To make the closed-down Indiana Beach more attractive to potential buyers, White County is offering a $3 million incentive.
In a dual meeting Tuesday, the White County Commissioners and the White County Council each voted in favor of a resolution offering that incentive, which will be funded by the White County Windfarm Economic Development Fund.
County Commissioner David Diener said that no taxpayer money would be used in the incentive if it’s done this way.
That money was collected from the windfarms coming into White County to spur economic growth elsewhere, said attorney Rick Hall, who the county hired for his expertise in economic development financing.
There’s no time limit on the incentive, so if the amusement park doesn’t get a buyer this summer, the $3 million could still be available in the fall.
“But I would not expect it to drag out,” said Commissioner John Heimlich.
Tuesday’s resolution also has stipulations on the sale and on awarding the money to a potential purchaser.
White County will only award an Indiana Beach buyer the money after the purchase deal is closed and Indiana Beach is legally sold.
The county has also contacted the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) about it giving financial assistance toward attracting a buyer, and for every dollar the IEDC contributes, that will be a dollar less of White County’s $3 million payout.
So should IEDC offer $1 million in incentives, White County would only be obligated to pay $2 million as part of the plan.
The resolution also gives the White County Commissioners the ability to negotiate with a buyer before providing the incentive, including requiring the buyer to operate Indiana Beach as an amusement park for a designated time after purchase, Hall said.
The terms of the final agreement will also be made public because of government money being used, he said.
The commissioners and council members signed the agreement in the joint meeting because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“State and federal health authorities have recommended limited personal interaction, which may limit the ability of the Commissioners and the Council to hold public meetings in the foreseeable future,” the resolution states.
The resolution authorizes not just the commissioners but the council members, the county auditor, county legal counsel and any appropriate officers of the county to handle the negotiations.
County attorney George Loy said that White County brought Hall in because of his expertise in financing, as it has in the past. The county wants to make sure that offering the $3 million incentive is legally sound because it’s not for new economic development as usual.
“The things that we normally do didn’t fit,” Loy said.
However, Indiana Beach is a major economic engine for the county that the it wants to keep going.
“A 2002 Purdue University economic impact study estimated total benefits of more than $60 million annually generated by tourism to White County, a major portion of which is directly attributable to Indiana Beach,” according to the resolution.
The resolution also notes that White County has contributed to Indiana Beach’s success in the past, including “expansion and improvement of Sixth Street and its access to Indiana Beach,” and that the beach has been a major local employer and an iconic local and state landmark since the Spackman family started it in 1926.
The Spackman family built the park up from being Ideal Beach over the years and sold it in February 2008 to Morgan RV LLC, which sold it to Apex on Sept. 1, 2015.
White County and Monticello representatives began talking with representatives from the park’s current owner, Apex Parks Group of Aliso Viejo, California, on Feb. 18, soon after the company announced that Indiana Beach wouldn’t open in 2020 after the company couldn’t find a buyer.
That included talk of incentives.
Heimlich said that almost immediately after the announcement, the county and White County Economic Development President Randy Mitchell started receiving calls of interest about buying the amusement park — some serious and some not as realistic.
However, the county is not involved in immediate negotiations and doesn’t know the asking price for Indiana Beach or how many potential buyers there might be.
“That sale is between the buyer and the seller,” Heimlich said.
He also said that although Indiana Beach itself is owned by Apex and the land it’s on is owned by Store Master (registered in Indiana as “a foreign limited liability company” based in Scottsdale, Arizona), the sale of the amusement park would include the property.
Store Master was created as a business in April 2015, five months before Apex bought Indiana Beach on Sept. 1, 2015, according to records on the Indiana State website.
Attempts to contact Apex about this situation have not been successful.