Now What: Tempe Town Lake's Dam Broke, What Will Become of the Tempe Triathalon?

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On July 20, 2010 the rubber bladder on the west end of Tempe Town Lake that's known as the dam finally succumbed to the effects of a decade's worth of sunshine and burst. Three quarters of the water spilled out and today it's not much more than a muddy hole.

Since the lake won't be filled until November, the Tempe Triathalon, set for September 26, has a problem. Organizers are taking it in stride.  The triathalon will simply sever "tri" and replace it with a "du": Duathalon.  They're trying their best to keep the humor saying, "The runs will take place along side the gorgeous mud pit that was Tempe Town Lake, followed by the best Olympic bike course in Tempe, and a run along the multi-use path around the lake...ummm pit."

On a side note, the Tempe Town Lake proved controversial since the drawing board in the late 1980s. The dam break awakened the long-hushed criticisms. The lake's purpose and value was blatantly commercial as the dams would provide no hydroelectric power, and there would be no riparian wildlife area. Being in the flight path to Sky Harbor Airport, critics considered the volume of birds the lake would surely attract as a hazard to air traffic. Others found it absurdly artificial and naïve to pump millions of gallons of water into a dry desert riverbed with the only purpose of attracting dollars to the community.

Then on June 2, 1999 the water diverted from the Colorado River began filling the prepared cement bowl and six weeks later the lake was filled.  When it opened to the public that November, we found a pretty cool park, bike paths, a place to rent kayaks and boats, rowing clubs, art displays, music concerts, and a new place for ASU guys to stare at ASU gals; it was like all criticisms flipped into, "Hey this is kind of cool."

Tempe Town Lake after the dam break photo by adamsfuller (creative commons license)
Empty Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake at capacity photo by Rob Overcash (robtography) (creative commons license)
Tempe Town Lake photo from Rob Overcash


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