Indiana Beach

Park patrons ride the popular Hoosier Hurricane roller coaster in this 2014 photo.

In an effort to save the iconic Indiana Beach in Monticello, more than 19,000 people had signed a petition at change.org by 3 p.m. Thursday.

According to a press release from change.org, Monticello resident Dustin Sprunger started the petition to find someone to buy the park, and the petition was continuing to gain signatures Thursday evening.

“Maybe, just maybe someone out there can save our little jewel of a park. Let’s band together as a community, as we all have the same love for Indiana Beach, and sign this petition, maybe someone will see how much Indiana Beach is loved and will save our park (by) purchasing it,” Sprunger wrote in the petition.

Others who’ve signed the petition have commented on the memories they’ve had about Indiana Beach and what a blow it is to the community for it to be shuttered.

News of the closing went public on Tuesday after the employees who were dismissed posted about it on social media.

Indiana Beach’s owner, Apex Parks Group based in Aliso Viejo, California, had apparently been looking for a buyer for the park.

But the news of the closing took Monticello and White County officials by surprise, and they heard about it first from social media, then from media seeking comments and finally from local Indiana Beach officials later on Tuesday.

“We’re all just in a bit of shock,” Randy Mitchell, President of the White County Economic Development, said Wednesday morning.

The park’s local management had been making plans to open, said Mitchell, who’s acting as spokesman for the county on the closing.

“That’s why I don’t believe it was known by the locals here. They had a job fair next week,” he said.

Mitchell reached out to state legislators on Wednesday morning, hoping that lawmakers in session now will be able to network with each other and find a potential buyer. Indiana Beach is also still trying to find investors, he said.

Amusement Today magazine’s March 2020 issue lists the majority of rides and some games from Indiana Beach and Apex’s Fantasy Island in Grand Island, New York, for sale.

Monticello Mayor Cathy Gross said a total of 27 employees were let go, but Gross didn’t know if any severance pay was involved.

Gross and residents felt that Indiana Beach had been attracting fewer and fewer people and that it’s time for Monticello to concentrate on its lakes, recreation, festivals and other things the city has to offer — like the Riverwalk, which starts construction this spring.

Some residents have brought up talks about a possible casino on the site. There had been talk about making the amusement park’s riverboat a casino before.

The Spackman family started the attraction in 1926 as Ideal Beach, and they built it into the amusement park. The family sold Indiana Beach in February 2008 to Morgan RV LLC, which sold it to Apex Parks on Sept. 1, 2015.

Indiana Beach management issued a press release about the closing on Wednesday.

“Despite significant effort and a great deal of investment in infrastructure and rides, we have not seen an improvement in operating results. As such, we made the difficult decision to cease operations. This was not a decision entered into lightly. Team members are being assisted by their supervisors and the company is working to minimize impact to those affected. Guests may visit www.indianabeach.com for answers to commonly asked questions,” the email from ibmarketing@indianabeach.com stated.

The park’s website states that the amusement park is “permanently closed,” and Apex’s website no longer lists it or Fantasy Island — closed at the same time — as part of the company’s holdings.

A link on the Indiana Beach website lets people ask for a response about specific questions, like season passes they bought, accommodations and camping (KOA recently bought the adjoining campground), groups/birthdays planned or “other.”

Reach James D. Wolf Jr. at james.wolf@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5117. Twitter: @JamesDWolfJr

Reach James D. Wolf Jr. at james.wolf@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5117. Twitter: @JamesDWolfJr

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