Distant Memories of the Big Splash

The former Big Splash tower, once an iconic landmark at East Coast Park, is slated for demolition after almost 40 years of existence.

Many Singaporeans would have fond memories of Big Splash – its slides, pools and restaurants – as one of their favourite recreation parks during their childhood or schooling times, where they spent many weekend afternoons swishing down the slides and splashing into the pools. And not forgetting those awkward moments when someone’s swimwear or trunks got washed off by the high impacts.

Big Splash was developed by Singapore Aquatic Sports Pte Ltd, the wholly-owned subsidiary of private developer Goldhill Properties, who also held directorship at Jurong Watersports Complex Pte Ltd, a firm incorporated in 1975 to set up Mitsukoshi Garden with Japanese retail giant Mitsukoshi Ltd. Located along Japanese Garden Road in the western side of Singapore, Mitsukoshi Garden was the equivalent as well as matching rival of Big Splash.

Both water theme parks shared similar features, both in design and materials used for the pools and slides, which were originated from Yamakuni Iron Company, a well-known Japanese pool maker. In this way, the developers hoped that they would be able to tap into the two large pockets of clienteles in Singapore’s main population centres.

Occupying a site of 33,530 square metres, Mitsukoshi Garden was considerably smaller than Big Splash. But it was still well-equipped, with flow pool, sliding pool, kids’ pool and a wading pool with a stage as its main attractions. Opened in April 1979, the $10 million project also had a restaurant, reception office, golf putting course, spectator’s gallery and function rooms.

Big Splash, however, was more spectacular in design and size, and was soaking in almost a carnival atmosphere.

The iconic five-lane coloured slides – they were ranged between 12m and 17m tall (and 85m long) –  were then the tallest and longest slides in the world for a water recreation centre. Beside the splash pools where the slides ended off, there were the adult-size pool, children’s pool and flow pools with artificially created current movements. All the pools were filled with seawater, and had sand bottoms to give the swimmers a beach effect.

Other than the water amenities, Big Splash also possessed a restaurant, arcade, refreshment kiosks and an amphitheatre for puppet and magic shows. Its entire premises, a large project evolved from the Park and Recreation Department’s plan to develop East Coast Parkway, cost $6 million in construction and a recurring $2 million in annual operation.

Singapore’s largely anticipated water amusement park was opened on 23 July 1977, adding to the vibrancy of the up and coming East Coast Park in the late seventies and eighties. Over the years, more amenities were built at the “green lung” of Singapore, such as the man-made lagoon, chalets, bicycle and jogging tracks, golf driving range, tennis courts, food centre and even a crocodile aquarium.

During its heydays, Big Splash was a crowd-puller, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors every month. It was also one of the popular venues for private organisations to hold their events, picnics and parties.

The popular Big Splash unfortunately had a couple of incidents soon after its opening.

A 19-year-old youth was found in a dizzy state after playing several rounds of the water slides. He was taken to the hospital but died hours later of cerebral hemorrhage. In September 1977, a 5-year-old boy was drown in the wave pool.

The 6000-strong attendance during weekends, as well as loud music and announcements made through its twelve loudspeakers, also attracted many complaints of noise pollution from the residents living at the nearby Amber Road.

The golden era of Big Splash lasted until the late nineties and early 2000s, when its popularity dwindled rapidly due to the challenges of new water theme parks in the Fantasy Island at Sentosa and Downtown East’s Wild Wild Wet. The managing company began to suffer losses, and it led to a lack of maintenance which saw its pools dirtied and iconic slides filled with algae.

By November 2006, Singapore’s once-favourite attraction could no longer continue to operate. Seafood International Market & Restaurant tendered for the site and took over, demolishing the long colourful slides and converting the place into a dining enclave. Its 10-year lease was up in 2016, and the land was returned to the government for redevelopment.

The Mitsukoshi Garden, on the other hand, was long gone, having closed in June 1983 after only four years of operation. It was subsequently sold to a Japanese restaurant chain, and had the premises converted into a dining venue and renamed as CN West Leisure Park.

The Big Splash building will be torn down in a couple of weeks’ time, and when that happens, we will bid a final goodbye to this former representative landmark of East Coast with all the fond memories we have.

Published: 11 June 2017

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4 Responses to Distant Memories of the Big Splash

  1. The Mimaland (1975-1994), Malaysia’s first theme park that famously had many realistic sculptures of dinosaurs, used to have long colourful water slides too


    (Photo Credit: https://www.nst.com.my/news/exclusive/2017/04/235211/memories-mimaland-abandoned-over-20-years-msias-first-theme-park-still)

  2. The building is almost demolished.

  3. Clementi kid says:

    Thanks for archiving the memories of the Big Splash.

