Paul McKibben reports:
New owners of the Beach Waterpark are planning $5 million worth of upgrades this year, the first in a series of improvements to one of the region’s top tourist attractions.
The park – which has been closed since September 2011 – will reopen May 18, but only two-thirds will be used, according to General Manager Ralph Vilardo Jr. He said the repairs are the first in a three-year renovation project.
Adventure Holdings LLC, parent company of Jacksonville Beach, Fla.-based Adventure Landing, announced in July that it would lease the park with an option to purchase. Adventure Holdings LLC is expected to close on the sale this month, the company said.
“We identified that this park needed a lot of work and it had a lot of ambiance,” Vilardo said. “It had the lush tropical setting but it also had a lot of deferred maintenance.”
Since the Beach opened in 1985, the water park landscape has changed in Greater Cincinnati. Surf Cincinnati in Forest Park began business in 1984 and closed in 2002. Inspirational Baptist Church occupies that site now. Coney Island’s Sunlite Pool in Anderson Township opened in 1925 and remains in business.
Kings Island, two miles from the Beach in Mason, opened WaterWorks in 1989. Last year, Kings Island expanded its water park and gave it a new name – Soak City.
Last March, the Beach announced it would not operate in 2012, citing flat attendance and rising costs. The Beach angered thousands of season passholders after officials refused to give refunds. Instead, passholders could receive discounts to other area attractions such as Coney Island and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
That prompted Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office in May to sue the Beach’s owners for “unfair or deceptive acts and practices.” The case is pending in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
In August, The Beach at Mason Limited Partnership filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court. That case is also pending.
The lawsuit is on hold because of the bankruptcy, a spokesman for DeWine’s office said.
The Beach’s new owners will honor the 2012 season passes. The park had sold 8,600 passes. Vilardo said the Beach has reached 85 percent of those passholders. He said the park anticipates selling another 14,000 season passes this year.
Season pass holder Tara Penrod of Hartwell was among those the Beach contacted. She welcomed the park honoring the passes and the parking she purchased.
The Beach will not open the Snake River Rapids slide and Emerald Bay children’s area this year. Vilardo said the Beach hasn’t decided on the future of that area of the park. He said the $5 million that Adventure Holdings is spending on upgrades could double to $10 million over three years.
Before it closed, the Beach’s average yearly attendance was 280,000 to 300,000. Vilardo expects to top those figures this year.
“This place still is a tourist destination, Vilardo said. “It’s a family destination. (Adventure Holdings) recognizes that.”
The Beach will have 18 slides and 40 attractions when it opens in May, including a lazy river and a revamped wave pool.
The park plans to hire more than 400 seasonal employees this year.
THE NEW BEACH
Season runs May 18-Sept. 7. Improvements this year include:
• A shallower wave pool with new technology to make the waves. The wave pool will have a sectioned-off family area. 50 cabanas will be around the wave pool.
• A new family arcade, revamped food stands, remodeled bathrooms, new sand and more palm trees.
• Heated water throughout the park. Water will be in the 80s.
• An interactive area for adults and older youth with basketball and “lily pads” to climb on.
• A zero-depth area for toddlers with miniature slides, spray equipment and fountains called “bubblers.”
• A new children’s area with dumping buckets, slides, a climbing wall and other features.
• The Cliff, Banzai and other slides are staying.
Admission wil be $27.99 per person, $2 lower than 2011.
The Beach has scheduled a job fair 10 a.m.-3 p.m. March 9 at the park, 2590 Waterpark Drive, Mason. Information: http://www.thebeachwaterpark.com” target=”_new”>www.thebeachwaterpark.com or call 513-398-SWIM.