts. Growing number of
other industries are also joining in the waterpark trend. Campgrounds, ski resorts,
cruise ships… These are only a few of the recreational businesses recognizing
the watery appeal of the waterpark.
Click here for some additional facts on the industry, review the
General Waterpark Industry Fact Sheet.