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Chester County Press

New Garden moving forward with two ideas for St. Anthony in the Hills

01/27/2021 11:09AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Over the last several years, New Garden Township and its Board of Supervisors have spearheaded efforts that have positioned the township as a true game changer in the world of local government – high point moments that have included the recent sale of its outdated wastewater system for $29.5 million, the construction of the new home for the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department and the preservation of additional township land.

Another one of its achievements -- their $1.5 million purchase of the 137.5-acre St. Anthony in the Hills in 2018 – is in the works to spin off into even more success, with the planned rebirth of two long-dormant attractions, that are very likely to be up and running again this year under independent management: the St. Anthony in the Hills pool and, just beside it, its outdoor ampitheater.

At its Jan. 19 online meeting, the board voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the Splash Swim Club, a private member swim club in Marple Township, to first restore and then operate the outdoor pool facility – which will include the development and management of an adjacent restaurant.

Township Solicitor Bill Christman said that progress on the refurbishing of the facility will begin immediately, and that the goal of the company is to be fully operational and open by Memorial Day weekend this year. As part of the agreement, Splash, LLC will pay the township a $2,000 fee to operate the facility, assume all liability and repair costs required, oversee that all safety codes are met, and sell memberships, which will include discounted fees for New Garden Township residents.

At its last meeting, the board authorized the township to work with the members of Splash, LLC to come up with a lease agreement, which is now in the last stages of approval, with minor insurance concerns still to be ironed out.

The township has received concept drawings for the project.

As part of the ongoing discussions between the township and JP Morgan Chase in the proposed plans for of White Clay Point mixed-use development – the southern part of which borders St. Anthony in the Hills -- the township is seeking to acquire the land necessary to develop an entrance to the property along Reynolds Road, which would provide vehicle access to the pool facility.  

“We were faced with [this option] or having to tear the thing down,” said Pat Little of the township’s decision to enter into an agreement with Splash, LLC. “It would cost a lot of money for us to rip out the pool and the building where the restaurant is, and still not be able to provide an asset for the residents of the township. They’ve already done this once, they’ve done a very good job and the people that use it are very happy.”

A new concept in a ‘staycation’

Since it first opened during Memorial Day Weekend in 2019, the Splash Swim Club in Broomall (seen in the photo above) has been utilized as a 13-acre retreat that takes its inspiration from tropical locales and the ambience of country clubs. Targeted toward individuals and families, the club’s amenities include an Olympic-sized heated pool, a food truck with ice cream service and a coffee bar; a 2,000-square foot pavilion deck; and The Wave, a restaurant that features indoor and outdoor seating, a menu that ranges from jerk chicken nachos to ribeye steak to health food options and a lounge that features music and large-screen televisions. 

Behind the restaurant, members can use the basketball court, a landscaped wiffle ball field, and a gaming room filled with Xbox stations.

According to its website, six-month membership packages at the Splash Swim Club in 2021 start at $61.67 a month for an individual member, $83.33 a month for two members, and $135.83 a month for memberships of five or more people.

Private cabanas are also available for a fee that includes towel service, waitress service and a reserved parking spot.

Outdoor movies at the ampitheater

The board also heard a presentation by John DiEleuterio of the Wilmington-based Main Light Industries, Inc., who discussed a concept that would permit a four-person partnership – that includes DiEleuterio -- to show outdoor movies at St. Anthony’s Greek-style, 2,000-seat outdoor ampitheater, beginning as early as this spring.

He said that facility is “an amazing space with amazing potential.”

“We want to start out by gaining support from the community, gaining sponsorships and partners to take the necessary steps to rebuild the structure that we need to do, as well as take the appropriate COVID-19 precautions, knowing the environment that we will be in for the foreseeable future,” DiEleuterio told the board on behalf of his three partners. “We have a lot of great ideas and given a blessing from all of you, we’d like to move forward with those ideas. We’re just looking to grow with the park.”

Founded in 1981, Main Light Industries, Inc. is a provider of most entertainment related equipment including lighting, special effects and video to professional production companies around the world.

DiEleuterio told the board that he and his partners were led to pursue the outdoor movie concept at St. Anthony in the Hills soon after COVID-19 began to take a big chunk out of the earning potential for companies who provide technology and services for live events.

“When COVID hit, the industry changed,” he said. “Our industry was [supporting] concerts, trade shows and Broadway. In March, we had about 20 employees, and now we’re down to about five employees. This is a shift in thinking. All of us in this industry have had a lot of time to think, and when we saw this space, it entered into our heads that it was the natural progression of where we would like to go.”

DiEleuterio said the first steps will be for the four-person group to incorporate and then give a formal presentation to the New Garden board, which would include their plans for refurbishing the infrastructure of the ampitheater in order to convert it into a usable space. He said among the many components in the rehabbing of the facility will be pest control, removing overgrown brush and plants, installing upgraded guardrails and improving bathroom facilities – as well as complying with all safety requirements. 

“We would work with New Garden Township every step of the way,” he said. “We have a handful of decent ideas for doing things within the space, from movies to progression into live music, live theater and church services. We would start out small and progress to larger events.

“I am in full confidence we can do this.”

“[The partners] all have different backgrounds – some in sound and lighting, some in sales and some in the marketing aspects of the events,” said Jaimie Watts, one of the partners. “Between the four of us, we’ve been doing everything from logistics to implementation to the creative process for the past 15-plus years.”

The board voted unanimously to have the partners proceed with their plan, which is scheduled to be formally presented soon.

Two initiatives also high on residents’ ‘wish list’

The momentum of these two initiatives to become a reality this year are proving to overlap generously with the “wish list” priorities that many township residents have expressed for the property. The township is currently working on a master plan for the park with York-based YSM, a landscape architectural committee specializing in park and recreation design and planning.  On Sept. 23, 2020, YSM and the township co-hosted an open house at St. Anthony in the Hills with local residents, and invited them to provide their creative input for how the township’s newest park should be used.

In the “existing facilities” category, the residents’ top priorities were for the township to renovate the property’s amphitheater and its outdoor swimming pool, as well as refurbish its miniature golf course.

The general public will continue to have opportunities for input throughout every stage of the master plan, beginning in early 2021, when an early draft plan for the park will be shared with the public.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].