Conneaut Lake Park's new owner says his vision to revitalize the historic amusement park is going to take time.
"The way we're imagining this is as a family events center," Todd Joseph of Keldon Holdings LLC said in an interview with the Tribune. "We're going to do whatever it takes to make this the premier event space in the area."
Last week, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania approved Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park’s sale of the amusement park and its assets to Keldon Holdings LLC for $1.2 million in cash. The ownership formally transferred Tuesday with the deed being recorded at the Crawford County Courthouse.
To make it a premier site means amusement rides, music and events plus time, according to Joseph.
For now, though, things are gearing up on two fronts — to clear up blighted areas of the park's grounds and get some parts of the park open sometime in May.
"We're going to be opening in a limited capacity with potentially Kiddieland and the water park open," Joseph said.
"I don't want everybody to get their expectations (up) that we're going to have the amusement park ready. Kiddieland and the water park will be open on limited capacity, but the amusement park we're not sure yet. I don't want to raise false hopes."
Hotel Conneaut is operating, though.
Frank Flanegin, who runs the hotel under a lease, told the Tribune that he's hoping to negotiate a new lease with the new ownership. Flanegin's current lease expires at the end of 2021.
Joseph's first goals are to remove blighted buildings and dead wood, fix asphalt, and perform other general cleanup. He is ready to start the permitting process for demolition of dilapidated buildings along the midway and other areas.
Randy Fyock, Summit Township's zoning officer, confirmed he's had informal discussions with Joseph about demolition permits, but none have been issued as yet.
"The list is endless," Joseph said of what needs to be done.
"We have to do what we got to do to get it, at least, cleaned up and make it presentable," he said of the park. "I'm not saying it's going to get done overnight, but I am going to say the blight will be gone. When that's all gone, then we can work on the master plan."
Long-term, the cleared lower portion of the midway area, east of Comstock Street, will become an outdoor amphitheater for major events, he said.
Joseph plans to have Conneaut Lake Park be the site of special events like Ghost Lake haunted amusement park and Pumpkin Fest, but wants to add more events like car shows and holiday gatherings.
"I know how much of a special place this is to the community and the history of it," Joseph said, adding that he knows about the park because his in-laws live in the Conneaut Lake area.
Conneaut Lake Park came into the picture for Joseph while he was working last year on a different proposed Conneaut Lake development project — a housing community for those over age 55.
While that project didn't work out due to sewer issues, Joseph became aware of the park's potential availability during negotiations.
"The park already had everything in place that I needed to do an events center," he said. "As a developer, I looked at it as an opportunity to do something different than what I had been doing. That why I bought it."
According to Joseph, Conneaut Lake Park has a lot going for it — including location, view, history and community involvement.
"We understand the history," he emphasized. "We understand how special a place it is to the community and people who use to come here for family vacations."
Wednesday morning Joseph posted an update on the park's Facebook page, New Conneaut Lake Park.
The online update states general cleanup and demolition are planned for unsound buildings with plans underway to rebuild The Beach Club, make beach improvements and expand Camperland camping ground. Also planned are water park and Kiddieland improvements plus planning for new rides and entertainment.
"Many of the improvements that we plan on bringing to the park will happen slowly over the course of the next few years, as things get back to normal and the dark days of COVID continue to fade into the background," the statement said.
Joseph knows how anxious people are about Conneaut Lake Park's future.
"Hopefully, this quells a lot of the anxiety," he said. "I know how important and special the park is to the community."
Joseph said the park will provide updates via social media on its Facebook page and Instagram at newconneautlakepark.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.