News - Joliet and Will County

Splash Station subsidy rejected

Park district executive director says water park will not open this summer

Joliet Park District Executive Director Tom Carstens speaks to the Joliet City Council on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in Joliet, Ill.

Splash Station Waterpark will not open this summer.

The Joliet Park District will not open the water park, Executive Director Tom Carstens said Tuesday after an attempt to get a $120,000 city subsidy to support Splash Station failed.

“It looks like it will not open,” Carstens said after the Joliet City Council would not vote on the subsidy.

Asked if Splash Station was definitely closing, Carstens said yes.

The proposed subsidy failed to get one vote when no one on the council would make a motion to support it.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said he had suggested the subsidy for a few reasons.

“There is no other public pool in Joliet, so I think it’s a real service to the community,” O’Dekirk said.

Splash Station has become the first casualty of a failed tax referendum turned down by 71 percent of the voters April 2.

Park officials never outlined what exactly could happen if the referendum failed.

The possibility of Splash Station closing emerged when the subsidy was put on the city council agenda on Monday.

Also on Monday at a park board meeting, Carstens offered the closing of Splash Station, which operated at a $130,000 loss in 2018, as an option among other budget cuts.

Carstens then went to the city council meeting on Tuesday to make a case for the subsidy.

“For the park district to start getting back on its feet, we need to make about $600,000 in cuts and additional revenue,” Carstens told the city council on Tuesday.

However, council members appeared to still be trying to get a grasp on the subsidy request.

“The voters overwhelmingly voted it (the referendum) down. Were you depending on that referendum to open Splash Station?” Councilwoman Jan Quillman asked.

Carstens replied yes.

The referendum asked voters to approve a 58 percent increase in the property tax rate.

Councilman Larry Hug asked why the park district did not raise admission prices to generate the revenue it needs from the 55,000 to 65,000 people who come to the water park each year.

“Instead of coming here, why not just add $2 a ticket, and there’s your 120 grand?” Hug asked.

Park District Aquatics Coordinator Lauren Ryan, who accompanied Carstens, said the park district did not want to “outprice ourselves.”

Park commissioners at their Monday board meeting did not agree whether Splash Station should open this summer even if the city provided the $120,000.

Commissioner Joe Clement said voters spoke “load and clear” when the referendum was turned down by a wide margin.

“It’s time to make some tough decisions,” Clement said.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News