Summer is officially here, which means Big Splash will once again be a top destination for fun and sun. Before it was built, the corner of 21st and Yale was nothing but grass with a race track and Driller Stadium in the background.
It was primarily a parking lot. There was a plan to put a water park there.
Neighborhood residents were afraid a permanent water park sounded like a permanent problem.
"Now they park in about half our neighborhood. If they take away 1,500 additional spaces, they will be parked completely in my neighborhood," one person said.
Parking spaces during big events like the fair are always a problem. The county had a solution.
The trust authority would open the oval of the racetrack for overflow fair-time parking,
But building something new at the Fairgrounds is not that easy - especially when the park was originally to go in on the west bank of the Arkansas river then suddenly was switched to Expo Square. So when the Fairground Trust Authority voted to approve the water park they goofed it up.
"Here's the problem, eight of the nine authority members came to vote on the park," said then KOTV reporter Anita Parvin.
"Four voted yes, two no, two abstained, but the by-laws say a majority of members must vote on any issue to pass it. That means five votes would be needed to pass the water park proposal."
Well, they had another meeting and fixed it, but while they were doing that some folks were signing petitions to get rid of the authority members who fouled up the vote. To shorten the story a bit:.through the end of 1982 and early 1983 the political wrangling worked itself out.
Promises were made about parking, noise control, opening and closing times things like that.The petitions went nowhere, and on July 19 of 1983 - they staged a really corn ball ground breaking with lots of kids and balloons.
It included two old prospectors dowsing for water and discovering it at 21st and Yale.
On May 18th of 1984 with Big Splash set to open the next day, lifeguards were training and lots of work was still being done.
"Safety is our number one priority at the park. We test all our lifeguards regularly; they're going through their first test now," News On 6 was told.
When the park first opened that spring, workers were still finishing all the slides.
"Its' gonna be something completely new for the Midwest - it's a slide that is 72 feet tall," the reporter was told "It'll have a run out of 240 feet; we'll reach speeds of up to about 60 miles per hour."
Well as you know the work was finished and those slides have hosted thousands of delighted screams since.