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Phase 4: SplashDown waterpark's opening remains in limbo

John W. Barry
Poughkeepsie Journal

In a typical summer, SplashDown Beach in Fishkill would already be providing relief from the summer heat for thousands of customers. 

AG电子游戏攻略The water park gives parents a place to bring their children. And the destination lets families enjoy each other’s company while maintaining a Dutchess County tradition that's also a draw for tourists. 

But with the coronavirus pandemicAG电子游戏攻略 maintaining its grip, the state continuing to implement restrictions on public gatherings, and uncertainty continuing to frame the way most of us are living our lives, the summer of 2020 is far from typical.

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On top of all this, the owners of SplashDown are navigating the economic fallout of the pandemic on their business, which is among a group of businesses left behind by the state’s phased reopening. Water parks, movie theaters and live music and entertainment venues are as of yet unable to open during the state's fourth and final phase in its reopening plan, which is under way. 

The entrance to SplashDown Beach in Fishkill on July 7, 2020.

"We're mortally wounded," said Steve Turk, who has owned SplashDown with his wife Shelley since 2004. "This has just been devastating."

The predicament facing SplashDown and other entertainment destinations underscores the broad reach of the pandemic stranglehold on the overall economy. SplashDown, which draws visitors from outside Dutchess, also offers insight on the impact of the coronavirus on Dutchess County's more than half-billion dollar tourism industry.

The fallout at SplashDown includes the loss of millions of dollars and affects hundreds of seasonal and full-time workers at one of Dutchess County’s most high profile destinations for outdoor recreation. And then there is the nearly $750,000 the Turks have already spent on coronavirus safety measures. SplashDown typically opens Memorial Day weekend and closes on Labor Day.

"We spent a lot of money ramping up during Phase 1, 2 and 3, anticipating we were still included in Phase 4," Steve Turk said.

Owners, Steve and Shelley Turk at SplashDown Beach in Fishkill on July 7, 2020. As New York re-opens in phases, waterparks have not been given the go ahead to open.

AG电子游戏攻略But according to Empire State Development, "places of public amusement have not yet been allowed to open. Guidance will be posted as soon as we are confident that these establishments can operate safely without triggering an uptick in COVID-19 cases."

AG电子游戏攻略Another factor affecting water parks is that they can attract visitors from outside of the immediate area, according to the state. 

The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark in Monticello has not yet reopened under NY's phased plan.

The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Water Park in Monticello is facing the same dilemma. Its 80,000-square-foot waterpark, with 11 water attractions, had hoped to reopen July 14, but like Splashdown, that date has been pushed back indefinitely, according to a notice posted on its website.

In Westchester County, Playland Amusement Park, which offers water attractions, opted not to open at all this year. The park, which is owned by Westchester County, has opened its beach.

Riders enjoy the Playland Plunge during opening day at Playland in Rye, May 11, 2019.

Asked if SplashDown could have to pull the plug on its 2020 summer season, Steve Turk said, "We have a plan A, B and C. We can be ready to open. We're not throwing in the towel."

But as the economy lumbers back to life, questions remain. Steve Turk noted that officials throughout the pandemic have encouraged outdoor recreation as a safe and healthy activity. In his opinion, that includes water parks and the roughly 25-acre SplashDown.  

Owners, Steve and Shelley Turk at move a lounge chair at SplashDown Beach in Fishkill on July 7, 2020. As New York re-opens in phases, waterparks have not been given the go ahead to open.

AG电子游戏攻略"We know they've got a lot on their plate in Albany," Steve Turk said. "We just don't understand the timeline as it relates to our industry."

Despite all the uncertainty, Dutchess Tourism Vice President Melaine Rottkamp, who on July 20 takes over as president of Dutchess Tourism from the retiring Mary Kay Vrba, remains optimistic that Dutchess County's hard-hit tourism industry will recover. 

"There is a ton of pent up demand," she said. "People are desperate to get out and go places."

AG电子游戏攻略Vrba this past week said the tourism sector is rebounding, with hotel occupancy the first weekend in July at 50-60 percent. As for tourism overall, Rottkamp anticipates Dutchess County residents, who may not want to travel far from home because of the pandemic, will be filling a gap by taking advantage of destinations that typically attract out-of-towners.

And that would bode well for SplashDown - once it opens. 

AG电子游戏攻略"I believe the phase process was a good way to go, but we're still awaiting guidance from the state of New York," Steve Turk said. "We have such a short window."

John W. Barry: jobarry@poughkeepsiejournal.com, 845-437-4822, Twitter: @JohnBarryPoJo

Coronavirus safety measures at SplashDown Beach

Coronavirus safety measures implemented at SplashDown Beach, in anticipation of its opening, include:

  • Operating at 33 percent capacity
  • Employee training from Montefiore Hospital 
  • The elimination of some seating, with 10-12 feet between seating pods
  • A "Clean Team" that will monitor attendees
  • Allowing fewer people in a pool at any given time
  • Not allowing anyone on a ride until the previous person has exited that ride 
  • Hand sanitizing stations
  • Social distancing floor decals 
  • Repeated disinfecting of bathrooms
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