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Conneaut Lake Park (CLP) Discussion Thread


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It's a real shame how much crap this park has gone through over the years, but it's great that they (somehow) keep coming back. With all of this, I'm really wondering how much longer Conneaut Lake will be operating. It would suck to lose this park and the awesome Blue Streak.

The park will most likely be operating 3 more months during the 2014 summer season prior to the September tax sale.

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I don't see this park making it much longer. The past debt is going to kill them. I think what the AG sees is their ability to maintain revenue stream has been diminished by the fire last August. If they had fire insurance then they could have rebuilt quickly but they didn't. It sounds like none of the buildings are insured and the AG is concerned another fire or some other disaster could make the whole place worthless. This whole law suit wouldn't be happening if they were insured.

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  • 2 months later...

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/local/x1724067702/State-asks-county-court-for-more-time-to-review-Conneaut-Lake-Park-records/print

 

Crawford County Court of Common Pleas isn’t expected to take action on a state petition to oust the current volunteer board of the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park until at least mid-summer.

 

At a Monday status conference on the petition in county court before President Judge Anthony Vardaro, Senior Deputy Attorney General Gene Herne asked for additional time to review several years worth of the amusement park’s financial records.

 

At a hearing on Nov. 19, 2013, President Judge Anthony Vardaro ordered copies of all Trustees’ financial records dating back to June 29, 2007, be turned over to the state attorney general’s office within 30 days as well as all meeting minutes and copies of insurance policies not already provided to the attorney general’s office. June 29, 2007, is the date a county court-appointed board of trustees was put in place by Vardaro. The Trustees then select candidates whenever there are openings.

 

In October, the Office of Attorney General Kathleen Kane petitioned the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to oust the current Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, claiming the current board has failed to properly care for the amusement park. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is the corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the amusement park.

 

While Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park and the board’s attorney have been cooperative and the materials were turned over to the state accountants as ordered, more time is required to review the material, according to Herne.

 

“We are making progress and we are working amicably to try to get to the core issues in this matter,” Herne told Vardaro on Monday. “But at this point, I think it would be best if we set a five-month discovery schedule, your honor.”

 

Vardaro agreed to extend time for discovery in the case until June 30 with the possibility of a further extension of time — if both sides agree that it is necessary.

 

In issuing his court order, Vardaro noted the hearing on the state’s petition won’t take place until after the discovery is complete.

 

Following the hearing, Brian Pulito, the attorney for Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, said Trustees would continue to offer full cooperation.

 

“We want to resolve this quickly and amicably,” Pulito said. “We know the Trustees, at the end of the day, will be vindicated.”

 

Meanwhile, Conneaut Lake Park remains on track to be sold for overdue taxes this coming fall, the Crawford County Board of Commissioners reported last week. Commissioners said last Tuesday the county is projecting to have the park’s more than 40 parcels of land go on the annual tax upset sale list, scheduled for Sept. 26, unless a repayment plan is put forth or the more than $750,000 in overdue property taxes are paid.

 

As of Dec. 31, 2013, a total of $752,692.77 in overdue property taxes, interest and penalties was owed to the county, Summit and Sadsbury townships and Conneaut School District by Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park Inc. — dating back to 1997, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office.

 

The attorney general’s office petition wants the court to compel Trustees to show why the court should not: permanently remove all current Trustees and directors of Trustees; appoint a new board to govern the affairs of Trustees going forward; and order any other relief which the court deems appropriate.

 

The petition alleges, among other things, that: The board failed to take advantage of business opportunities that would have generated more revenue; that Trustees steered business away from Hotel Conneaut; and that these incidents and failure to insure Dreamland Ballroom and The Beach Club represent “serious breaches of their (Trustees) fiduciary duty.”

 

According to the petition, the damage inflicted on Conneaut Lake Park include failing to insure against the structural loss due to the fire at the Dreamland Ballroom on Feb. 1, 2008, and the fire at The Beach Club on Aug. 1, 2013 and failing to exploit opportunities and/or promote the best interests of the park.

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They continue to move forward with selling Conneaut Lake Park at a tax sale. I wonder what this means for the park long term.

 

Crawford County officials are moving forward with plans to sell Conneaut Lake Park at the county tax claim sale in September.

Today the county commissioners approved engaging a Pittsburgh law firm to begin the process of legally preparing the various parcels of park property for sale.

