Amanda Van BenSchoten reports:
For nearly three decades, families across Greater Cincinnati who wanted to take a tropical getaway without having to leave home headed to The Beach Waterpark.But Friday, The Beach unexpectedly announced that it will shut down after 27 years in business, ending thrill rides down a 500-foot water coaster and visits to 50 other attractions.
“It was kind of like our neighborhood pool. We always got season passes with our best friends, and the kids would go and play and we’d hang out,” said Mimi Morris, 60, of Pleasant Ridge, who for two decades spent summers at the park.
“It’s our pool. It just makes me really sad,” she said. “It really was just such a part of my life and my children’s lives.”
Ralph Vilardo Jr., a waterpark spokesman and a former park director for 10 years, called it “a sad day for a lot of people.”
“A lot of people grew up going to the park,” he said. “We have employees who have been there since the very beginning.”
The company cited “a challenging competitive and economic climate and changing patron entertainment habits” for the closure.
Vilardo said attendance has been flat in recent years, but maintenance and operating costs continued to rise. In previous years, local investors who own The Beach reinvested any profit back into the park. But as profits shrunk, there was no longer any money to invest.
“They’ve been working diligently, for months – since the park closed last year – to secure new financing,” Vilardo said.
But the investors were unsuccessful, and now, the park’s 11 full-time employees have been let go, Vilardo said. Closure also means there will be no summer jobs for 500 seasonal employees who typically work there every year.
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 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.
Phillip S. Smith, president and CEO of the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he was surprised to learn of the park’s closure. It comes as a blow to Warren County, where tourism is the top industry and accounts for about one in seven jobs.
“We are saddened to hear The Beach Waterpark will not be open this summer,” Smith said in a statement. “Tourism is the largest industry in Warren County, and as a significant attraction and major landmark in the county for more than a quarter of a century, The Beach has had a lasting impact on visitor spending which, in turn, fuels jobs and revenue for the county. We realize this was a difficult decision for the park’s management and hope they can reopen in the future.”
Warren County Commissioner Dave Young also lamented The Beach’s demise.
“I would hate to see this place close. It’s been a tourist attraction for more than 20 years and a great asset to our community,” he said.
The 35-acre, tropical-themed waterpark is the largest standalone waterpark in Ohio. Attractions include the 500-foot water coaster Aztec Adventure and the 750,000-gallon Kahuna Beach Wavepool, the largest tropical beach in Ohio.
In 2011, a general admission ticket to the park cost $29.99 at the gate and $24.99 online.
In 2010, the Beach was named the best privately owned waterpark in the nation by the trade publication Aquatics International.
For more than a decade, The Beach hosted a winter festival called “Beach on Ice,” which featured horse-drawn carriage rides, toboggan slides and outdoor ice skating.
Citing poor attendance in 2009 and 2010, the park canceled the event last winter.
Reporter Jennifer Edwards Baker contributed.
Share your memories of The Beach in the comments below.
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