The Beach Waterpark’s abrupt closing last week has left some customers who pre-paid for 2012 season passes wondering when — or if — they’ll get their money back.
Longtime pass holder Tina Stroud of Springdale spent $305 on season passes this year. She’s emailed The Beach twice since it announced it would close its gates and received only automated responses in return.
“Of course I would love a refund, but I’m not holding my breath,” she said. “I don’t think it looks good to be getting refunds. We’re going to be the last ones on the list.”
Refunds for 2012 season passes are still up in the air, said Ralph Vilardo Jr., a waterpark spokesman. He said management is still working with creditors and investors to decide if cash refunds will be issued to pass holders.
“There is no refund determination that has been made,” he said. “It’s not out of the realm, but the refund, it’s not there today.
The Beach announced March 9 that it will shut down after 27 years in business, citing “a challenging, competitive and economic climate and changing patron entertainment habits” for the closure.
Vilardo said the 35-acre, tropical-themed waterpark has operated at a loss for several years and local investors who own The Beach have been unable to secure new financing.
The company left open the possibility that The Beach could reopen next year. Vilardo said the park’s owners will keep up the maintenance while they try to secure new investments or possibly sell the park.
Since it opened in 1985, The Beach has employed 15,000 people and had 7.5 million visitors, an average of about 275,000 visitors each year.
The waterpark’s unexpected closing upset some season pass holders, who say The Beach offered Leap Year pass specials and continued to sell summer season passes even after it announced it would not reopen this season.
Soon after announcing its closure, The Beach shut down its online store and posted a notice on its website referring all consumer inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frustrated pass holders took to social media this week, expressing anger on the park’s Facebook page at what they say are automated email responses with no promise of a refund or bounced emails.
Park management hoped to soothe that disappointment Thursday with an announcement that pass holders would be eligible for special deals from neighboring Kings Island.
As part of the partnership, 2012 Beach pass holders will receive one free visit to Kings Island between April 28 and May 28 and can upgrade their Beach pass to a 2012 Kings Island gold season pass for $49.99 — a 50 percent discount off regular gold season pass costs.
In 2011, a season pass to The Beach cost $79.99 for adults and $32.99 for children under 48 inches and seniors.
“We were trying to come up with some avenues (so) our current season pass holders could utilize the passes they bought from The Beach,” said Vilardo.
However, the offer has met with criticism from some pass holders, who say the deal doesn’t measure up to what they paid for their Beach passes or who already have season passes to Kings Island.
Other pass holders expressed frustration with the limited timeframe in which to redeem their free Kings Island visit, noting they would only have two days to enjoy Kings Island’s new Soak City Waterpark, which opens May 26.
“Something is better than nothing, but I don’t feel that one day at KI is a fair compensation,” said Stroud. ”At one point KI was offering a gold pass for $15 cheaper than what I paid for my Beach pass. It doesn’t feel like a comparable trade.”
Vilardo said The Beach management is working on other incentives to attractions in the area so that pass holders can still get “some value for their pass.” But he can’t say when or if pass holders can expect cash refunds.
“We have all the season pass information and we will communicate that to the season pass database as soon as that is available,” he said.
A representative from Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine’s office declined comment on this particular case, but said that anyone who has pre-paid for goods and services not received by a now closed business can file a complaint with them at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.