 

Source

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While it is certainly a pipe dream that would require a great deal of up front infrastructural investment, I'd love to see a company like Herschend Family Entertainment come in and take over the park. With the right investment, I feel like this park could grow into their portfolio quite nicely.

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I really don't think that this is totally the fault of the park's selection of attractions. With the exception of a woefully out-of-tune carousel organ the selection is pretty good for a "small" park.

 

I do agree with this -

There is nothing around it to pull people in.

That, methinks, is the park's biggest problem. The area is nice if a little shady sometimes, but with Waldameer just a short-ish drive north, there usually isn't any reason for anyone who isn't a local to stop apart from us enthusiasts getting the Blue Streak credit.

 

The turnout was really great the day the volunteer work was finished and the Haunted Hostel opened, but I've been wondering what attendance was like for the remainder of the season (September-October).

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Firstly the park WILL be open for the 2014 Season.

 

The recent news really doesn't mean a whole lot, A law firm was hired to organize the sale, standard practice I imagine for any complicated legal matter such as this. Don't forget that the majority of parcels that are delinquent and subject to this sale are not part of the amusement park or hotel land. I imagine the park lessees and many other interested parties will more than likely seek injuctions to protect their investments and keep the park operating long past 2014.

 

While I really have no ear for instruments being out of tune, The nice old couple who maintain the carousel organ are there almost every day and keep it in tip top shape, I can't imagine they'd allow it to ever be out of tune. The Blue Streak was kicking serious ass and taking names this year, Anyone who rode after June will agree.

 

As far as attendance it depended on the day, Pumpkinfest was wall to wall people for the whole weekend with traffic backed up almost to Rt 6. Every night during Ghost Lake was packed, Lines for the haunted houses stretched all over especially on friday and saturdays. The park had a really good year and the various events and community days had huge turn outs. Things are slowly getting better and last season saw many cosmetic improvements. As I sit here and type this there is security on site ensuring no vandalism takes place and several maintenance staff working away rehabbing rides.

 

Keep the faith, there are good people making things happen at the park.

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Well that's awesome! Thanks for sharing!

 

Concerning the carousel organ - it was probably just my ear or something, I go nuts whenever anything is even a bit out of tune because I am cursed with perfect pitch.

 

Also, I totally agree that Blue Streak was kicking butt. I had my best rides in the middle row of the last car.

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If it is indeed going to be open this year, then I'm going to have to stop and check it out sometime this summer. As much as I want the park to stay open, the feeling I've been getting from the news is that ever since the ballroom burnt down, the park has been barely hanging on. Hopefully my feeling will change when I get there.

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Don't forget that the majority of parcels that are delinquent and subject to this sale are not part of the amusement park or hotel land.
The overwhelming bulk of the actual amusement park area sits on the single tax parcel 5513-001 which is nothing but the amusement park area. 5513-001 is a lot approximately 55 acres that does not include, the hotel, most of Kiddie Land, the Pony Track, and the first hill of the Blue Streak. Everything else amusement park-related sits on lot 5513-001 which remains very delinquent in back property taxes. The tax parcels lots where Kiddie Land, Pony Track, and the first hill of the Blue Streak sit are likewise delinquent in back property taxes. The tax sale is nothing but all about the sale of the amusement park property.

 

I imagine the park lessees and many other interested parties will more than likely seek injuctions to protect their investments and keep the park operating long past 2014.

Park lessees certainly can file injunctions to protect their investments. Anybody can file an injunction at anytime for anything. Getting the injunction granted remains the challenge. Greg Sutterlin went to the Summit Township Supervisors’ Meeting last November with his factually non-existent plan to save the park. When they rejected his vague unrealistic presentation outright he was told in no uncertain terms by the township solicitor “If you want to protect your investment pay the $900,000”. Injunction wise Sutterlin failed to record his hotel and Beach Club leases with the county recorders office. That will have serious negative legal ramifications in court when filing any possible court actions to protect his investments. Sutterlin was fully aware of the delinquent tax issue and possible tax sale when he signed the lease. Unless Sutterlin has a clause in his lease specifically granting his corporation financial relief in the event of the sale tax Sutterlin will maintain his unbroken losing streak in his every court request to date. The hotel sits in Sadsbury Township and only 5 years of taxes are reported to have been paid on it. It remains seriously delinquent in back taxes. Sutterlin’s two options in protecting his investments are either pay the entire delinquent tax bill or win the bid at the tax sale. Suttlin has cash flow issues. Sutterlin stated in court when he tried to sue the board to sign new leases that he is having difficulty securing cash financing because his lease is not recorded at the court house. To be recorded, it needed to be notarized. Suttelin neglected to get the lease notarized. He failed in his suit against the trustees to get new leases signed and notarized. Adams on the other hand may have some relief if he chooses to file a case to garnish ownership of some of the mobile rides which are not subject to the tax sale.

