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"It's all we have": Extended water park closure in Naples frustrates locals

Sun-N-Fun closed indefinitely for repairs.
Posted at 5:19 PM, Jul 02, 2024

NAPLES, Fla. — The Sun-N-Fun Lagoon will be closed indefinitely as it undergoes major repairs, which has neighbors frustrated.

The popular water park received a failing grade in a recent county assessment and will require millions of dollars in repairs.

The extended closure is not a first, and the uncertain timeline has neighbors upset, who say the county has the money to fix it. The county is advising people to explore other aquatic locations.

"I feel sad because we don't have a place to go, and we wonder why," said Thais Scalone, who lives nearby.

Scalone's children used to enjoy the water park during school breaks. Now, she is prepared to drive an hour to Cape Coral to beat the summer heat.

"Actually, we are talking about this right now. I think we are going to Cape Coral because they have a park like this, so we have to go there to enjoy the summer," Scalone added.

However, not everyone can manage such a long drive, and the closure has irritated many residents who blame county mismanagement. Some took to social media to express their frustration.

The county said the water park was never thoroughly fixed when problems arose throughout its 20-year history.

The facility had undergone several renovations that "only addressed a few of the necessary upgrades, repairs, and replacements to facility infrastructure necessary to ensure reliable and safe services to the public for years to come," the county says.

When asked about how it got to this point, the county manager explained how the facilities management division overlooked certain red flags.

"The emphasis was placed on the wrong thing. Rather than thinking about how we were going to run these pools, we spent time thinking about how to make them look nice for the public. We had gotten into the habit of band-aiding things," manager Amy Patterson said during the June 11 commissioners meeting.

County leaders are now considering a long-term solution that might involve turning the water park over to a private business for better maintenance.

Commissioner Chris Hall, who represents the district where the water park is located, explained that in that type of system, the county would keep the assets but the daily operations would be turned over to the experts.

"I personally would champion a movement to get government out of the water park business and turn it over to experienced, professional operators to manage and operate the parks," Hall explained.

Commissioners also voted to hire a consultant to help manage Sun-N-Fun and other aquatic centers in Collier County.