L’Aquatic Paradis was a water park operating for a short time in Sitges near Barcelona in Spain. Sitges has been a popular tourist spot since the 1960s when it gained a reputation as the centre for the counterculture growing in Spain during the rule of Franco. When his rule came to an end and tourism on the Catalonian coast continued to grow, visitors from across Europe began flocking to Sitges. Today, it is renowned worldwide for its carnival, LGBT tourism and the Sitges Film Festival.
Sitges received a major boost when the Olympic Games were held in nearby Barcelona in 1992. New developments came to the town, one of which was a water park called L’Aquatic Paradis. It was never particularly popular and visitor numbers were low. Sitges had never really been seen as a family resort and a water park didn’t seem to fit with its reputation as a high-end beach destination. Some called it the St Tropez of Spain. It didn’t help that Spain’s biggest theme park, PortAventura, was under construction just down the coast in Salou and it had firmly placed itself front and centre as the family destination of choice within Catalonia.
In 1995, PortAventura’s first year of operation, 2.7 million people visited the park. L’Aquatic Paradis, by comparison, saw diminishing guest numbers in what was only its second year in operation. Sponsorship had failed to materialise and cuts were made to try to keep losses to a minimum. Safety was said to be an issue and rumours abound to this day about a child being fatally injured after being sucked into the engine of the wave machine. After just two seasons in operation, L’Aquatic Paradis closed its gates, burdened by bad press and big debts.
The water park has been abandoned ever since and has become a hub of counterculture in the area, much like Sitges had been during the 1960s. Despite falling into a state of disrepair, the park now seems to be as popular now as it was when it was operating. The slides have remained in place and the former L’Aquatic Paradis has become a popular location for Barcelona’s skaters. Graffiti artists have made it their own. It has been the location of music videos and fashion editorials. One band used it as the cover of their album, while another practices there every week.
In 2006, a company called Atri S.A. purchased the old park and signed an agreement with the town of Sitges to develop the area. Their grandiose project for the 13 acre site was a cultural complex called Parc de les Arts 1. The plan included a large auditorium, parking, a hotel, residential properties, gardens and public squares. The Parc de Les Arts never materialised as Spain was hit by the global financial crisis.
L’Aquatic Paradis still remains abandoned. It is also still a hub of counterculture in an ever changing Catalonia.