Jul 28, 2014
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Nearby Park Closes Abruptly

Alburtis Park suddenly shuts down for season, leaving future of 87-year tradition in question.

Less than a month ago, contestants were stuffing their faces in a hot-dog eating contest, patrons were tapping their feet to country music and a few couples even twirled on the dance floor.

The sun shone on Aug. 19 and operator Jack Stull proclaimed there would be a 2013 park season.

But on Sept. 12, Stull stormed out of a meeting with officials and said he would no longer run the park. This despite musical bookings on weekends through Oct. 28.

Despite the famed adage, the show won't go on.

The park's website proclaims in red letters that as of Sept. 13, the park is closed. It thanks its patrons, but there is no explanation.

For its part, officers of the fire company social quarters -- which owns the park -- padlocked doors to the park's facilities.

Seemingly, if Stull said, "I'm getting out!" the fire department said, "And stay out!"

"I had differences with the fire company," Stull said. "We couldn't come to an agreement. . . . It's not going to work. It's done."

A man at one of three numbers listed on the park signs that accompanied the padlocks identified himself as a social club officer, but declined to give his name. He further declined comment, stating that the matter is in the hands of their attorney.

The park, which boasted "free entertainment" for decades, has been losing money for years. Stull took over a failing operation four years ago. After three years of personal losses, this year's opening was in question before he reached an agreement with the fire department. He also made the bold move of charging admission for the first time -- $3.

Stull on Aug. 19 said the admission charge has kept numbers down, but the cover charge of sorts offset those missing. Under the old system, many in recent years who came for the free entertainment weren't spending money on food and activities to offset the cost of the bands. Revenue from the new admission fee was covering costs enough to promise a 2013 season, he said.

Stull now says the math equation worked, but there was discord between himself and social quarters officials behind the scenes. The relationship was rocky going into this season and remained rocky as the summer progressed.

The social quarters spoke of wanting to run the park by itself, Stull said. Although he had reservations that they can pull it off through a volunteer effort, Stull proposed giving them 90 days to come up with $30,000 to buy out his equipment including bingo gear, sheds, benches, tables and kitchen appliances.

Stull said that led to the meeting earlier this week. He said some personalities have gotten in the way. He also objected to some of those present making more demands on him and telling him how to run the park. He did not specify what additional demands were made.

Stull said he pays rent of $500 per month for six months of the year, totaling $3,000. He said he was behind at times in the past, but has kept up pretty well this year. According to a new understanding reached earlier this year, he was to pay rent on the first of each month. He admitted to still owing for September and October, but did not believe that to be a big problem.

A Morning Call report attributes comments to social quarters President David George who could not comment on specifics because the matter is in litigation.

Stull said he knows of no litigation. He said he has consulted an attorney regarding his rights. He believes the two sides will sit down and determine whose property is whose, take it and walk away.

Asked whether anything might be worked out that would allow him to continue to operate the park, Stull said no.

"I did what I did for four years," he said. "If they want to run it, that's up to them. I wish them luck. I'll take my toys and go home."

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