Yorkville City Council creates water park liquor license

Raging Waves could begin selling alcoholic beverages this summer

The 58-acre Raging Waves water park, which is located at 4000 N. Bridge St. in Yorkville, just off Route 47, will open for the season at 11 a.m. Saturday. The water park is set to stay open through Sept. 4, weather permitting.

Yorkville City Council members created a new liquor license that would allow water parks to serve alcohol in a split vote at their May14 meeting.

Under the license, water park operators will be allowed to sell beer, wine and liquor inside the park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wristbands will be required for purchase and consumption, only one drink purchase per ID will be allowed at a time, and alcoholic beverages will have to be served in plastic containers.

Despite pushback from one resident and multiple council members, an amendment to the liquor code to create the new class of liquor license was approved in a 5-4 vote. Aldermen Seaver Tarulis, Daniel Transier, Craig Soling and Chris Funkhouser voted no, and Mayor John Purcell cast the tie-breaking vote.

Owners of Yorkville’s sole water park, Raging Waves, will still have to apply for the license, but park operators were at the meeting lobbying for council approval of the new license.

Raging Waves, the largest water park in Illinois, was recently purchased by the Bowlero Corporation and leased to Premier Parks, LLC. which operates theme parks across the country and in Canada.

Chief Operating Officer of Premier Parks Hue Eichelberger was at the meeting representing Raging Waves. Eichelberger told council members that they offer alcohol in all of the other theme parks they operate, they are very strict on their policies and issues are very rare.

Eichelberger said they are aiming to create a resort environment at Raging Waves. He said unlike an amusement park, a water park is a place for people to go as a family to relax, enjoy the attractions and have a good time, which to some people includes having a drink.

“This is not like the neighborhood theme park. A water park is more like a Four Seasons, more like a resort experience,” Eichelberger said. “When you’re taking your family to a water park, you want to relax, you want to have fun, you want to watch the kids have a good time and the fact that you happen to sell alcohol does not counteract that at all.”

Early in the meeting, resident Mike Krempski spoke during public comment where he read off dozens of Facebook comments criticizing the idea of allowing the park to sell alcohol. Many of the comments cited frequent police calls to the water park and suggested that introducing alcohol would only worsen the issue.

During discussion, council members approved a motion to amend the ordinance to include the requirement of wristbands for the purchase and possession of alcohol, due to concerns that drinks may be passed to underage guests.

Soling was not in favor of the new license, and said he did not think the park would be able to police the consumption of alcohol as well as he would want them to.

Eichelberger said they hire off-duty police officers and in-house security to police all of their parks and said any time the park is open, there will be trained security present.

Other council members suggested having designated zones where alcohol could be consumed and underage guests would not be allowed, but Eichelberger said they are looking for guests to have the ability to bring them to their seats and relax, and not be corralled in a confined area.

Police Chief James Jensen said he did not have any issues with the sale of alcohol at the waterpark, and thought it was a good idea. He said the security at the park has been top notch and added that currently, any park guest wanting to consume alcohol could go to the parking lot to do so.

Jensen said a water park is a city within a city, and on holiday weekends there can be up to 9,000 people at the park, so they have to expect to get calls for service, but the vast majority of calls they’ve responded to have been minor instances.

Purcell said, as he is also the Liquor Commissioner, he would be able to suspend or revoke the license at any time, should it cause problems in the park or not be policed well.

Raging Waves will have to apply for the license and receive council approval before introducing the sale of alcohol.