Over and over, dozens of young employees hustled up the stairs to the very top of Wild Rivers’ Bora Bora Boomerango water slide, took a cross-legged seat inside a massive raft fit for six and were sent splashing down a 25-foot drop before shooting out into a clear blue pool.

Their gleeful screams as they trained on and tested the slides during one of the last days before the water park’s opening put a smile on the face of Eric Gieszl, Wild Rivers’ director of guest experience.

They were “those familiar sounds of a theme park,” he said during a tour of the campus on Thursday, July 7.

Wild Rivers, a summertime favorite that kept visitors cool for more than 25 years before closing down in 2011, is set to return on Sunday with a soft opening at its new location in Irvine’s Great Park.

Wild Rivers Waterpark in the OC Great Park in Irvine, CA, on Thursday, July 7, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Like many who grew up splashing down rides at the original park, Gieszl is eager to see the nozzles turn on once again at the new, bigger Wild Rivers. The water park will be 50% larger than the original and feature a bevy of new rides while giving a nod to some old favorites, like Bombay Blasters.

The first visitors welcomed this weekend will be able to enjoy many — but not all — of the attractions. Work is still being done on a handful of rides and coasters.

“I can’t wait to see the reaction that people are going to have when they walk through the gate, that Wild Rivers is finally back,” Gieszl said. “It means a lot to people.”

Attractions that are expected to open on Sunday are the Shaka Bay Wavepool, the lazy Castaway River, the six-person Bora Bora Boomerango, Aquaconda — a second family raft ride — and the single-tube slide Tomcat Racers, among others.

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