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Sun Splash: Council may eye policy in wake of party

By Staff | Apr 3, 2015

In the aftermath of an over-capacity private party for teens at Sun Splash Family Waterpark, some members of the Cape Coral City Council say it was a good idea that just got out of hand.

On Saturday, a local disc jockey hosted the spring break party at the city-owned park.

More people than expected showed up, with an unknown number climbing over the fence once the park reached capacity.

News accounts reported inappropriate activity, neighbors reportedly complained about the loud music, and council members received calls, meaning the city’s lease policy may make for some discussion during the next city council meeting on Monday.

Councilmember Rick Williams said the party was a good idea, but the music and the unexpected rush of people, coupled with not enough security, turned it into a problem.

“Only a certain amount of people are allowed in there for safety reasons. But people started getting in and things got really rowdy and we ended up bringing in more police,” Williams said. “Nobody got hurt. There were no arrests. It just turned into something that shouldn’t have happened.”

Councilmember Rana Erbrick took a similar view.

“Something went bad. Whether it wasn’t marketed correctly or monitored correctly, internal discussions will dictate what will happen there,” Erbrick said. “

Williams said there was a cost for cleaning things up but this was expected and was part of the $8,000 rental fee.

Council needs to talk about policies for the future as well as the city itself having more teen events, he added.

“We have to figure out what to do and how to control it. Maybe we can have a weekend retreat for high school kids with dancing,” Williams said. “The good side about this is that it has brought to our attention there needs to be something for teens.”

Erbrick said teens do need more activities as more families move in. It just shouldn’t be the city’s sole responsibility.

“The city shouldn’t have to provide the entertainment. It has to be a collaboration between parents, teens, the school district and the city. It’s an opportunity to bring those stakeholders together and talk about the needs of that age group,” Erbrick said.

Councilmember Richard Leon, a lifelong Cape Coral resident, said the city has an obligation to the estimated 20,000 teens in the community and, if a private promoter wants to hold such events, they should be able to if the proper precautions are taken.

“We don’t have many things for teens to do here. We should provide something for them with private industry if someone wants to do it,” Leon said. “Instead of saying no, we will see how to do it safely and provide a good event that can be fun for families and teens.”

Leon remembers as a kid jumping into canals because there was nothing to do, and getting chased out by police.

“This was 10 years ago. We got chased out because we weren’t allowed to do it because residents were complaining,” Leon said. “We can’t take things away because some things may have happened at Sun Splash. Let’s not stop it.”

As for the radio station that hosted the party, Dwayne “Sugar” Williams, owner of SUGA104.5 FM, said everything went great, that people had a great time and the party was a success.

He said the management at the park even said it was a success following the event.

It was when the after-party news coverage began that things started going wrong, he said.

Dwayne Williams did concede there were fence jumpers and that more security should have been there.

“It was the news that attacked everything. How could they switch a story from good to bad?” Williams said. “It was a safe event. There were no fights or anything.”

As far as allegations of inappropriate behavior, Dwayne Williams said there is no video evidence showing that, nor were organizers notified of any issues until the reports appeared on the news.

“Why didn’t they address that while we were there? We’ve been doing these for years. We only do safe events. That’s primary. It’s a community event,” Williams said. “Why weren’t there pictures on Twitter or Facebook? There was no wrongdoing. If there was, we would have stopped it.”