Anyone associated with the Kankakee Valley Park District, from employees and staff to commissioners to executive director, will tell you, “It’s been a long time coming” for Splash Valley Aquatic Park.
Dayna Heitz, executive director of the KVPD, said she’s ecstatic about the reopening of Splash Valley on Memorial Day weekend.
“I have no [finger]nails left. Just kidding,” said Heitz after Monday’s special meeting at the Bird Park administration building.
Splash Valley, at 1850 River Road in Kankakee, closed after the 2015 season due to leaking water in the lazy river and other mechanical failures. It sat dormant for the next three summers and as weeds overwhelmed the exterior of the facility, it looked doubtful that the water park would ever reopen.
When Heitz began her tenure as executive director in October 2016, she made it clear reopening the pool was a top priority. The board took action in July 2018 when it sold $2 million of government obligation bonds to rehab the park.
Construction on the renovation finally began in November 2019. The district was planning on a reopening in the summer of 2020, but then COVID hit, pushing the reopening to this year.
“It’s exciting,” said Heitz about the reopening after five hot summers and no outdoor pool for district residents.
There will be a grand reopening and ribbon cutting from 5 to 8 p.m. May 28 by invitation only due to COVID restrictions. The park will then open to the public at 11 a.m. May 29, which is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
The lazy river is gone, but the park has a zero-depth pool along with a four-lap-lane pool and plunge pool for the three water slides. The slides have to be refurbished before the opening. There are also restrooms-showers, a grass seating area, and a concession stand with picnic tables. There are also two sand volleyball courts that are just outside the facility that can be used without any admission fee.
KVPD and Rink Management Services, the company hired to manage the facility, are feverishly working to get Splash Valley ready for use.
“We’re cleaning equipment right now,” Heitz said. “We’ve got phones being installed in the next two weeks. Computers are being installed. The pool is being filled this week. They’re doing the hiring, and we are working together on all the finishing touches.”
Rink Management is in the process of hiring the staff of approximately 50 to 75 employees. The pool will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day (noon to 5 p.m. Memorial Day). Tot Time swim for children 5 years old and younger will be from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.
Due to COVID restrictions Splash Valley will be limited to 50 percent of its bather load of 780, or 390 people. They will have to be in groups of 50 that are 30 feet apart.
“Which is great because we don’t have the lazy river anymore, so we have a lot of space to spread everybody out,” Heitz said. “What we do have to do is we have to do reservations. … You’ll have to go online and reserve times.
“The management company and I are working right now to figure out if we can put a kiosk outside so that if we’re not a max and somebody does walk up, you can key yourself in.”
Cost is $10 for residents (above 4 feet tall) and $12 for non-residents. It’s $6 for kids (under 4 feet) for residents and $10 for non-residents. Payment will also be online at kvpd.com. Various season passes are also available online.
Temperature checks will also have to be made at the gate for everyone who enters.
“It will be a lot,” Heitz said. “I’m sure there will be some stumbling blocks along the way.”
Splash Valley was constructed with a $6.6 million Illinois FIRST grant acquired by then-Gov. George Ryan and opened in 2004. Within a few years of its opening, the pool began experiencing failures. Now, finally, that’s all in the past.
“I hope we have a great summer,” board president Bill Spriggs said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Dayna, and the management team is legitimate. We all want it to be successful.”