|Location||Vernon, New Jersey, U.S.|
|Previous names||Action Park (2014-2015)|
|Operating season||June to September|
|Website||Mountain Creek Waterpark|
Mountain Creek Waterpark is a water park located in Vernon, New Jersey, US, on the grounds of the Mountain Creek ski resort. The park consists primarily of water-based attractions and opened in 1998.
The park is located on the original site of Action Park, one of the first modern American water parks, which was open from 1978 until 1996. It became infamous for poorly designed, unsafe rides; under-aged, undertrained, and often under-the-influence staff; intoxicated, unprepared visitors; and a consequently poor safety record. At least six people are known to have died as a result of mishaps on rides at the original park, and as such it was given nicknames such as "Traction Park", "Accident Park", and "Class Action Park". Despite this, the park was very popular and attracted thrill-seekers from across the New York metro area with its unique rides. In its later years, personal-injury lawsuits led to the closure of more and more rides and eventually, the entire park.
On February 9, 1998, Intrawest announced the purchase of the majority of the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area, including the Action Park property. After a massive overhaul, which included revamping rides and removing attractions deemed either outright unsafe or inappropriate relative to Intrawest's vision, the waterpark was reopened as Mountain Creek Waterpark.
In 2010, the Mountain Creek ski area and waterpark was sold to a group led by Eugene Mulvihill, the former owner of Vernon Valley/Great Gorge and the owner of the adjacent Crystal Springs Resort. It was under the new ownership that the name of the water park was changed back to Action Park beginning in the 2014 season. For the 2016 season, the name was reverted back to Mountain Creek Waterpark.
The park was opened in 1978 when Great American Recreation (GAR), new owners of the recently combined Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area, wanted to create a revenue stream during the off season. Two years earlier, in 1976, they had followed the trend of many other ski areas at the time, and opened a 2,700-foot (820 m)-long alpine slide down very steep ski trails. Gradually, Waterworld and Motorworld came together at the base of the mountain to form one of North America's earliest modern water parks, which was originally called the Vernon Valley Summer Park.
They started out with two waterslides, and a LOLA race car track in the summer of 1978, and then more waterslides and a small deep-water swimming pool the next year, as well as tennis courts and a softball field. The early 1980s saw more slides along with a huge wavepool that replaced the softball field. Finally, Motorworld was carved out of the swampy areas the ski area owned across Route 94. Ultimately, the small park consisting of the Alpine Slide and two water slides evolved to a major destination with 75 rides (35 motorized self-controlled rides and 40 waterslides).
GAR promoted its new attraction with television commercials in the New York metropolitan area, using the jingle "There's nothing in the world like Action Park!" in several-part harmony (later, "The action never stops...at Action Park!"). By the 1990s, the park was being advertised as the world's largest water park. Additionally, during the 1990s, up through the park's final season, and into 1997, Action Park maintained a web site at the domain actionpark.com, on which visitors could find information about rides, directions to the park, and lodging, and even enter a lottery for a chance to win park tickets.
Action Park's most successful years were the mid-1980s. Most rides were still open, and the park's later reputation for danger had not yet developed. In 1982, the deaths of two visitors within a week of each other and ensuing permanent closure of one ride took place, but that hardly dampened the flow of crowds.
The park's fortunes began to turn with two deaths in summer 1984 and the legal and financial problems that stemmed from the lawsuits. A state investigation of improprieties in the leasing of state land to the park led to a 110-count grand jury indictment against the nine related companies that ran it and their executives for operating an unauthorized insurance company. Many took pretrial intervention to avoid prosecution; head Eugene Mulvihill pleaded guilty that November to five insurance fraud-related charges. Still, attendance remained high and the park remained profitable, at least on paper. The park entertained over a million visitors a year, with as many as 12,000 coming on some of the busiest weekends.
Park officials said this made the injury and death rate statistically insignificant. Nevertheless, the director of the emergency room at a nearby hospital said they treated from five to ten victims of park accidents on some of the busiest days, and the park eventually bought the township of Vernon extra ambulances to keep up with the volume.
In September 1989, Great American Recreation negotiated a deal with International Broadcasting Corporation that would result in the sale of Vernon Valley-Great Gorge, and Action Park, for $50 million. IBC, however, backed out of the deal, feeling the site was not suitable for their needs upon further inspections of the properties.
In September 1991, Great American Recreation attempted to petition the Vernon Township Committee to put a referendum on the November ballot that, if passed, would have legalized the operation of games of skill and chance at Action Park. On September 23, the petition was rejected by the committee because only 643 of the 937 signatures on the petition came from registered voters.
