We’re very excited to celebrate our 15th season with our guests this summer! As we near opening day, we want to take some time to reflect upon and share the story of Illinois’ Largest Waterpark, and unofficially, the largest “Mom-and-Pop” waterpark in the nation.
In 1986, Randy decided he wanted to get out of the corporate world and create a place for families to have fun. Randy always likes fun! Relating to his years of driving a stock car, Randy thought originally he was going to build a couple of go-kart tracks, then decided to add mini golf. Then someone suggested he should add one of “those waterslides” – it was something fairly new and people seemed to enjoy them. Through all his research he finally decided to build a park with all water rides, no mini golf or go carts. It was something different (at the time) and there was nothing else like this in the area.
Between 1986 and 2005, Randy and I traveled around the United States learning all about the business. We went to all different parks, talking with owners and learning what worked for their guests and what didn’t. We also talked to manufacturers and designers and waterpark builders, gleaning all the good information we could. At that time, most waterparks were family owned by people just like Randy who had a dream and made it work. As our children were born, the business trips became our family vacations – it was all our children knew at the time.
A Dream Becomes Reality
Starting in 2004, my brother, Scott, agreed to be Randy’s business partner. He helped Randy reach out to investors and bankers and was able to secure financing to start building Illinois largest waterpark. Exciting times! Randy quit his full time job in development and went full time working on Raging Waves. The following year, Scott and Randy acquired 45 acres of farmland in Yorkville, IL. At that time, Kendall County was one of the fastest growing county in the United States.
In 2006, construction began – as did all the problems that go with it. The great recession happened, there were construction overruns and delays. In our naivety we learned not everyone was nice nor did they want us to succeed. But we also learned there were a lot of really good people who helped us through those hard times.
Illinois’ Largest Waterpark Is Born
On June 28, 2008, Raging Waves opened as Illinois largest waterpark with 17 slides (all of which are still here to this day), a 1/4 mile lazy river, 350,000 gallon wave pool, sand area, leisure pool and two restaurants. Our three pillars were born …. SAFETY, FRIENDLINESS AND CLEANLINESS. These are still our pillars today and we will never waiver from these three key values!
While we were excited to finally open the park to the public, this was a challenging time for us. It didn’t help that July 2009 was the coldest summer on record. The next several years, we were looking for opportunities that would help us stay afloat.
In 2012, an outside firm approached us about building and operating a 2,200 foot zipline that would zip guests all around the park – this came to be known as Cowabunga Zip Line. The following two years, we went back to the drawing board on how to entertain our guests in a cost effective manner. We opened a pedal cart track, Outback Road Rally. We also had an outside vendor bring a Sea Lion show in 2013 and a High Dive Show in 2014 – these performances ran a few times a day. Both shows were a lot of fun for our guests to watch and enjoy.
Bigger and Better
In 2015, the outside firm that operated Cowabunga Zip Line decided to cease operations. Nevertheless, we were already working on plans of our own to make Raging Waves bigger and better. Later that year, we expanded Koala Kove, one of our kiddie areas. We enlarged the pool, made it a zero depth entry, debuted new splash features and added 2 new slides for the little ones to enjoy. We also expanded our variety of dining options with the addition of Surfside Subs.
In 2016, we showcased our first big addition as we closed and repurposed The Ol’ Billabong Swimming Hole for the debut of Wonambi. It was voted one of the Best New Waterslides of 2016 at the industry-leading Golden Ticket Awards. Always expanding our food options, we introduced Jet’s Pizza as well as a dedicated pizza kiosk in 2017.
2018 marked our 10th anniversary. To celebrate, we unveiled our largest expansion yet with the addition of two new attractions: Wild Wallabies and Quokka Nut Island. We upgraded themeing throughout the park and Kiddie Bunga Bay was completed. We also were able to purchase 20 additional acres along the south side of the park. It became apparent with our other expansions we would be needing this land for additional parking and future expansion. The next year, Phase 1 of parking lot expansion and construction of eight additional private cabanas was in the works.
By March 2020, construction of a new exciting ride had started – a six lane mat racer was coming. But as we have learned, life is not always as we lay it out – COVID-19 hit and shut us down! But, thanks to the Lord and a lot of helpful people, we were able to open again on July 11, 2020. Already being known as one of the cleanest waterparks in the industry definitely played in our favor. We had little changes to make to our procedures and standards.
In 2021, Aussie Mat Dash construction was completed, bringing our total number of slides to 32. In addition to completing Phase II of the parking lot expansion, we added six additional cabanas, along with more lockers near the Hungry Croc Restaurant. Our newest amazing Marketing Manager was added to our team and that is how this timeline was born :-).
15 Summers of Fun, and More To Come
We are amazed at what God has done, how He has sustained us and blessed us in so many ways. We believe our guests are the best and we care deeply to make it a great experience for all of them! We continue to work to improve our park and provide a place for families to get away and enjoy a great day together!
To see more of the Raging Waves story, click here.