Friday, June 3, 2005
All Dried Up: Beach Waterpark shuttered and for sale
By Charlotte Balcomb Lane
Journal Staff Writer
Every June since 1987, the lines snaking up the big blue slide at The Beach Waterpark have been a symbol of summer in Albuquerque.
Not this June.
The 17-acre water park located at Montaño and Interstate 25 is closed, and the property is for sale. Weeds are growing through cracks in the sidewalk, and the pools are empty and bleached in the sun.
After years of hosting field trips, family outings, birthday parties and teen dances, the park's future is uncertain.
A longtime local businessman is interested in buying and reopening it, then building an indoor entertainment center adjacent to it.
If that falls through, the site will probably be sold and developed for other uses.
Several youths expressed dismay at news of its closing Thursday outside a Dion's Pizza in the Northeast Heights.
"That sucks," said 19-year-old Justin Flores, who added that he used to go there every summer as a little boy.
Chuy Sanchez, 19, echoed those thoughts, saying, "There is nothing really to do in Albuquerque."
"It was such a summertime thing," lamented Avianna Meck, 17, a student of the Public Academy for Performing Arts.
Samuel K. Collins Jr., president and CEO of Union Savings Bank, which owns the property, confirmed that longtime developer M.B. Pete Ford is trying to lease the water park with an option to buy.
Ford, of Crossroads Development and Entertainment Ventures Ltd., said he is trying to obtain financing for the purchase.
"We are attempting to finalize the acquisition of The Beach Waterpark and the property next door," Ford told the Journal.
He said details of the tentative deal are confidential.
Ford was president of the Jaynes Corporation, a major commercial contractor, from 1967 to 1974 and board chairman from 1975 to 1988.
If the purchase goes through, Ford said he would reopen the water park as part of a 231/2-acre family entertainment complex called the Big Event. He said he would build an indoor amusement center on a six-acre parcel immediately west of the water park.
The Big Event would offset the summer-only season of The Beach. Ford said if Entertainment Ventures acquires the property, he would reopen The Beach within three weeks of inking a deal.
"We'll do everything we have to do to get the project going," Ford said.
Neither Ford nor Collins would give details on the purchase price or the value of the land. Collins would only say it was a "multimillion dollar property."
When it was built in 1987, The Beach was valued around $8 million, according to published reports, but has gained value since then. The Montaño/Montgomery corridor is one of the busiest in the state.
Collins said if Ford's partnership fails to purchase the water park, he would consider other options, including redeveloping the land for other uses.
"There's a higher and better use for that acreage and that corner," Collins said.
In August, The Beach voluntarily closed after it received an unsatisfactory rating from the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department. The inspection found algae in the children's slide, roaches in the Lazy River and dirty, unsanitary conditions in the food service area.
Lorie Stoller of the Health Department said the water park hasn't asked for another inspection and would not be allowed to reopen without first obtaining a satisfactory one.