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Private fundraising well underway for new performing arts venue at Pekin's Mineral Springs Park

Mineral Springs Park in Pekin.
Pekin Park District
Mineral Springs Park in Pekin.

Fundraising for construction of a new performing arts venue at Pekin's Mineral Spring Park is well underway.

That's according to Cameron Bettin, executive director of the Pekin Park District. He said around $130,000 in donations and pledges for the $1.2 million project are secured.

The grassroots initiative was announced in June. Bettin said construction o could start next year, with usage beginning in 2025.

"It's exciting. So it's really a grassroots effort to get this done. The park district has not dedicated any tax dollars towards it," Bettin said.

The not-for-profit Pekin Park Foundation has contributed an initial $10,000 towards the effort.

"So as people are watching a performance, they'll be able to sit under the shade of the trees, enjoy the lagoon and the pavilion views, and enjoy the concert, or whatever event is going on there," he said.

The performance area would replace a 64-year-old mobile stage that Bettin said reached the end of its usable life.

Phase 2 of skate park completed

The second of three planned phases for the skate park at Mineral Springs was completed earlier this summer.

Bettin said the current phase added more ramps and other features to the skate park. It's not a cheap proposition, and there's still another phase yet to be added.

"It's gonna be an over $400,000 skatepark. But I'll tell you, it was one of the best things that we decided to do," he said.

Bettin said he's been surprised by wide age ranges of the people enjoying the park, including parents out with their young kids.

"There's people out there all the time. And I could barely get through the walkthrough of the second phase. They were all you know, hanging around. ' 'Is it ready yet? Is it open yet?' You know, they were out there in droves as soon as we opened," he said.

Bettin said there's no timeline for phase 3's completion, but he expects it will cost slightly less than phases one and two did.

New DragonLand Water Park slide coming this fall

Continuing supply chain issues are to blame for the lack of a Dragon Slide a DragonLand Water Park for another season.

"We were kind of opening ever or new Dragon slide for the little kids this year, but just like everything there was delays and materials and shipping issues and things of that nature, and still dealing with that with a lot of manufacturers," Bettin said.

He said the new slide will be installed after the pool closes for the year. The old water slide was taken out of commission at the end of the 2021 season.

Bettin said the park district has also invested in a new mechanical system and pool maintenance at the 31-year-old water park.

"It's still doing doing well and hanging in there for an older facility, but we try to keep up with it as best we can. And we have put some funding into it," he said.

Bettin said the park district's hope is to break even each year, but too much bad weather can ruin a season. This year, staff didn't get much of a break until this past week, with rain and smoke breaking up a long stretch of hot, sunny days.

Pool season is typically two and half months long, since lifeguard schedules are largely dependent on school calendars.

"People always wonder, why can't you keep the pool open even just for weekends? Like, oh, you gotta have the staff to operate it," Bettin said.

Soldwedel Program Center at McNaughton Park slated for demolition

The Pekin Park District plans to demolish the Soldwedel Program Center at McNaughton Park to make way for a new multi-use rental shelter.

The park district bought the former Girl Scout lodge and cabins back in 2011. Bettin said the park district used it for nature and environmental programming for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to that.

"It's just kind of sitting vacant there. Whenever you leave a facility and building empty, it just starts to deteriorate," he said.

Bettin said contractors called out for renovation quotes didn't want to take on the project given the amount of work involved. He sad the plan became demolishing the building to make way for a new facility.

"We're going to put in a large rental shelter, kind of like a council ring. So basically like a fire pit with a large seating area around it," he said.

Plans also include restrooms with showers and a new accessible parking lot.

"We think we'll get utilized a lot. We don't have that type of facility out there," he said.

The park district is applying for a grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. If the park district doesn't get the grant, Bettin said he'd still like to see it move forward, but it may need to happen in phases.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.