MONTICELLO, Ind. – Local officials expressed shock Tuesday when the California-based owner of the nearly century-old Indiana Beach amusement park said it would close.
“We didn’t see this coming at all,” Randy Mitchell, White County economic development director, said Tuesday afternoon.
That morning, Mitchell met with White County commissioners and council members, to relay word that things were going well for the amusement park tucked along Lake Shafer, about 30 miles north of Lafayette. That was based on reports Mitchell said he received from Gary Fawks, the local manager of Indiana Beach.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mitchell said he met with Gregg Borman, senior vice president of operations for Apex, who told him that the company was closing Indiana Beach and three other amusement parks it owns across the country for of financial reasons.
Officials with Apex did not immediately respond to messages. Phones listed for Indiana Beach were not being answered Tuesday afternoon.
Mitchell said Borman indicated that Indiana Beach — long known for its slogan and jingle, “There’s more than corn in Indiana” — was marginally profitable. But Mitchell said he was told that Apex wasn’t in a position to continue to make
“This really is tough news around here,” Mitchell said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Indiana Beach’s Facebook page was still promoting a job fair, scheduled for Feb. 29, to fill positions for the summer. But an official “announcement” on the site stated the park was “permanently closed,” with a statement that read, in part, “We are grateful for the many years we’ve had together and appreciate your support and patronage.”
Customers had been buying season passes as recently as Christmas.
California-based Apex Parks Group bought Indiana Beach in 2015 from Morgan Recreation Vacations of New York.
Apex’s purchase of Indiana Beach marked just the second change in the park’s ownership after the founding Spackman family sold it to Morgan. The sale included the amusement park, campgrounds and hotel about 30 miles north of Lafayette.
Earl Spackman opened the amusement park in 1926. He initially called it Ideal Beach.
The park grew over the years as a place to lounge on the beach, go on the rides and attend big name concerts. In the 1940s, Spackman handed off the resort to his son, Thomas, who eventually changed the name to Indiana Beach.
Mitchell said he was told Apex would disassemble the rides this spring and take them to nine company parks in California and two in Florida.
Mitchell said that under Apex, Indiana Beach seemed to be doing well enough, after some rough years under Morgan.
“That was every indication we had,” Mitchell said.
The Indiana Beach/Monticello KOA campground, which is a companion to the amusement park, will remain open during its normal season from May 17 to October 27, according to someone who answered at the KOA newsroom.
Word about Indiana Beach spread quickly in Monticello and beyond.
“What a bad thing to hear,” said Jo Wade, president and CEO of Visit Lafayette-West Lafayette. “It’s got to be hard for Monticello.”
At the Riverside in Monticello, manager Autumn Lutchka said many of the restaurant’s customers were visitors from Indiana Beach and Lake Shafer.
“It’s unfortunate, but I feel like you could tell over the past few years,” Lutchka said. “There weren’t as many people there as when I was growing up, when I remember it always being packed. Now, when you would go there, there weren’t ever lines for any of the rides.”
Lori Tolson, a North Judson resident, lives on Lake Shafer during the summer, a five-minute boat ride from Indiana Beach. She said she and others had spent Tuesday trying to reach Indiana Beach or Apex to find out what to do with season passes that she bought during a Christmas promotion.
Tolson said she had six of everything: season passes at $42.99, food packages at $69.99 and drink packages at $19.99. Her tally of season passes: Just shy of $800.
And all worthless now,” Tolson said. “Our grandbabies loved going, so that’s going to be fun telling them. … The biggest question, though, is how do we get a refund? A lot of us are wanting to know, and we can’t get anyone to answer the phone.”
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