 

Unless the delinquent back taxes plus interest are paid in full prior, the tax sale occurs on September 26. At the close of business on the 26th there will be a new owner no matter what happens in the tax sale.

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Let me begin by saying that as in enthusiast it's heartbreaking to see a small park wither away. No one wants to see a one of the few remaining Ed Vettel coasters go away. Even worse, it's a very good classic coaster. Not to forget to mention they have one of only two Tumble Bugs left, a classic Carousel, and the last Pretzel dark ride left. Sad to see a good chunk of history on the brink of death.

 

Putting the nostalgic values aside, Conneaut Lake Park is a business. Yes, it's not your typical amusement park business as it operates as a Trust, but it's a business nonetheless. The fact is, Conneaut Lake Park is failing, and the historic value is not enough to save it. Simply put, there isn't enough cash flow or people riding rides, buying food, playing games, staying in the hotel, or using the campground. Does anyone else find it strange to think if they have been having such good seasons recently that there is no proposed plan to start paying off their debts? Why would the Attorney General's Office be coming after them if they were making sound, formal efforts to repay their debts? It appears to be that The Board of Trustees who leases Conneaut Lake Park is simply not showing the AG any indication that they are going to turn around and start paying back what they owe.

 

As for attendance, there are things to consider about what Conneaut Lake Park has seen in terms of numbers. Pumpkin Fest and Ghost Lake have been bringing in great crowds since before this current Tax Sale issue came about. Even when the amusement park was closed from 2007-2008, those events did extremely well. Putting the focus on Ghost Lake, I thought this event was rolling them in the dough from experience and reports of such huge crowds. Unfortunately I can't find my source with the number, but the cut for that event from the operator, Mid America Events, is ridiculously small. As for the other flashes in the pan with big attendance days in the Summer, the park was offering $5 ride wristbands. In economics, it's called moving along the demand curve, not making an increase or a shift in demand. On a normal priced, decent weather, and standard summer day at Conneaut Lake Park, you really do not find much more than a trickle which is telling of the true popularity of the park.

 

The enthusiast side doesn't want to see this place go down its current path, but my business side can't find true evidence of efforts or resources to pay back this mounting debt.

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Penn makes some good points about greg, I personally do not care for the guy and feel he is very prone to making poor decisions regarding the park. I would be very pleased to see him take his ball and go home. In my opinion the only things his enterprises have really brought to the table were a Brett Micheals concert which was a damn good time and brought in a lot of people, and the ballroom weddings that are taking place every weekend in the hotel and no doubt are sustaining the hotel quite nicely. Thankfully he is not involved in the operations or management of the amusement park in any way to my knowledge.

 

Adams on the other hand has done much good in the park, working tirelessly to improve the place while trying to make it sustainable. Rides are getting rehabbed and properly maintained, cosmetic improvements abound, security is keeping a eye on the place and the coaster is better than ever. They are here for the long run and I have no doubt they will not let the park go without a fight. I am proud to call Mr. Adams a friend.

 

I had been of the understanding some taxes had been paid almost up to date on the amusement area parcels. I guess I will have to check my sources in that regard. I really have no opinion about the board either way, the few I've met seem to care about the park and are always around making improvements were they can. They made some good points in their press releases, We'll just have to wait and see what the state says about their books this summer.

 

AJ is right about Mid America getting the lions share of gate admission for ghost lake. I take no issue with that as they put on a outstanding event and deserve a well earned profit, The huge crowds still provide a tidy income for the park not only through the park's cut of the gate but all food, games and merchandise profits go directly to the park. They also remind a lot of people that the park is open for business.

 

The $5 community days were a huge success, people came in droves and the park did very well. I'm no economist but the $5 days are a great thing that will continue on, $5 wristbands will get people in the door who will then spend even more on concessions, games and merchandise. I spoke with many people those days who said that they could not otherwise afford to come to the park, to me that makes it worth it also. Regular summer days had some slow moments but the park had a very good year with a lot more good days than bad.

