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1980s 1990s Lagoon That Never Was

The Lagoon Lake That Never Was

Countless ideas for Lagoon attractions have never made it past the concept or planning stages. This article is part of a series about some of those plans that failed to become a reality.

Imagine crowds gathering on a boardwalk around Lagoon Lake to watch high divers jump from a old-fashioned ship. It never actually happened, but in 1989 it was part of Lagoon’s big plans for the man-made pond at the south end of the park.

Early Lagoon Lake. Courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Lagoon Lake was a major feature in the early days of the Lagoon resort. For nearly a century, there was always some sort of activity on Lagoon Lake, from swimming to fishing and a variety of boat rides. It was also the location for holiday firework shows and on a few occasions, a reenactment of a major sea battle using replicas of famous ships. So having shows on the lake wouldn’t have been a completely new concept.

The last attraction to allow guests to venture out onto the lake was the Water Skeeter ride. That ride was still operating when plans for the next big thing on Lagoon Lake were printed in a 1989 Deseret News article.

The article mostly discussed what was new for the 1989 season (Lagoon-A-Beach) but also briefly mentioned plans for 1990, such as a boardwalk along part of the lake’s shore and the possibility of a water-skiing exhibition. It also stated…

“Other long-range plans include a tall-masted boat anchored toward the west side of the lagoon, where the high-divers and seals featured last season would perform.”

Sun ‘N’ Fun Theatre as shown in a Lagoon brochure.

That high diving show was held at the Sun ‘N’ Fun Theatre, built in 1988 between the Game Time arcade and Lagoon Stadium. It was also used for the International High Diving Spectacular in 1992, but remained closed until being demolished to make way for the Sky Coaster.

It’s uncertain just how close the Lagoon Lake improvements were to becoming a reality. Water Skeeters closed at the end of the 1991 season. But were they removed as part of the renovations to the lake or was it just time for them to go?

In the mid-1990s a very small section of what could be called a boardwalk was built at the edge of the lake between Tidal Wave and Turn Of The Century. It was more of a deck than boardwalk and it has since been replaced by a concrete platform for the new Turn Of The Century queue.

Water Skeeters, 1991
Water Skeeters, not long before being removed. Photo courtesy of Lagoon

There are several possible reasons that the plans for Lagoon Lake never materialized. At the time, it would have been a pretty ambitious undertaking for Lagoon. Especially considering they had just opened a brand new water park that was still being completed during the 1989-90 off-season.

The weakened economy in the early ’90s probably didn’t help. Sky Scraper was the only new ride added to the park during the first four years of the decade.

By 1993, the big project in the works was Rattlesnake Rapids, so any major improvements for Lagoon Lake were probably put on the back burner by then.

But would there have been enough room for a decent water skiing show? Also, the lake is fairly shallow and murky and there were a lot of fish in it at the time. So they might have had to excavate part of the lake to build a separate diving pool in the middle. These are just some of the challenges that the project may have faced.

Despite the fact that Lagoon Lake has become a passive, sedentary feature, it’s one of very few remnants of the park’s 19th century origins and deserves another look for aesthetic enhancements and more active uses. As sociologist William H. Whyte said…

“It’s not right to put water before people and then keep them away from it.”

Water features have been important design elements in parks, gardens and public spaces for centuries. They’re often used as focal points because people tend to gather around things like fountains, waterfalls, rivers and ponds.

Still, it’s better to have the lake as it is than to fill it in. (Another section of the lake that extended to the current location of Colossus was already filled in decades ago). Lagoon Lake attracts many different species of birds and has a cooling effect on the area. Plus, the name Lagoon wouldn’t make much sense without the body of water it was named after. And even though the train, Tidal Wave and Turn Of The Century don’t interact directly with the lake, they wouldn’t be as enjoyable on a sea of asphalt.

Of course, increased maintenance of the lake would be the first step, but that would be a small thing compared to the potential of adding to the park’s unique attractions and making Lagoon Lake a center of focus again.

Sunset on Lagoon Lake, 2018. Photo: B. Miskin
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SOURCES

A Magnificent Production. The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 Jun 1898.

Whyte, William H. Jr. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Conservation Foundation. Washington, D.C., 1980.

Lincoln, Ivan M. Lagoon A Beach: Resort is making waves this season. Deseret News, 21 Apr 1989.

Welsh, Carl E. What Caused the 1990-91 Recession? Economic Review 93-2. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 1993.

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