A few rides were closed and dismantled due to costly settlements and rising insurance premiums in the 1990s, and at last the park's attendance began to suffer as the recession early in that decade reduced visitation. In early 1995, GAR operated Vernon Valley-Great Gorge with no liability insurance. New Jersey did not require liability insurance, and GAR found it more economical to go to court than purchase liability insurance since they relied on their own self-insurance. GAR purchased liability insurance from Evanston Insurance Co in May of that year to cover Action Park, as well as Vernon Valley-Great Gorge's skiing facilities.
As 1995 progressed, GAR's financial woes continued to accumulate. First Fidelity Bank, who lent $19 million to GAR, and some 15 other connected corporations, filed suit against them in an effort to begin the process of foreclosing on the debt owed to them. Law firms owed money for services rendered between 1991 and 1993 also began filing suit. As November rolled around, GAR negotiated a deal with Noramco Capital Corp, and the Praedium Fund of CS First Boston, in which they would purchase the debt owed to First Fidelity, temporarily fending off an impending foreclosure.
In February 1996, the creditors who had taken on GAR's debt petitioned to force GAR into bankruptcy over the $14 million owed by the struggling company. GAR filed for Chapter 11 protection that following March, but remained optimistic that they could regain their financial footing "within a year."
Action Park closed at the end of the season as usual on Labor Day, September 2, 1996. Going into 1997, GAR remained optimistic that Action Park would open as expected on June 14, in spite of massive layoffs that occurred at the end of the ski season. The opening date was pushed back to June 28, then mid July. On June 25, 1997, GAR announced the cessation of all its operations, including Action Park.
Following the demise of GAR in 1997, Praedium Recovery Fund purchased the Vernon Valley-Great Gorge resort, and Action Park, for $10 million. The investment group put the company Angel Projects in charge of managing the resort, and aimed to pump in some $20 million to upgrade the ski resort's equipment, trails, and to remodel the water park.
Canadian park operator Intrawest purchased the park, and neighboring Vernon Valley ski area in February 1998. The Waterworld section of Action Park was revamped, and then reopened for the 1998 season as Mountain Creek. The owners, aware of the image problems created during the Action Park era, sought to differentiate themselves from their predecessors. By this time, Mountain Creek was no longer the state's largest waterpark, nor was it the draw that it was during its original heyday, as other waterparks built around the region have since divided the market. Since Intrawest was a ski resort corporation, the water park would be leased out to Palace Entertainment after the first couple of years.
As a result of problems at the original Action Park, New Jersey toughened its amusement regulations. During the Mountain Creek era, many of the rides built during the heyday of Action Park boasted large bilingual signs advising patrons of just what the ride entails, how deep the water is in metric and US customary units, the age it is most appropriate for, and the state regulatory ID numbers. Safety rules are strictly enforced at the new park, although alcohol is still available.
In 2010, Intrawest, which ended up in bankruptcy proceedings itself as a result of a leveraged buyout, sold both the Mountain Creek ski resort and the water park to the owners of Crystal Springs Resort. The water park would remain under lease to Palace Entertainment until 2011, when the owners of the resort bought out the operating lease to the water park. This returned control of the former Action Park property, as well as the entire former Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski area, to the Mulvihill family as they had retained ownership of the ski area that was renamed Crystal Springs following GAR's bankruptcy.
In April 2014, the Mulvihill family changed the name of Mountain Creek back to Action Park. However, on May 29, 2016, it was announced that the Action Park name was again retired and that the park would revert to the Mountain Creek Waterpark name.
In the summer of 2014, the Zero-G opened. Located on the tower for H2 OhNo, the Zero-G is a double-looping slide featuring 2 inclined loops.
For 2015 and beyond, plans for the park include a new lounge area and pools, relocation of batting cages from their present location to near the Action Putts Miniature Golf Course, and the construction of a go-kart track by the same miniature golf course. The go-kart track, however, will only be around for 1-2 years, as a proposed indoor water park hotel is currently planned for that same site.
Currently in development by Vancouver-based Sky Turtle Technologies is a ride called the Sky Caliber, a vertically looping water slide that will debut at Mountain Creek in 2016. Unlike the original Cannonball Loop, riders will ride in bullet-shaped aluminum cages. The ride also features a considerably taller and steeper approach, as well as a teardrop shaped loop. Current indications are that the slide will be called "Cannonball Loop."
The world's longest water slide, a 2,130-foot (650 m) inflatable slide made in Waimauku, New Zealand back in 2013, is being transported to, and installed at Mountain Creek. Testing is scheduled to begin in early July 2015, with an opening date yet to be announced.