UPDATE: San Jose plans to reopen beloved water park
San Jose City Councilmembers spearhead reopening of Raging Waters in San Jose. File photo.

Fans of all things San Jose and water enthusiasts could cool off this summer with the return of Raging Waters.

The San Jose City Council will vote on Feb. 27 to approve California Dreamin’ Entertainment as the water park’s new operator for the 2024 season. If passed, the park will welcome back visitors in a couple of months.

The iconic waterpark in East San Jose broke hearts when it shuttered in 2023. Previous park operator Palace Entertainment terminated its 20-year lease with the city last September.

San Jose's mayor Matt Mahan, Councilmember Domingo Candelas and Assistant Director of the city's parks department Neil Rufino stand in front of a podium speaking about Raging Waters' reopening.
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, City Councilmember Domingo Candelas and assistant director of the city’s parks department Neil Rufino speak about Raging Waters’ potential reopening. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

Mayor Matt Mahan grew up going to Raging Waters, commuting from Watsonville. He said the short-term lease gives the city breathing room to secure a long-term operator while keeping the park open.

“We’ll spend less in the long run because we’re keeping it maintained,” he said. “We’re continuing to invest in it, not letting it just disintegrate.”

Since the closure, councilmembers said the city, which owns the park, considered four companies seriously for the park’s lease, and chose California Dreamin’ Entertainment, which will also operate the Sacramento Raging Water, to run the park until September 2025.

The operator plans to invest $6 million into the park for renovations, food trucks and an outdoor wine garden. After the park opens, the city will take in 6% of its gross revenue, a slight increase from the previous operator’s agreement at 5.5%. Neil Rufino, assistant director of the city’s parks department, said the majority of the revenue will funnel back into Lake Cunningham’s revitalization.

Councilmembers Peter Ortiz and Domingo Candelas said the proposal is a win for East San Jose and maintains an important revenue stream.

Candelas, who represents District 8, grew up going to Raging Waters and told San José Spotlight the wave pool was his favorite part. The park denied him a position as a lifeguard when he was a teenager, but he said the park provides important jobs.

“Those experiences to be able to give our young people a work opportunity that a lot of times they don’t often have is what is paramount,” Candelas said.

The 23-acre theme park originally opened its doors in 1985  — one of the first in the region — and houses 14 water slides and a 350,000-gallon wave pool. Rufino said the slides are still mostly in good condition.

He said it is unclear whether ticket prices will increase with the change in management.

Raging Waters was the only theme park in the South Bay besides Great America, which is closing in the next decade. Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which owns California’s Great America in Santa Clara, announced last June that it is selling the 46-year-old property for $310 million to San Francisco-based Prologis, a national real estate firm. Great America will remain open for up to 11 years before closing permanently, company officials said.

Candelas, whose district also includes Lake Cunningham, said the Raging Water’s reopening will help invigorate small businesses in East San Jose, in addition to the city.

“We’re excited to bring it back to how it used to be,” he said.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter. Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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