L’Aquatic Paradis Was Abandoned Following the Olympic Games

Viktoriia Makeenko
Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission
Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission

One of the new facilities to be built in Sitges was a water park known as the L’Aquatic Paradis

When it was announced that the Olympic Games were to be held in Barcelona in 1992, this led to a fever of construction and improvements in advance of the world-renowned event. Even businessmen in the Spanish city of Sitges, located near Barcelona, got caught up in this trend.

Looking up a spiral staircase.
(Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission)

About 500 million pesetas (equivalent to 8.5 million euros today) were invested in its development and expectations of its attraction and profitability were high.

Reports vary as to whether the park was built and opened in the late 1980s or early 1990s, but what all sources agree on is that it didn’t last long.

Several abandoned buildings.
(Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission)

The attraction was not particularly popular among the local population and didn’t attract many tourists because water parks are generally visited on family vacations, and Sitges was not considered a family-friendly location. Due to its beautiful beaches, carnival, and film festival, it was viewed more as a high-end destination.

Despite the fact that the number of visitors was small, the park continued to run. However, in 1995, the PortAventura amusement park was built in Salou, just down the road, and it proved to be a serious competitor.

An abandoned spiral slide.
(Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission)

The PortAventura park managed to establish itself as a favorite destination for families. In its first year of operation, it was visited by 2.7 million people.

Facing such tough competition, L’Aquatic Paradis made several attempts to survive. The owners tried to get sponsors, laid off staff, and took on several bank loans. But all that happened was that the water park accumulated more debts that its activities and visitor numbers could pay off.

Debris left behind a graffitied concrete area.
(Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission)

To make matters worse, there were also rumors of an accident that resulted in a fatality when a young child was sucked into the engine of a wave machine. It’s unclear whether the incident happened at L’Aquatic Paradis or a nearby park, but nevertheless the water park in Sitges suffered as a result.

Adverse press reports and large debts eventually forced the owners to close the water park in 1995. After that, the park began to deteriorate. Ironically, its abandoned state made more popular than when it was open, only now its visitors were urban explorers, skateboarders, and graffiti artists.

An abandoned path.
(Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission)

Even though the park was officially closed, some entrances to it remained accessible to those who were determined to get in. L’Aquatic Paradis now became a venue for graffiti artists, skaters, music videos, commercials, fashion articles, and photoshoots. There is even a music band who regularly rehearses here.

The land on which this abandoned water park stood had a covenant on it that it couldn’t be used to build flats. Only hotels or shopping centers could be built on this site so the owners struggled to find suitable investors for the location.

Debris in an abandoned pool area.
(Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission)

However, in 2006, the area was acquired by Atri S.A. The company wanted to develop the land and create a cultural complex called Parc de Les Arts. The project included the construction of a hotel, residential buildings, gardens, and public spaces.

Unfortunately, this ambitious project was undermined by the global financial crisis and Parc de Les Arts was never built. Today, all entrances to the water park have been closed and entering the territory is illegal. The police use it for training exercises.

The abandoned frame of a building.
(Photo Credit: Toshiko Sakurai / Flickr / with permission)

Toshiko Sakurai took these photographs of the forgotten waterpark in Sitges, Spain, and has kindly allowed us to share them in our article.

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Toshiko Sakurai is a Venezuelan photographer and freelance journalist. He has created a portfolio on Flickr and is continuously adding new photos to it.