Taking a deep dive into the history of WEM’s waterpark

In the golden era of West Edmonton Mall’s World Waterpark, winter-weary sunseekers could crisp themselves under an artificial sun.

The temperature-controlled utopia, a haven for oiled skin and big ’80s hair, was called the Sun Lovers Pavilion.

Guests were encouraged to relax and work on their tan and expect “a perfect day, every day.”  

Matthew Dutczak remembers it well.

“It was an area where you could go and lie down under fake tanning lights and bake under the fake sun,” Dutczak said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.” 

For years, Dutczak has been taking a deep dive into the WEM Waterpark.

He has a longstanding, nostalgic obsession with the mammoth shopping centre and is a self-proclaimed West Edmonton Mall historian.

A self-employed web developer, Dutczak is the mastermind behind Best Edmonton Mall, a website and YouTube channel dedicated to the sprawling attraction.

He’s also been enlisted as an expert guide for Way Back WEM, a four-part CBC Radio series which takes a nostalgic romp through the mall’s history.

More than 30 years since welcoming its first swimmers, the World Waterpark remains the world’s largest indoor water park recreational facility.

Covering more than five acres, it features 17 unique water slides, the main wave pool named ‘Blue Thunder’, three oversized hot tubs, a splash park, children’s areas, a zip line, simulated surfing, and cozy cabanas.

When the water park first opened in 1986, as part of the major expansion project which made the world’s largest mall even larger,  it was touted as a “Polynesian paradise.” On Sept. 10, 1985, a black-tie event was held to open the third phase of West Edmonton Mall, doubling its size and adding new attractions. 1:09

Dutczak doesn’t long for the scorching glow of the tanning lights, there are some design elements from those brighter days he would like to see make a comeback.

As a child, he relished a ride down Raging Rapids which was shut down in 2004. The lazy river, which traversed waterfalls, steep artificial turf-covered embankments and grotto-like tunnels, was “bar none” his favourite attraction.

You encase yourself in this little tube of death.– Matthew Dutczak 

He also longs for the comparatively calmer ride once provided by the Sky Screamer water slide.

“You used to sit at the top and slide down the Sky Screamer,” he said. “Now you encase yourself in this little tube of death.

“I don’t think that’s the official term but you incase yourself in this little tube with a glass door and the ground falls out from below you.”

“It’s a very different slide than it used to be.”

Which West Edmonton Mall attractions do you miss the most? Let us know in the comments section below.

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