Decision to open Lake Lisgar waterpark to come soon

The fate of the 2020 season for Lake Lisgar waterpark could be decided before the end of the month.

Progress has been made at the Lake Lisgar Waterpark in Tillsonburg. The old water slide has been removed after a lifespan of more than 20 years. It will be replaced by the town this summer. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News)

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The fate of the Lake Lisgar waterpark’s 2020 season be decided by Tillsonburg council before the end of the month.

The popular Tillsonburg destination, which is already undergoing repairs to its slide, could be opened by early July, despite a staff recommendation to close the park for the summer.

But with COVID-19 leaving much of the summer recreation season in doubt across the province – and the steep costs of running the facility – Tillsonburg council will possibly be facing a difficult decision Monday.

Town staff is pushing to close the park due to the ongoing repairs and the financial strain of running Lake Lisgar for a shortened season.

The staff report indicated the town would save $113,000 in wages and operating costs if the waterpark wasn’t opened this year. The startup cost alone for the waterpark is $10,000, the report stated. “However, based on past performance, any delay to the start of the season has a far greater impact on revenue than an early shut down.”

The replacement slide, which is costing the town about $330,000, should still be completed by the middle of June, barring any delays.

“This would limit the ability to run the waterpark at full capacity, which would mean meeting revenue targets would be impossible,” the report stated.

Rick Cox, the town’s director of recreation, culture and parks, said there would then be another two- to three-week delay while the slide undergoes testing, leaving early July as the best hope for a 2020 opening.

The work began in March but was temporarily halted due to COVID-19 until restarting earlier this month.

“We’re worried by compromising the startup of the season and delaying it into July, we’re really making it difficult for us to succeed, especially where there will likely be cultural and public-health restrictions,” Cox said. “We think the business model, which is not great anyways at the waterpark and wonderful from a community spirit point of view, may be not wise for us to run it.”

Progress has been made at the Lake Lisgar Waterpark in Tillsonburg. The old water slide has been removed after a lifespan of more than 20 years. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News)

The waterpark has been a contentious topic for town council over the the past year. The town’s Memorial Park revitalization advisory and recreation and sport advisory committees recommended it be demolished and replaced with a splash pad last July.

Staff began looking for potential funding from the provincial and federal governments, but a petition from more than 2,000 people was then presented to town council in October pleading to keep the waterpark open.

The committee predicted the park’s aging infrastructure could cost upwards of $4.5 million to repair and replace, while its operating costs would mean a regular deficit.

The slide replacement for the park was eventually approved in the town’s 2020 budget.

At its previous meeting, town council was leaning towards having the waterpark open for at least part of the season, with Coun. Penny Esseltine calling it “spirit lifting.”

Coun. Chris Rosehart noted the poor optics of paying for the slide, finishing the work and having it sit empty for the last two months of summer.

The town’s indoor pool also remains closed until further notice due to provincial emergency orders in the wake of the pandemic

With the public-health guidelines evolving and the province slowly reopening, council will receive additional information Monday to decide the waterpark’s use this summer.

“Until we actually have facts, I would suggest that this be received and deferred and deliberate with up to date information. … This is a big deal,” Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar said.


Here’s a rundown of our daily coverage on the Woodstock-area fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic from March, April and May.

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