Porter County will have a waterpark again come summer
By John Robbins Post-Tribune correspondent March 17, 2013 7:14PM
Workers work to solve drainage issues in the wave pool of the former Splash Down Dunes waterpark in Porter Thursday Mar. 14, 2013. The park is scheduled to reopen Memorial Day under new ownership and renamed Seven Peaks Waterpark Duneland. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 19, 2013 6:07AM
On the heels of a late season blizzard, summer fun might be the last thing on your mind but it’s foremost on the mind of Seven Peaks Waterpark General Manager Matthew Phair.
The Porter waterpark, despite needing more work than originally foreseen, is still on-track for a Memorial Day weekend opening Phair said.
The age of the park has been a problem. What was started as the Enchanted Forest in the 1950s became Splash Down Dunes waterpark in the 1990s, which sat vacant for several years before being acquired by the Utah-based Seven Peaks in 2012.
“Nothing against the old owners, but it’s an old park,” Phair said. Much as home remodelers discover, “The more we got into it the more we found needed to be corrected, updated or fixed.”
The problems were more than skin deep. “We found out after the purchase that there was more work to be done than expected. Some things we did not know about because they were underground,” he said.
One particularly vexing problem was the electrical wiring, which Phair called, “out of date.”
Phair estimates that 85 percent of the electrical system has been replaced. The main electrical lines have been replaced with new, cables have been retrenched and up to 85 percent of the inside wiring in the buildings is new, according to Phair.
Most of the attractions, including 15 water slides and a 500,000-gallon wave pool will be ready by the late May opening. The popular Lazy River ride may not be open this season.
“Lazy River has to be rebuilt,” said Phair. Citing multiple problems, including motors, pumps and collapsing walls, Phair said the feature wasn’t originally installed properly, so a new Lazy River is being installed.
Over the past several months a lot of activity has addressed the infrastructure needs of the park. In addition to the electrical lines, trees have been removed, pumps and motors have been rebuilt and replaced, new filters installed. Existing buildings have been cosmetically renewed and painted.
The next few weeks will see the final surge of activity to ready the park for opening, including power washing the slides and sand blasting.
The physical structure of the park itself will be ready for the visitors — now Phair is turning to the issue of staffing the park.
Most of the employees hired to bring the park up to date have been independent contractors. That is about to change.
Phair has just started the process of hiring full-time and seasonal employees. Up to 300 management and staff positions need to be filled, including lifeguards, food services, administrative and human resource assistants and security.
Job seekers can apply online at the Seven Peaks website, www.sev
The jobs the waterpark is bringing to the area will be a boon to the local economy. The tourists attracted to the park are expected to be another huge benefit to the economy.
“Indiana Dunes Tourism is very excited that Seven Peaks is investing in this park. We’re beyond pleased that Seven Peaks is investing more than $1 million in the area,” said Ken Kosky, Promotions Director of Indiana Dunes Tourism, the official tourism bureau of Porter County.
“The park is a great complement to other attractions in the area,” said Kosky. “The more top-notch attractions there are, the more likely people are to come. Waterparks are huge.”
While the tourism bureau has no specific plans to actively promote and leverage the opening of the waterpark with other area attractions beyond what is done for other local businesses, they will include Seven Peaks in itineraries of activities prepared for the approximately 80,000 annual visitors who stop at the bureau’s visitor center.
“Our goal is to attract people to this area - to get them to come here and get them to extend their stay here,” said Kosky.