PHOENIX — While California may be home to massive theme parks like Disneyland, SeaWorld, Universal, and Six Flags, Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon, one of the “7 Natural Wonders of the World,” picturesque waterfalls, and desert hiking trails.
But, eventually, Arizona could be home to its own unique water parks and theme parks, as long as developers can pull together the investors, permits, and support that is needed.
None, so far, are to the scale of Disney, SeaWorld, or Universal, but there are at least eight entertainment developments that have been proposed in our state. They are all in various stages of the development process — and it is unclear how many will ultimately be built.
Here is what we know:
THE STRAND @ GILBERT
The Strand @ Gilbert is proposed to be a 25-acre water park at Gilbert Regional Park with cable-based skiing, surfing, and wakeboarding, a surf lagoon, sand beach, floating tubes, kayaks, canoeing, and paddleboarding, among other amenities.
It was first proposed in 2019, but has not started construction.
The developer told ABC15 earlier this year that COVID-19 and other factors have delayed the project, but that he expected to break ground within the first half of 2021. It is unclear if that is still the current timeline.
CANNON BEACH/REVEL SURF
Cannon Beach is proposed to be a 40-acre entertainment development in Mesa with a three-acre surf lagoon that will use cutting-edge technology to create artificial waves for both beginners and professional surfers. The development also plans to have restaurants, stores, and potentially, a hotel.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in March 2021. The developer said he expects to open the first phase of the project — the surf lagoon — in spring 2022.
CRYSTAL LAGOONS, ISLAND RESORT
Crystal Lagoons, Island Resort is proposed to be an entertainment district in Glendale, near Westgate Entertainment District, with a 10-acre lagoon as its focal point.
It is also said to include a 600-room hotel, restaurant, stores, entertainment venues, and attractions, such as a tethered hot air balloon, and a 4-D theater. It was also recently announced that the developers had partnered with Mattel to build Mattel Adventure Park, a small theme park with a Hot Wheels-themed coaster and a Thomas & Friends indoor theme park.
The Phoenix Business Journal recently reported that the developer has purchased the land for the project, a positive sign the development is moving forward. However, no other announcements have been made.
MATTEL ADVENTURE PARK
Toy company, Mattel, is getting into the theme park business. The company recently announced that it had partnered with the developers behind Crystal Lagoons, Island Resort coming to Gilbert, Arizona, to build “Mattel Adventure Park.” The park will feature a Hot Wheels-themed roller coaster and a Thomas & Friends indoor theme park, including a full-sized Thomas the Tank Engine passenger train. Developers hope to open the park in late 2022 ahead of Super Bowl LVII in 2023, which will be hosted at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
PHX SURF PARK
A developer has proposed building a 71-acre water park in Maricopa, about 30 minutes south of Phoenix.
The project is still in its early stages of development, but a rough, conceptual rendering shows that developers envision a park with two wave pools, a lazy river, a bike track, restaurants and stores, an RV park, and other amenities.
Developers in their pre-application narrative said that the park would be built in multiple phases, but a potential time frame is not known.
Dreamport Villages was touted back in 2017 as a mega-theme park that would span some 1,500 acres in Casa Grande and include a water park, rock climbing, extreme sports, hotels, restaurants, and shops.
In 2019, the developer told ABC15 that it could take up to 10 years to build it out.
Over the years, the amount of land that would have to be purchased to build the mega-park has become unavailable, among other delays, including the pandemic.
The developer recently told ABC15 that the project was “still moving forward, and just had some further delays because of COVID.” However, it is unknown if or when the development will begin construction, what it could look like, or when it is proposed to open.
SANTAN ADVENTURE PARK
SanTan Adventure Park is proposed to be a small amusement park in Gilbert with an 18-hole miniature golf course, a go-kart track, and a splash pad.
The development has received its final approval. However, some neighbors are concerned with the noise levels from the go-karts and want the development moved somewhere else.
An appeal hearing will be held in June.
LEGACY SPORTS PARK
While not a water park, Legacy Sports Park held a ceremonial groundbreaking in 2020 in Mesa for its 320-acre sports complex, which will eventually be home to soccer fields, volleyball courts, baseball and softball fields, an outdoor stadium and events area, an indoor e-sports arena, and a fitness center.
The developer told ABC15 he was aiming to be open in early 2022.
NORTHERN ARIZONA ‘THEMED-STORY PARK’
Most recently, some 500 acres of land in Williams — about 2 ½ hours from Phoenix — is in the process of being sold for the development of a 1,000-home master-planned community. Of that, 85 acres is being reserved for a potential “western-themed story park.”
Few details are known at this point. The sale is in escrow and is not expected to close until the end of the year.
Brent Moser, a principal at Lee & Associates, which is handling the sale, said a group of former Disney employees are the ones looking at the possibility of building the entertainment attraction.
He said based on the conceptual discussions he’s had with the group, they are not planning on building a massive theme park comparable to Disneyland or Six Flags Magic Mountain, but a smaller, more experiential park with multiple attractions.
“It’s more of an experience. They have a theme with a character. It’s a western theme,” he said. He also said that a small part of the development would be similar to a county fair with fair-type rides and attractions.