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MONTICELLO, Ind. — Indiana Beach, a popular destination spot for the East Central Illinois crowd, has closed.

The closure is effective immediately, according to White County Economic Development President Randy Mitchell.

“It’s a terrible hit,” Mitchell said. “The hit comes from the 400,000 to 500,000 people who come here and spend money, go into our restaurants, motels and businesses ... things like that.”

Apex Park Group’s senior vice president of operations, Gregg Borman, and Gary Fawkes, Indiana Beach’s general manager, informed Mitchell of the closure Tuesday after park officials met with employees.

“(They) gave me the word that Indiana Beach was closing and that decision has been made,” Mitchell said. “They will not be in operation this year or any year beyond this.”

Mitchell said Indiana Beach officials told him it was a “difficult decision” and they “tried diligently” to find other buyers, but were unsuccessful. Indiana Beach has 27 full-time employees — 12 in administration and 15 members of the maintenance crew.

“What will they do with their employees? Will there be severance pay for them? What about people who have purchased season tickets?” Mitchell said. “They don’t have answers for any of that yet.”

The announcement was completely unexpected.

“I gave a report to the White County Commissioners this morning detailing how I had met with Fawkes about a month ago and we were expecting good things,” he said.

Indiana Beach was opened in 1926 by the Spackman family, who owned it until 2008.

Originally named Ideal Beach, the amusement park began as a small lakeside beach with a bathhouse and refreshment stand. In 1927, the first thrill attraction opened. From that point, it began to expand. In the 1930s and 1940s, it was popular for the Ideal Beach Ballroom, which featured well-known bands and musical acts of the era.

In February 2008, both the amusement park and Indiana Beach campgrounds were sold to Morgan RV LLC. On Sept. 1, 2015, the park was sold to Apex Parks Group.

Former and current employees protested the park’s working and safety conditions in 2011, claiming rides were continuously closed or operating with rigged components. A subsequent inspection by Indiana Homeland Security found no major safety violations.

Last summer, a 12-year-old Lafayette boy died of a medical emergency while riding the Hoosier Hurricane. The boy’s parents later filed a civil lawsuit, the status of which is unknown at this time.

Michael Johnson is editor of the Herald Journal of Monticello, Ind., a Community Media Group newspaper.

News-Gazette