    Just like the red brick National Library, I’ve only been to the Big Splash a handful of times. I was a 1980s kid.

    I guess if Singaporeans want to have fun on waterslides nowadays, it’s either the overpriced Adventure Cove in Resorts World Sentosa, or in Johor, Malaysia.

    I’ve also been to the Van Kleef Aquarium once or twice in the 1980s during school excursion tours, but I was too young to remember details.

  4. Former Big Splash site converted into new family-friendly destination with water play areas, 12m-tall tube slide

    28 March 2021
    The Straits Times

    Singaporeans with fond memories of the former iconic Big Splash water theme park at East Coast Park can now revisit them at the new Coastal PlayGrove, a 4.5ha development with a tube slides and water play areas that opened on Sunday (March 28) at the site.

    Built as part of efforts to rejuvenate East Coast Park and help spread out human traffic to the other parts of the park, the Coastal PlayGrove in Area B of the park features structures and designs that are reminiscent of the well-loved water park, including a 16m play structure that is a reconstruction of the Big Splash tower.

    The water park closed in 2006 and was later redeveloped as a dining and lifestyle destination. The site was handed over to the Government in 2016.

    The tower houses a vertical net play area, suitable for youngsters, with nets decked out in red, orange, yellow, green and blue – a nod to the distinctive five-lane coloured slides in the former water park. Visitors can also access two enclosed tube slides from the third and fourth floor of the tower, which are 7.3m and 11.9m high respectively.

    For younger children, they can climb and explore play nets at the base of the tower, which are suitable for those aged five to 12.

    There is also a water play area with wading pools and water jets that will be illuminated at night in various colours, a nature playgarden designed for children aged three to 12, as well as an outdoor classroom by the sea, designed for pre-schoolers.

    The playgarden includes teepees and log trail for children to engage in imaginative play, while the water park includes platforms to allow wheelchair access along the main pools and streams.

    The outdoor classroom, which is equipped with a chalkboard and log stools, and has a view of the sea, will allow nearby pre-schools to conduct more activities at the park. It has additional features for pre-schoolers to explore and discover, including various fruit trees that have been planted in the area, as well as a former hornbill’s nest, salvaged from dead tree, which can be used to start conversations about wildlife conservation efforts.

    There are also new recreational and dining options for park visitors at the Coastal PlayGrove.

    On Sunday, the National Parks Board (NParks) also announced plans to create a nature trail, which will run through the entire length of East Coast Park from Gardens by the Bay East towards Changi. Measuring about 15km, it will be built over the next 10 years, and link up therapeutic gardens, nature playgardens, and forest patches.

    This will provide another recreational route across the island, in addition to others that have been recently announced, such as the 18km Eastern Corridor which will run from East Coast to Pasir Ris.

    Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, National Development Minister Desmond Lee as well as Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan officially opened the Coastal PlayGrove site by planting a bayu tree at the site on Sunday morning.

    Mr Lee said the opening of Coastal PlayGrove marks the completion of redevelopment works for East Coast Park, which were announced in 2017.

    “We embarked on our efforts to redevelop our largest and most popular park, to provide Singaporeans with a diverse range of recreational opportunities,” said Mr Lee. The other redeveloped sites in the park are the Raintree Cove as well as the 5.4ha Cyclist Park, which in 2019 on the site of the former Goldkist Chalets.

    Raintree Cove, which formerly contained futsal courts and food and beverage outlets, was converted into a tranquil area with swings. The total cost of the three developments – Coastal PlayGrove, Raintree Cove and the Cyclist Park – was $24.5 million.

    Coastal PlayGrove was originally slated to open by end-2019.

    Asked about why the completion of the development was delayed, Mr Tan Jun Chao, director of parks for NParks, told reporters at a virtual media briefing on Sunday that a considerable amount of time was spent designing the area, and researching the historical context of the former Big Splash site, as it holds a lot of memories for Singaporeans. The Covid-19 pandemic also affected the project completion, he added.

    The water play area and the vertical net play area – called the Vertical Challenge – are open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 8am to 8pm.

    Due to current Covid-19 restrictions, the vertical net play area is subject to a capacity limit of 20 people per level, and additional manpower will be deployed to monitor the situation during peak hours. Play facilities will be temporarily closed when maximum use capacity has been reached.

    “We encourage visitors to come to Coastal PlayGrove on weekdays or during off-peak hours to avoid disappointment,” said NParks, adding that visitors should observe safe distancing, and keep to group sizes of eight people and below when visiting the park.

    https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/former-big-splash-site-converted-into-new-family-friendly-destination-with-water-play

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