It was the summer of 2002 when a brand new waterpark opened on Island Park in Portage la Prairie. It was a vision that started years earlier and the idea was to turn Island Park into a destination spot for locals and tourists alike.
20 years later, you could say that vision was a success. The waterpark has seen around 600,00 people walk through the turnstiles from Portage, the surrounding area, the province, and the world. PRRA Recreation Manager Zapphira Neuschwander says they strive to create a good experience for everyone and feels the park has done just that.
"We hope everyone leaves with a positive memory. Even myself, I have some great memories from when I was younger. 20 years is a reason to celebrate, especially coming out of the pandemic, things were much closer to normal this season. For a couple of years, capacity was limited and people had to book in advance. This year, despite some wet weather, we've seen around 30,000 visits along with swimming lessons and private parties"
Ken Brennan was the deputy mayor when the park opened but said plans started with the previous council when Glen Carlson was mayor. Brennan looks back at the process.
"By the time we got it all put together, Ian McKenzie was the mayor and it was an exciting ride to see it built. From the initial plans, to the building of the park, to the ribbon cutting. It's hard to believe that it's been there for 20 years, it's a real pleasant success for our city"
Brennan says the ribbon cutting almost didn't happen as planned.
"I'll never forget for my entire life, we advertised the grand opening to be at 11 o'clock in the morning and we did a lot of advertising because we wanted a lot of people there. Then a health inspector came in and did a quick check. There were about six things that needed fixing before he would let us cut the ribbon and open the doors to the place. It was all hands on deck. We had people from the parks department, counselors, admin assistants, and whoever could come. We all got over there and worked in a fever pitch. Got it done with about 10 minutes to spare. And I'll never forget that"
As for the name of the park? Well, a contest was held and over a hundred entries came in. Brock Palmer, now an electrician with Point West Electric, submitted the name that was eventually chosen. He received 10 free passes for his efforts and says it's kind of neat to know he named the facility.
"I don't remember too much because I was in grade 4. I talked it over with my grandpa and knew it was on the island so that was my inspiration. Now I have a kid of my own and when I take him there I can tell him that his dad named the place. In fact, it's one of my favorite stories to tell people when it comes up"
The park has remained in very good shape over the decades and only minor changes and repairs have had to be done. To mark the event, a special family swim is on from noon until 5 pm. Admission will be rolled back to $5, there will be birthday cake and numerous prizes will be handed out.
The Mix 96 pool party is a popular summer event. This was the first in 2017.