Chesterton Tribune


Seven Peaks touts waterpark upgrades, clean, safe, upgraded park promised

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Seven Peaks Waterpark Duneland will open Memorial Day 2013, and its general manager pledged Thursday that safety and wholesome family fun are their primary concerns.

The giant, wooden pirate ship and a pavilion will be torn down so parents can see where their children are at all times.

Surveillance cameras will be installed in the amusement area and parking lot, and security staff will patrol both locations.

Engineers have evaluated the former Splash Down Dunes mechanical systems planning for upgrades. Permits and licenses will be obtained, and prior Porter zoning commitments including a turn lane at Waverly Road and U.S. 20 must be satisfied.

There’s a lot yet to be done, according to manager Matthew Phair, but the Utah-based company is hoping for 3,000 to 4,000 patrons a day in the first approximately 88-day season.

Eventually, park operators believe up to 10,000 patrons daily can be accomodated on site six days a week. Seven Peaks will be closed on Sundays.

Marketing outreach throughout Northwest Indiana as well as Chicago is taking place. Phair said Seven Peaks wants to bring visitors here for more than a day-trip to boost the local economy, and let people know what’s in their own back yard.

He also indicated the waterpark wants to employ area contractors; hire 10 to 12 full-time staff and 300-350 local seasonal employees; and work in cooperation with area restaurants and venues.

To that end Seven Peaks is promoting its Chicagoland Pass of All Passes offering 12-month unlimited admission to the Duneland waterpark, and limited admission to Chicago Wolves, South Shore Railcats, South Bend Silver Hawks, Washington Park Zoo, Zao Island Fun Center, and a growing list of other attractions including likely some in Chicago.

The introductory price of $19.95 per individual pass is good only until year’s end using a school discount code. Seven Peaks will donate directly to a participating area school $2 for each pre-purchased pass sold.

Seven Peaks director of school partnerships Derek Manning said the program is in 11 Utah school districts involving 400,000 elementary students and one school raised $14,000. “You’d think that would be something like we’d say, ‘Whoa, don’t go crazy’ but no, we encourage that.”

More than 40 persons --- some Seven Peaks neighbors in the Summertree residential development --- were present for Phair’s presentation and Q&A session last night.

Jack Garzella, president of the Summertree Homeowners Association, said he’s familiar with Seven Peaks amusement centers in Utah. “They’re pristine, top notch, very impressive.”

But those aren’t words to describe Splash Down Dunes, vacant since 2009. Ten-year-old Sid Augustyn said the former owner didn’t take care of the park very well, so how would Seven Peaks do things differently?

With the venue properly maintained, staffed and operated, said Manning, Seven Peaks will transform Duneland’s waterpark and keep it a place people want to visit.

Jack Olesker of Long Beach asked how the waterpark can inject money into the local economy. Phair said Seven Peaks is working to explore partnerships with about a dozen restaurants, with chambers of commerce including Chesterton/Duneland, and with several area visitor centers.

Duneland School Board member Ralph Ayres, who also sits on the Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission, suggested working with the South Shore commuter line.

Porter Park Board member Patty Raffin asked if there were plans for future development at the waterpark. Phair said there is space available for new attractions as well as room to expand off the existing ride towers. Being explored is a possible ice skating rink in winter.

Garzella told the Chesterton Tribune that Summertree residents want the Seven Peaks parking lot paved and lighting installed. Phair said initially the lot will be graveled and a tree buffer planted, later blacktopped and a fence erected to the west. No decision’s been made whether to charge for parking the first year.

Phair explained operating hours generally are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. but earlier for pass holders and later for corporate/private parties with catering options. Concerts may be scheduled but decibel levels will be monitored. Food must be purchased at Seven Peaks and no alchohol is allowed. Traditional amusement-park food as well as healthier menu items and juices are planned.

“It’s going to be a good push but we’re very excited about getting this up and going for the community,” said Phair.

Commented one woman, “It already looks 300 percent better than it did."


Posted 11/9/2012