JOLIET – Siedah Thompson laid by the side of the pool at Splash Station Water Park – relaxed because it was easy to keep an eye on her daughter.
“It’s nice that they have this area where I can see my daughter wherever she goes,” said Thompson of Shorewood. “I have been lying here the whole time.”
Like most of the adults at Splash Station, getting in the water was not a high priority for Thompson. Keeping track of the kids was. Other parents, too, mentioned the size and layout of Splash Station made that possible.
Splash Station is not big enough to be a destination water park. But it does have three body slides, two tube slides, a Lazy River and a kids’ pool play area.
Two hundred employees will work there this summer, many of them high school students.
Splash Station has never become the moneymaker some envisioned when it opened in 2002 as the first and only water park in Joliet. It was built by the city of Joliet with casino gambling taxes. It was one of four projects – including Silver Cross Field, the Joliet Area Historical Museum and the Joliet Public Library branch on Black Road – built with the idea of improving the city’s quality of life.
Splash Station finances
When the recession hit, the remaining debt at Splash Station became an annual issue around budget time at City Hall. In 2012, the city made a deal to turn over Splash Station to the Joliet Park District, which always managed the water park but had not owned it.
The summer of 2012 was a hot one. A lot of people went to Splash Station to cool off. And, the water park turned a small profit of $5,283, Joliet Park District Executive Director Dominic Egizio said.
The next two years, however, Splash Station showed losses: $184,000 in 2013 and $166,000 in 2014.
But if Splash Station was built to improve the quality of life in Joliet, it still appears to serve that purpose.
“Sixty thousand to 70,000 people use it annually,” Egizio said. “For a town our size, it would be a tragedy not to have outdoor swimming.”
The park district, however, is not planning to pour money into Splash Station to add features that might make it bigger or more exciting, Egizio said. When the park district surveyed voters ahead of a $19.5 million bond referendum for park improvements, which was approved last year, Splash Station was rarely mentioned.
“It’s a great facility. It serves a need,” Egizio said. “But it’s only available on a good year three months out of the year.”
‘A great price’
Kevin Tully, 16, of Wilmington was at Splash Station with friends Friday on opening day.
“It’s decent,” Tully said of Splash Station. It offers a place to go swimming, he said. There is no outdoor public pool in Wilmington.
His friend, Demonte Garrison, 21, of Joliet said he comes every summer. He enjoys the Lazy River.
“It’s just calming,” he said. “It relaxes your mind.”
Also at Splash Station on opening day was Jennie Young of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Young was in town because her husband was doing work at a local refinery, and she brought her two boys to Splash Station to keep busy.
“We don’t have water parks in our town,” she said. But Young travels with her husband around the country and has been to many water parks. She said she was impressed with Splash Station.
“It’s awesome,” Young said. “It’s a great price. We travel all over the United States. This is a good price.”
The regular admission price at Splash Station is $9 for Joliet Park District residents and $13 for nonresidents. Twilight rates are $4.50 for residents and $6.50 for nonresidents. There are discounts for children or seniors.
Season passes for residents are $50 for individuals, $99 for families of two, and another $10 for each family member.
Membership was opened to Shorewood residents this year, which worked out well for Jeff Lange.
“The kids like going here,” said Lange, a Shorewood resident at Splash Station on Friday with his wife and three children. “It’s affordable and it’s close. It just takes a couple of minutes to get here.”
Amy Slattery of Joliet said Splash Station is a place where she can relax while her two children enjoy the water. Lifeguards are posted where they need to be, and the staff is attentive, she said. She does not take her kids to other water parks.
“We’re kind of Splash Station set,” Slattery said. “I just love to let them go have fun.”