Phil's Beach renovation on target for 2020 opening in Wauconda
Nearly three years after the Wauconda Park District acquired the former Phil's Beach site on the western shore of Bangs Lake, the site is starting to come together.
Although much of the ground is a muddy mess, the buildings that eventually will be a bath house and a combination lifeguard station and concession stand are under construction. Initial elements of the boardwalk that will partially ring the beach are in place, too.
It's all part of the park district's $3 million effort to convert the once-privately owned tourist attraction into a public park and swimming area by next spring.
Wauconda Trustee Tim Howe is among those excited about the progress being made.
"I think it's going to be a great asset for Wauconda and our residents," Howe said. "I can't wait to see the finished product."
Located on Main Street north of downtown Wauconda, Phil's Beach drew families to Bangs Lake starting in the 1920s. Both the beach and its giant, J-shaped slide were featured in the classic 1980 film "The Blues Brothers."
But the family that owned and operated the beach closed it to the public in 1990 because of rising insurance costs.
After many private discussions with the family, the district bought the property and about one acre on the west side of Main Street in 2016.
District leaders and architects then developed a plan that calls for a splash park, a picnic pavilion, a bath house with changing rooms and showers, among other amenities.
The land across the street will be used for public parking.
The park originally was planned for a spring 2019 debut, but a large sign on the gate to the site has declared 2020 is the target.
A park district representative couldn't be reached for comment.
Stuckey Construction Co. Superintendent Dan Bucko said passersby stop, examine the master plan drawing on that sign and look at the project's progress every day.
"(There's) a lot of interest," he said.
Mayor Lincoln Knight said he's heard from local residents and municipal leaders from other communities who are excited about the return of Phil's Beach.
"People are reminiscing about their experiences there and looking forward to making new memories," he said.
"What a great time for Wauconda."