The owners of Aquaboggan are hoping to revive the closed Saco Drive-In by moving it across Route 1 to the water park.

Aquabboggan Water Park announced Friday on its Facebook page that it’s working to get city permits that would allow it to open the Saco Drive-In at Aquaboggan. The two Maine summertime landmarks are located across from each other on Route 1 in Saco.

The 83-year-old drive-in property was sold by owners Roberge Construction this year to Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel, the largest independent trailer dealership in North America, according to a list of January transactions by The Boulos Company.

In its announcement Friday, Aquaboggan said it did not yet know when the relocated Saco Drive-In might open on its property.

“Though the time line and completion of the project is still unknown, we are doing everything we can to keep this local icon thriving for generations to come. Our plan is to have the Saco Drive-In at Aquaboggan Water Park and we are committed to preserving as much history as possible in the process,” Aquaboggan said on its Facebook page.

The Aquaboggan site’s zoning allows a drive-in theater as a conditional use, Denise Clavette, Saco’s economic development director, said on Friday. That means it’s an allowed use, but the property owners will need to sit down with city officials to get approval and a permit for their specific plans.

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Clavette said the owners of Aquaboggan have made some initial inquiries about reopening the drive-in on their property and have contacted the city’s inspections and planning departments and the city planner. The city supports the plan, she said.

“We’re thrilled and excited,” Clavette said. “It’s exciting for Saco and the entire area.”

The news that Aquaboggan might save the drive-in also thrilled Gunnar Benjamin, who lives in Durham, New Hampshire, and is a drive-in buff.

Drive-ins’ “preservation is important to our culture,” Benjamin said. He started a “Save the Saco Drive-In” group on Facebook about three weeks ago and has urged city officials to act to preserve the theater.

Benjamin said that Saco Mayor William Doyle told him that he sounded out officials at Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel about possibly swapping the Route 1 site for some city-owned land, but they weren’t interested.

That led Benjamin to launch an online petition this week and in two days, he has gathered 2,900 electronic signatures from people backing efforts to preserve the drive-in. He said he will work with Aquaboggan officials if they want him to in order to make their plans successful.

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The Saco Drive-In is believed to be the country’s second oldest drive-in. It has been a favorite of locals who have headed there on warm summer nights to re-create an experience that has long since disappeared from most parts of the country.

There are only six other drive-ins in Maine, located in Westbrook, Bridgton, Skowhegan, Farmington, Herman and Madawaska.

The Saco Drive-In and many of the other 400 drive-ins remaining in the country were faced with obsolescence about a decade ago, when most film distributors began providing new movies in a digital format, requiring expensive digital projectors to replace the projectors that displayed film on reels.

The community rallied to raise money for the new projector, but the local fundraising fell short of the $80,000 cost of the new equipment. But the carmaker Honda sponsored a contest to provide five of the projection systems to drive-ins and the Saco Drive-In won in online voting.

The water park’s owners thanked the Roberge family for helping in the efforts to keep the drive-in in Saco, and said that Hale Trailer had agreed to donate the Saco Drive-In’s iconic sign and several “historical items” to the water park.

When the drive-in was sold, the listing said Hale Trailer had been searching for land in Greater Portland since 2020 to “substantially increase” both its building footprint and outdoor area. The sale price for the 33-acre lot was not disclosed.

Aquaboggan Water Park is scheduled to open for the season June 25.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

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