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December 30, 2013

Worries growing about Indiana Beach's future

MONTICELLO (AP) — Will Indiana Beach, central Indiana's beloved summer attraction, open next summer, as it has every year for the past 87 seasons?

The company that purchased the amusement park in 2008, Morgan Recreation Vacations, says the answer is an unequivocal "yes."

"I've only been there as general manager a couple years, but these rumors crop up every year at this time," Indiana Beach General Manager Bob Gallagher told the Journal & Courier. "We're planning for the 2014 season and actually looking forward to announcing some expansions."

But some Monticello business owners and former employees of the park — including relatives of Tom Spackman, the late, longtime park owner — aren't so sure. They tell of layoffs of non-seasonal employees inside the park, utilities shut off for lack of payment and souring relationships between the park and Monticello-area businesses. Across the country, other Morgan RV-owned parks and facilities have been sold or fallen into foreclosure, raising local anxieties even further.

"They destroyed, in one year, what the Spackmans developed in 85 years," said Steve Juntgen, a former park employee and one of Tom Spackman's sons-in-law.

Hanging in the balance — apart from fond memories and summertime diversions — is an estimated $60 million that Indiana Beach pumps into the Monticello economy each year.

"It's a hard time for us as a community because we lost [Tom] Spackman this year," said Janet Dold, executive director of the Monticello Chamber of Commerce, referring to Spackman's death in November at the age of 100. "The tradition of Indiana Beach and the legacy of it is in the forefront of our minds. When we do hear rumors, it's unsettling."

Despite those rumors, Morgan RV CEO and owner Bob Moser, of Sarasota, N.Y., said any talk of financial trouble related to Indiana Beach or Morgan RV is false. Beyond that, Moser said, it's just plain frustrating.

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