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