Amusement parks are BIG in Ohio. From the record holding Cedar Point to the big Kings Island, Ohio has more than it’s share of rides and attractions to amaze.
History of The Ohio Amusement Park:
Cedar Point is the second oldest operating park in the US. Cedar Point started life as a popular fishing and picnic peninsula. In 1870 Louis Zistel started opened a ferry to locals to the area. A few buildings were built but it wasn’t until the 1890’s that rides were added. The first were simple raised tracks with cars that attendants had to manually move back to the top.
As with most parks in Ohio, Cedar Point was owned by a local transportation company and built up as a place for travelers to take a ride to. The company put George A. Boeckling in charge. During his tenure many more rides were constructed and the park expanded. Boeckling died in 1931 at the start of the Great Depression.
During the Depression and the War that followed little improvements were made to the park. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the aging park got a makeover. Over 1 million dollars were spent to bring the park back from the brink. in the 1960’s the idea of a “pay one price” ticket was all the introduced. in the 1970’s the great roller coaster boom began. In 1989 The Magnum XL became the first to break 200 feet and 70mph. From that point on Cedar point would be known as the roller coaster capital of the world with almost every new coaster breaking a world record.
Starting in 1997 Cedar Fair, the company that was created to own Cedar Point, started to buy other parks. To date the company owns 11 parks in 8 states and Canada.
Kings Island was originally started as an effort to move the frequently flooding Coney Island (more below) to a drier location. Opened on April 29th, 1972 by Taft Broadcasting Company. The first few years saw many sitcoms and popular entertainers. Both the Brady Bunch (Cincinnati Kid) and The Partridge Family (I Left My Heart in Cincinnati). The most popular ride at the time was the Racer, thought to be one of the roller coasters that restarted the craze of the 70’s. Over the years many famous, and a few infamous rides were added and removed. The Beast, still the world longest wooden roller coaster.
The parks has had many owners. First Taft Broadcasting Company, then KECO, then Paramount (former shareholder of Taft). Finally in 2006 the Cedar Fair, the owners of Cedar Point, bought the park along with many others.
Kings Island may be one of the newest parks in the state it is still one of the most loved and active in the nation.
Coney Island was started in the 1870’s by James Parker, a framer who found that his land was more profitable as a tourist destination than a farm. Soon a dance hall, dining hall, and bowling alley were added. Eventually he sold the property to The Ohio Grove Company who labeled it “Ohio Grove, The Coney Island of the West.”
Over time the park expanded adding rides and carnival games. It had become one of the major attraction in Cincinnati. The location next to the river however lead to almost annual flooding. To fix this problem the park entered in to talks with Taft Broadcasting to build a new park further from the river. This park would come to be known as Kings Island. in September of 1971 the rides of Coney Island were moved to the new park. Eventually the new owners became to busy with its new parks to worry about the land near the river. In 1973 Coney Island reopened. With all of the attractions gone the park built Sunlite Pool, one of the largest in the world, to draw in customers. a few years later the park donated land to build Riverbend Music Center. This venue, which opened in 1984, is one of the leading concert venues in Ohio. Everyone from the Cincinnati Pops to the super popular Jimmy Buffet play there.
Despite all of the problems with nature, Coney Island is still one of the most popular attractions in the ever growing Cincinnati entertainment market.
Old but not Forgotten:
Many old parks are gone, but not forgotten. Most have been turned into local parks, such as Argonne Forest Park becoming Possum Creek Metropark in Dayton. Some are still shells of their former life like LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park. The Ohio Channel will frequently play a great special about the old abandoned parks of Ohio. 10 Cents a Ticket The Stories and Glories of Old Amusment Parks