MONTICELLO – The Indiana Beach saga is finally over for some, but a new beginning for many others.
The White County Commissioners and County Council officially approved Monday to grant Gene Staples, CEO of Indiana Beach Holdings LLC, a forgiving $ 3 million loan to keep Indiana Beach operational until at least 2025.
Staples said he bought the 94-year-old amusement and water park resort from Apex Parks Group before APG filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 8, but did not make public announcements until April 23.
“Our team saw the need for someone to step in to acquire Indiana Beach and keep it from becoming part of the disused history,” Staples told commissioners Monday. “We reached out to Apex (Parks) Group in late February when they announced they would be closing to see if we could do something with our group of stocks. (We) figured out the reasons for the shutdown, went through their finances, talked to their creditors, and were able to put together a meaningful deal for everyone involved. “
Terms of the purchase agreement were not disclosed.
The county loan would mature on September 1, 2025, and essentially become a $ 3 million grant that Staples and Indiana Beach Holdings LLC would not have to repay – as long as the park operates and certain conditions are met by that time .
The conditions that must be met include:
• Start of operations and opening in summer 2020 in accordance with the currently applicable COVID-19 restrictions. If these restrictions change and / or expand, Indiana Beach Holdings LLC will not be deemed to be in default if it is not opened when it is not legally possible to do so.
• Remains operational until September 1, 2025 – the loan maturity date
• Employ at least 200 people in the 2021-2025 season
Richard Hall, a partner at Indianapolis-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg, said Monday that the county will be given security on the loan as it has the right to intervene and hold the property in the event the loan defaults.
Hall added that Indiana Beach will also redeem any prepayments (for the park and campgrounds) purchased prior to the initial closure announcement.
Commissioner Steve Burton said that while Staples is “taking a risk,” the “new owner’s agenda or motives or desire to achieve this” is big enough to make him and Indiana Beach Holdings LLC grant the loan.
“Sometimes we have to make decisions with the council and commissioners that may not be popular at the time, but it is our responsibility to look to the future and we all believe that in the future, Indiana Beach should be White County “, he said.
The Apex Parks Group, the former owners of Indiana Beach, abruptly announced on February 18 that they would be closing the park for financial reasons. State and local officials had since worked to find a potential buyer.
Indiana Beach supporters launched an online petition to save the park, then held a rally on February 29, hoping to convince owners to either keep it open or step up the search for a new owner .
Less than a month after the shutdown, the White County Commission and White County Council decided to offer up to $ 3 million in incentives to each potential buyer. On March 31, the commission and council, with the help of lawyers, set up a revolving fund into which the $ 3 million will be transferred – a move required by Indiana’s law.
The money comes from the district’s wind farm economic development fund, which was set up a few years ago and is used to make payments from wind power companies for economic development and job creation.
On April 1st, the Apex Parks Group filed for Chapter 11 protection in the US bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware.
“After (filing for bankruptcy) we worked with our Indiana Beach and county team on an Indiana Beach development plan,” he said. “We want to do this with operations going, with the anticipation of Indiana Beach opening in the 2020 season, albeit at a much delayed time than originally anticipated when we began this endeavor.”
Pursuant to Indiana restrictions due to the COVID-19 health emergency, the campground can be opened as long as social distancing restrictions and hygiene precautions are in place. Amusement and water parks cannot begin operations until June 14, when Indiana enters the fourth of five phases of the economy reopening. Back then, Indiana Beach could only open at 50 percent capacity.
The restrictions won’t be fully lifted until July 4, as long as the state doesn’t relapse into a second outbreak.
Commission President John Heimlich said that “$ 3 million is a lot of money, but without it Indiana Beach would be gone and the cost to White County would be much higher” than $ 3 million.
He cited a 2002 Purdue University study of the economic impact of tourism on White County which found the tourism trade is $ 60 million annually, adding that without it, every taxpayer would be $ 160 every year would have to pay more to make up for the loss.
“Even taxpayers in the most remote areas of the county who may not believe they are affected by Indiana Beach have been and have been for several years,” he said.
Copies of the loan agreement were not immediately made available, although the commissioners stated otherwise in a public meeting on March 17. They stated at the time that once the deal was concluded, the county would publicly release the terms of the deal.
Instead, the county provided a copy of the resolution, which was approved Monday morning.