After enduring fire, flood, mayhem and a fickle public, the once-popular Saratoga - Utah Lake's last resort - is slowly being dismantled for a massive housing development.
The carnival rides are long gone. The midway now resembles a ghost town. All but one of the natural hot-spring swimming pools are empty. The water slide holds nothing but leaves.Some red and green Kiddieland helicopters and boats lie under the century-old Pioneer Pavilion. The kiddie roller-coaster track sits askew. Old tires that once cushioned the go-cart track are strewn about.
"This used to be full of people this time of year. It looks kind of funny empty," said longtime Saratoga owner Mick Eastmond, gazing across the waterless pools. In addition to the pools and rides, the park offered camping, boating and picnicking.
Most of Saratoga's remnants will be gone in a few years. Eastmond is selling the 30-acre resort. But not to the Six Flags amusement park chain or Micron Technology, as recent rumors suggested. A group of investors plans to incorporate the swimming pool and old pavilion into the 600-acre Saratoga Springs planned-unit community.
"It was too much of a headache to run," he said.
In selling, Eastmond, 71, will give up what was his personal playground for most of his life. His father, Frank Eastmond, bought Saratoga in 1928. The elder Eastmond built a house next door. He turned the park over to his four sons in 1953, and Mick Eastmond took sole control in 1962. He built his own house next to his father's.
"It sure was a fun place in the early days," he said.
Eastmond's fondest memories of Saratoga, about four miles outside Lehi, are of the dance pavilion with its indoor/outdoor dance floor and big-band music.
Memories are all that remain of the dance hall and original pool building. Fire consumed both in 1968.
Known mostly for its hot springs and pools, Saratoga, named after the famous New York resort, changed much under Eastmond's direction. He eventually brought in 35 amusement park rides and games, making it a popular destination during its heyday in the '60s and early '70s.
The park became a popular spot for end-of-year school excursions, business parties and bluegrass concerts.
"Saratoga was very busy. It was fun and exciting," Eastmond said.
The excitement was a precursor to Saratoga's most ill-fated event. Some local promoters came up with an idea to hold a rock concert at the park. The headline attraction was British rock band Deep Purple.
"I didn't know what a rock concert was," Eastmond said.
He soon found out.
"I noticed the type of crowd was wild. I didn't notice that until it was too late of course," he said.
Deep Purple never performed its hits "Smoke on the Water" and "Hush," or any of its music for that matter. Several warm-up acts blew out the stage's power source, and concert promoters failed to provide a backup generator.
Thousands of angry concertgoers erupted. "They were just raising hell in the whole place," Eastmond said. The raucous crowd ripped toilets out of bathrooms and tore down walls. Eastmond said it took 100 police to herd people out of the park.
"That was my last rock concert," he said.
In 1979, Eastmond began selling off the large rides. Insurance was getting too expensive, ride manufacturers refused to replace parts on old equipment and labor costs were rising. Eastmond employed nearly 200 people during the summers.
But he found a new attraction: a water slide. Saratoga's three-story high, 350-foot long "Kamakazi" was among Utah's first water slides when it debuted in 1980. The resort had three of it best years after the slide opened.
Like the white cinder-block buildings in the park, the water slide will likely be torn down.
"It breaks my heart. It cost me $150,000 to put it in. I hate to see it torn down," Eastmond said.
What probably broke Saratoga was what made it famous to begin with - water. Utah Lake rose to its highest level ever during the flood of 1983.
"The whole harbor was inundated," Eastmond said. "That was a real blow to Saratoga."Comment on this story
Park patrons dwindled as did Eastmond's profits. Competition for water-slide business stiffened when water parks like Raging Waters and Seven Peaks opened.
So, after running Saratoga for 33 years, Eastmond decided it was time to move on. The University of Utah and Stanford University graduate now lives in Sandy and works at his chosen profession, physical therapy.
But he'll never be far from Saratoga. Eastmond plans to buy a lot in the housing development. And his name remains carved into the shade trees he and his father planted some 60 years ago.