 

It was also a very positive thing to see the donations being made by park attendees. The 5 gallon donation jugs at the parking lot and ticket booth were getting stuffed with bills most days especially on ones with large turnouts. All of this money went directly to the tax bill and while it isn't much in the grand scheme of things every little bit helps and it shows that people want the park to live on.

 

The debt is staggering but that $600,000 insurance payout is still up in the air, Its going to be a interesting summer but its going to be one filled with the sounds of the carousel organ, kids laughing and the blue streak hauling ass through the woods.

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  • 1 month later...

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/local/x1984806254/Economic-Progress-Alliance-pitches-alternatives-to-Conneaut-Lake-Parks-tax-sale

 

Mark Turner, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County, approached Crawford County Commissioners at their work session Tuesday morning to discuss a proposal for Conneaut Lake Park, which is scheduled to be sold for back property taxes this fall.

 

He outlined the potential for positive economic benefit that involves placing the park under the temporary control of the Economic Progress Alliance to repurpose it as it would a blighted area and reorganize it as if it were a bankrupt corporation.

 

Turner called the park and surrounding grounds a unique asset he wishes to see stay in public use, rather than fall under private ownership in the event of a tax sale, though he believes the sale was rightfully established by the county.

 

Conneaut Lake Park is scheduled to be sold for back property taxes at the county’s annual September tax upset sale since the amusement park owes more than $750,000 to various municipal governments. This year’s tax sale is scheduled for Sept. 26.

 

As of Dec. 31, 2013, a total of $752,692.77 in overdue property taxes, interest and penalties was owed to the county, Summit and Sadsbury townships, and Conneaut School District by Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park — dating back to 1997, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office.

 

Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is a corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the park. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park has been in charge of the park since 2007.

 

Commissioner Jack Lynch credited Turner’s mention of the Economic Progress Alliance track record. The EPA has rehabilitated areas like the Bessemer and former Avtex sites.

 

Lynch also echoed the notion that all local control and public input are lost if the park is purchased through tax sale. He hopes to somehow maintain that local influence.

 

Turner emphasized, however, that EPA’s purchase of the park would be inappropriate and that the property should be dedicated to the public as an open, decommercialized park area with the potential for a retail-based midway, a performing arts or music center, year-round activities and more.

 

He asked commissioners for help in the authoritative aspect, claiming that while the EPA has the experience, willingness and resources to handle the park’s gradual rehabilitation, his discussions with the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park have been inconclusive.

 

Commissioners reacted favorably to Turner’s proposal but made no official decision on the matter.

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  • 3 months later...

Here's an update from today, and the news is not good...

 

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/breakingnews/x197384338/Commissioners-move-forward-with-sheriffs-sale-for-Conneaut-Lake-Park

 

Commissioners move forward with sheriff's sale for Conneaut Lake Park

 

By Keith Gushard Meadville Tribune

 

MEADVILLE — Conneaut Lake Park is being moved toward a sheriff’s sale to pay off its more than $925,000 worth of property tax debt owed to four government entities.

 

Calling the collection of back taxes owed by the amusement park their fiduciary due, Crawford County commissioners voted unanimously this morning to begin proceedings with a sheriff’s sale of the amusement park.

 

The commissioners’ action this morning comes in the wake of similar moves previously by the Conneaut School District’s school board and supervisors of both Summit and Sadsbury Townships.

 

The boards of the school district and two townships have gone on record in support of forcing a sheriff’s sale of the amusement park to settle its tax debt.

 

A sheriff’s sale could happen as soon as October, if foreclosure action is filed with the Crawford County court system by next week.

 

At Wednesday night’s Conneaut School Board work session, the consensus of the board was to have its attorney move forward with foreclosure action to force a sheriff’s sale of Conneaut Lake Park though no formal vote was taken by school board members.

 

The amusement park owes Conneaut School District, Crawford County and the townships of Summit and Sadsbury a combined $926,031.41 in back property taxes, interest and penalties dating back to 1997, according to the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office.

 

As of August, Conneaut Lake Park owes $633,949.87 to Conneaut School District; $236,164.64 to the county (which includes $23,066.18 in costs associated with the county tax claim bureau); $43,750.85 to Summit Township; and $12,166.05 to Sadsbury Township, according to the Treasurer’s Office. Those taxes go back as far as 1997.

Edited by larrygator
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If I was interested in operating rides at Conneaut, I'd actually want it to go to sale assuming the tax debt is erased by the auction. You could walk away with the place for a song and no weighty debt in that instance. Does anyone know if that's the situation?

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