Historic Big Surf Waterpark in Tempe sells for $49 million

TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- It’s a beloved summer childhood memory. Few things could make the standing in blazing hot Arizona sun bearable than a day at Big Surf Waterpark. And it just sold for $49 million.

The popular East Valley attraction opened in 1969 south of McKellips Road and McClintock Drive in Tempe. And It wasn’t long until the park was a big hit with Arizonans, with even Pink Floyd performing there in 1972 as part of their 128-show Dark Side of the Moon Tour. The park currently sits next to what is now a popular ice skating rink that serves as the home for the Arizona State Sun Devil’s women’s ice hockey team and the Jr. Sun Devils Elite.

Big Surf was also nationally renowned for having the oldest wave pool in the country, designed by Phil Dexter, a Valley inventor. The Inertia reports that in 2013, the wave pool was officially designated a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

An Iconic Attraction with a Quiet Exit

As COVID cases rose across the country, the waterpark announced it would close for the Summer of 2020 and then quietly extended its closure through the 2021 season. In February, the Phoenix New Times first reported that several assets were up for sale. Some of the items spotted at the auction included a 68″ tiki totem, fiberglass slides, a portable zip line, and swimming tubes.

When asked by Arizona’s Family, the park’s spokesperson said that the park was placed for sale last fall but wouldn’t elaborate on details. Attempts to reach the park’s owners at that time went unanswered. A punk show called “Punk in Drublic Arizona” had been scheduled to be held at the waterpark in March but was moved to the Scarizona Festival Grounds. Even now, Big Surf’s website shows no information about its future, its liquidation sale, or that it’s closed.

Big Sale for Big Surf

Commercial real estate broker Velocity Retail Group announced that Inland Oceans had sold the site of the Big Surf Wave Park and Inland Oceans Ice Arena for $49 million. Officials say the site had over 30 offers for the sellers to consider ranging from $30 million to nearly $50 million. Developers haven’t said what they plan to do with the property, only saying that it will “be something that residents and the city will be proud of for years to come.”