It all started at a Laundromat in 1969. Greg Mastriona had graduated college and was looking for a recreation job, when his wife Pam happened to run into the wife of the executive director of the Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District.
“She told my wife that she was sure her husband would give me an interview,” Mastriona said. “I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. That’s where is all started.”
Mastriona started his 43-year Hyland Hills career as a golf course assistant superintendent, before becoming the executive director in 1972. Over the years he had an integral part in growing the district, as well as becoming the visionary behind Water World. But as of Jan. 1, he no longer leads the district; he’s enjoying the slower-paced life of retirement.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work for a great organization, board and staff,” he said. “We had a lot of teamwork, and I’m very proud of the staff, and I have so many good memories and experiences.”
Mastriona plans on taking in some golf and fishing during his retirement. He said he doesn’t have any major plans, but looks forward to traveling with Pam, who retired eight years ago.
The break is well-deserved after years of dedication to not only the Hyland Hills District, but the community. His leadership and vision have resulted in many facilities including Adventure Golf & Raceway, the Greg Mastriona Golf Courses at Hyland Hills, the Ice Centre at the Promenade — a collaboration with the city of Westminster, the MAC (Mature Adult Center) and of course, Water World. He said he’s also extremely proud of the many programs the district sponsors for children in the district.
“The best part of the job is seeing the smiles of the kids,” he said. “Knowing that the programs and the facilities are being used and enjoyed by the kids, that’s pretty neat. You can’t beat that.”
But before many of these facilities and programs could become a reality, something had to be done about the lack revenue in the district when Mastriona became executive director in 1972. At that time, the district was burdened with debt. That’s when Mastriona came up with the idea to build a water park. He says many people thought it was crazy to build a water park in Denver, but the idea soon proved to be a popular one. Mastriona went to the voters in 1979, and by a ratio of 14 to 1, a $2.7 million general obligation bond issue passed to build the park.
The park began with just two water slides, but grew the following year with the addition of the wave pool and four slides. Next came Surfer’s Cove and Thunder Bay in 1984, followed by River Country in 1986.
“River Country really put Water World on the map because it had tube rides and at that time all the slides were body slides,” he said. “We then built the first family ride, Raging Colorado, which allowed for people to interact on the ride. That was pretty cool.”
Since then, the park has grown to 48 attractions built over 67 acres, featuring rides like Voyage to the Center of the Earth, Mastriona’s favorite, and the most recent addition, the Mile High Flyer.
“Voyage was built in 1994, and we still have hour-long waits,” Mastriona said. “It’s a five-minute ride, that’s fast and features robotics. It’s still right on top, even though it is getting a little competition from the Mile High Flyer.”
Mastriona’s work in the field has made an impact in the community in more ways than one, but it’s also the work with his former employees that has made a great effect on those around him. Joann Cortez, communications director for the district, has worked for Mastriona for 15 years. She said as a boss, he never once raised his voice and always treated her with respect.
“If I had to go in a different way, Greg was direct about it and did in a kind, respectful way,” she said. “I think the average tenure for the management staff is way over 20 years, and that is a testament to our leader. He’s just been great.”
It’s clear Mastriona will be missed by the Hyland Hills family. Board president Don Ciancio said he has the highest regard for his overall performance and commitment to the district. He said Mastriona did a superior job for the district and will remain a pillar for the Hyland community and a valued resource for the district.
Going forward, Mastriona said he will take with him the many memories and experiences he’s made over the years, and will remember the great organization, staff and board he worked with. But for those who need a little reminder of the former director, just take a look in the top of his old desk.
“I always had a candy drawer that anyone could grab from, and I made sure and left it full,” he said.