By: Sharon Aron Baron
Twenty years ago, we didn’t have to schlep to Rapids Water Park in West Palm Beach for some awesome water slide fun. Atlantis water park was right in our backyard. If you don’t remember, Atlantis was located off of I-95 in Dania, close to the former Grand Prix. After closing in 1992, there has never been a water park for Broward County residents. Sure, we have those mini-parks in many of our cities, but those slides are for the little kids.
If you are looking for a real thrill, then you’ll have to hoof it up to Palm Beach County.
I contacted Michael Lucas, a former employee of Atlantis who created an unofficial blog called Atlantis Memories. He wanted me to bear in mind that he is not affiliated with Six Flags Atlantis and that these are his recollections.
Six Flags Atlantis was a water park occupying several prime acres of real estate at the intersection of I-95 and Stirling Road in Hollywood, Florida.
It was born “Atlantis, the Water Kingdom,” designed and built by a local developer who ran out of funds before the park could open. For several years it remained in a state of partial completion.
Bally’s, then the parent company of Six Flags, purchased at least part of the park, and it finally opened in 1983 as “Six Flags Atlantis.”*
The park facilities included a seven-story slide tower, a lake with water-skiing shows, a wave pool, video arcades, a small midway, and dozens of other shows and activities.
Some “Miami Vice” scenes were filmed at Atlantis. Though the park’s name is changed in the storyline, the Atlantis midway is clearly recognizable. Also, an Italian motion picture company filmed “The Genii” at the park. The film appears to have never been released.
Despite hosting over 500,000 guests every year for nine years, Atlantis never had a fatality– or even a serious injury.
The mural on the back of the wave pool was made from hand-painted Italian tile– as were all the tiled surfaces around all the pools.
Tiffany Sessions was an employee of Atlantis before her disappearance. Hopefully, she is well and happy in some part of the world.
Atlantis did have some inherent problems. First, it was located just a couple of miles from Dania Beach and minutes away from the world-famous beaches in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
Second, its operating schedule was subject to the whims of the weather.
Thunderstorms along the sea-breeze front, an event common on hazy South Florida afternoons, could close the park for hours.
In the off-seasons, unpredictable cold fronts might reduce attendance at a fully-staffed park to a couple of hundred guests, or unexpected warm days could find the closed park turning away potential customers.
Six Flags sold the park in the summer of 1988, and it was reopened by the new owners with the original name “Atlantis, The Water Kingdom.” Reinvented as a smaller, more efficient park and freed from the burden of Six Flags’ insurance costs, Atlantis began to operate in the black.
But in the end, it was damage from 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, which closed the park’s gates forever.
There was even an effort to relocate the park, but no site far enough east to avoid the daily thunderstorms could be found.
The functional, psychedelic submarine that graced the parking lot was moved a couple of miles down the road to the former Grand Prix Race-O-Rama. Little else remains of the park except for a few memories.