California’s Great America has constructed over 70 percent of a revamped, rebranded, and rethemed water park. With a brand-new Northern California theme, South Bay Shores introduces seven new attractions and two new restaurants to Great America and aims to bring some local spirit to one of California’s largest theme parks when it reopens next summer.
The new water park — which originally took thrill seekers down under with Australian-themed attractions — brings a South Bay-specific take to their new rides and restaurants with a beach town aesthetic, including tall grasses, nods to local landmarks, and ride names like Coastal Cruz or Mission Falls.
South Bay Shores’ prize jewel is the Pacific Surge, a 70-foot tall complex that features two different rides. Shark Reef Plunge includes four body drop slides that, after a countdown, drop the floor out from underneath riders and send them down a series of loops and curves as they travel down the structure’s height. Pacific Surge’s second ride — Feeding Frenzy & Barracuda — sends either single riders or groups of two through two five-story tube slides and a whirlpool barrel. In addition to these thrills, Great America will unveil Tide Pools, its newest family lagoon featuring eight kid-sized water slides and a wading pool for park-goers.
South Bay Shores will also show off two new restaurants: Pier 76 Cafe, a San Franciscan-themed eatery serving fried shrimp and fish tacos in addition to classic park favorites, and Sandbar, a completely outdoor bar serving adult beverages, sliders, and snacks.
Construction on South Bay Shores began over a year ago in September 2019 after the water park season ended. Originally slated for a grand reopening in May 2020, Great America now aims for a summer 2021 debut. The final 30 percent of construction for South Bay Shores begins on Jan. 21 and will take roughly 16 weeks to complete.
In addition to the new water park’s construction, Great America is taking advantage of the time off to perform basic park upkeep, including ride maintenance, a complete repaint of the park, and expansions of special effects on pre-existing rides like Demon.
“We want the park to look brand-new, sparkling, and beautiful when we come back next year,” said Danny Messinger, the park’s Area Manager of Communications. “We’re showing some love to stuff that’s been here since the beginning and opening a whole new water park.”
With its extended closure, the park has lost out on months of revenue, its summer attractions, and the 2020 Halloween Haunt, which meant they were unable to hire several thousand seasonal staff. Despite these setbacks, the park remains optimistic about a 2021 reopening contingent on local and state guidelines. “When you’re stepping through the gates for the first time after so much time off, it’s going to look really, really impressive,” Messinger added.
Photos S. Bricker