Done deal: Wauconda Park District to buy Phil's Beach
Buoyed by overwhelming community support, Wauconda Park District officials on Tuesday agreed to purchase iconic Phil's Beach and convert the once-popular sandy attraction into a public park.
The park district will acquire the beach, which sits on the western edge of Bangs Lake, and some nearby property from members of the Reilly family. The Reillys are the grown grandchildren of Phil Froehlke, who opened the beach as a business in 1926.
Under the deal, the district will acquire more than 3 acres of land, some of which is across Main Street from the beach and will be used for public parking. The agreed purchase price is $690,000.
Park district commissioners were all smiles about the deal Tuesday. Wanda Kadlec fought back tears as she talked about the project.
"It makes me really proud that we can do this," said Kadlec, whose grandfather worked at the beach as a handyman.
Phil's Beach drew thousands of people to Wauconda through the decades. It even was featured in the 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers," which filmed in the Chicago area the previous year.
The beach's tall J-shaped slide was a popular attraction. It's still on the property but likely will be dismantled, officials have said.
The Reilly family shut down the beach in 1990 because of rising insurance costs. It has been closed to the public ever since.
After park district officials announced the pending deal last week in an exclusive interview with the Daily Herald, fans of Phil's Beach expressed their excitement over its future reopening on social media and at dailyherald.com.
"As someone who has lived in Wauconda 53 years, I am excited to hear about Phil's being reopened," resident Sharon Medford wrote. "Great job on the part of our park district!"
Wayne Schnell, the building commissioner in neighboring Island Lake, recalled enjoying Phil's Beach during Chicago Fire Department picnics in the 1960s.
"My dad and uncles were firemen (and) we spent all day eating and swimming," Schnell said. "The slide was awesome. Oh, what memories!"
Park board commissioners, members of the Reilly family and residents celebrated the deal with a commemorative cake after the unanimous vote Tuesday.
Park district officials plan to add some public facilities, such as picnic shelters and a building for bathrooms and showers. It could be ready for a grand reopening in May 2018.
The park district operates a beach and marina at 112 Park St., on the south side of Bangs Lake. Once Phil's Beach reopens, that beach will close but marina operations will continue, officials have said.