CONNEAUT LAKE — If business at Conneaut Lake Park were a roller-coaster ride, it would seem safe to say it’s on an upward slope.
The Hotel Conneaut and the Beach Club have both opened for business in recent weeks under a new local partnership, a handful of residential properties at the park are now available for leasing and there are major events coming up including the annual Pumpkin Fest and the first-ever Haunted Hotel and Ghost Lake, a month-long fright-fest starting in October.
It’s all part of the ongoing efforts to revive the 116-year-old amusement park, which until recently hadn’t been in operation at all since the close of the 2006 season due to a lack of funds. Built in 1892, it was deeded to the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park in the late 1990s to be held in trust for the citizens of northwestern Pennsylvania.
In late July, the park Board of Trustees announced a major lease agreement is in the works with a local partnership of Conneaut Lake-area businessmen Greg Sutterlin, Dick Williams and Steve and Mark Popovich. While no formal lease agreements have been signed, board of trustees Chairman Jack Moyers said Monday park officials and the business group are currently working under a short-term agreement that’s “of a good-will nature.”
If successful, that good-will agreement could lead to a more long-term business partnership for the club and a 49-year lease on the Hotel Conneaut and other parts of the park.
Under the current preliminary agreement, Moyers said, the Beach Club is being operated by the Board of Trustees with park employees, while the Hotel Conneaut is being operated under a management agreement with the business group.
Moyers was asked to meet with Summit Township supervisors recently to discuss business plans at the park, as most of it falls within township lines. Township officials said part of the park’s long-standing debts include roughly $150,000 owed to Summit in back property taxes and interest.
Moyers said as the residential properties for lease at the park start to go to market, proceeds from the leases will be turned over to the park’s tax payment plan. Moyers said no leases have yet been formally signed on the residential properties, but serious negotiations on at least one are in the works.
Overall, “I think we’re headed in the right direction,” said Moyers. “It’s just a long, slow process.”
The board of trustees said in July it believes it can enter into long-term leases for parts of the park without court approval. At this point, the current deal has been in the works for roughly nine months.
The investors have said the lease calls for cash compensation as well as a percentage of proceeds from a planned condominium development at the park. They’ve described the proposed lease as a structured agreement that will give the park an annual income.
An estimated 12 to 16 condos are planned, with the first three to six units possibly available as soon as next year, according to the developers.
The lease agreement also calls for the condo-building company to construct a building to house the park’s water filtration system equipment. Once that building is complete, the business group has said it will be turned over to the trustees. That project could help lead to major state grant funding to refurbish the park’s aging water system, officials have said.
Ryan Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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