Cincinnati's Coney Island removing rides, focusing on water park

Posted | Contributed by bigboy

Coney Island will shut down all its rides at the end of September to pursue what officials described Monday as a “new singular focus on (the) water park experience.” Instead of an all-purpose amusement park, CEO and president Rob Schutter Jr. said he hopes to transform the park into “the region’s premier swim and play destination” in time for Sunlite Pool’s 100-year anniversary in 2025.

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HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

I thought parks were supposed to wait until the conclusion of a season before announcing the closure of the rides side to focus on the water park?

That's only when a company buys a park just to close it.

Taking a page from Lakemont...

I guess I’m glad that at least the long, storied history of Coney Island isn’t coming to a close. The venue itself has been host to many community festivals and Sunlite Pool is still a big draw. The ride side was a secondary part of the experience there- maybe a family would catch a couple of rides after a day at the pool and maybe festival goers might give one a spin- but probably not.

The rides themselves weren’t much, consisting mostly of aging carnival flats. Having said that, there are a few relics among them- the Tempest and the Music Fest being two. The report says they plan to sell the rides to theme parks. We’ll see about that, they aren’t on top notch condition.

The place holds a certain nostalgia for me, as I remember and attended Coney Island when I was a kid and when the park was in its hey day. A stroll around the grounds these days reveals quite a few original structures and the old Moonlite Ballroom still stands and hosts events to this day. The park has endured a lot and there have been so many changes over the decades and this seems like a necessary one. I hope with the change to water park attractions that the place in general manages to remain as unchanged as possible.

I'm sad to see this news.

They certainly didn't have a large collection of thrilling attractions. But if you wanted to take the kids out for an evening on some rides without spending a fortune, Coney was the place to do it. Our oldest child made his first "big boy" trip to CP this summer and went on every coaster, yet still asks when we can go to Coney. Our youngest kids are now at that transition point to bigger rides; so at some point soon here Coney won't be on their radar.

Still, I feel for the families that are in that "sweet spot" that will no longer have that option. Obviously Coney believes their bottom line will be healthier by expanding the water park and who could blame them. Time marches on I guess.

Last edited by Danimales,

The move that darned near killed Conneaut Lake, killed Geauga Lake, is about to kill Lakemont Park...sorry, but I have seen this before and I've never seen it end well. Heck, even Coney Island tried this once.
What worries me about this is that traditionally (that is, since they separated from common ownership with Kings Island in the early 1990's), Coney Island has been a catering business. And what they figured out early on is that (a) company picnics are dreadfully boring if you're a young family member, and (b) the midway is a seamless complement to the picnic grove. You don't have to buy a ride pass to be there; but if you do, the midway activities are seamless: you can go from roller coaster to buffet line to merry-go-round to volleyball court to Ferris wheel to BINGO game. More important, the midway is a tangible differential advantage that Coney Island has over all the other picnic groves and banquet halls in the region for those companies that can't get a slot at Stricker's Grove.
The good news is that Coney Island has tried this before, and has demonstrated that it's a fundamentally reversible decision so long as the damage isn't too severe. I just have a feeling that the group sales bookings are going to be down a lot in 2021. Maybe that's what Coney wants...but I'm not sure that's the best idea.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

Fun's avatar

Who really wants to see their co-workers or their boss in a bathing suit? Corporate group sales will certainly decrease.

Fun said:

Who really wants to see their co-workers or their boss in a bathing suit?

*quickly raises hand, sees no one else do it, and lowers it nonchalantly*

Schwarzkopf76's avatar

The Banana Splits aren't going to be happy about this!

Schwarzkopf76 said:

The Banana Splits aren't going to be happy about this!

They're clearly not and looking for revenge.

The interesting question, and I don't know the answer on this, is is the company picnic something that long term will last? I know that used to be a staple of many parks - Geauga Lake, Kennywood Park, Euclid Beach, etc., but of these 3, the only one left is Kennywood. I think overall less companies are doing the "big picnics" than in the past, as I don't know if they have the number of employees to warrant them.

One consequence of the country's continuing decline in its legacy picnic parks is that there are less and less corporate picnics.

tall and fast but not much upside down

Here's the question though - which is the causal factor? Is the decline in corporate picnics leading to the decline in picnic parks or is it the other way around?

urumqi said:
One consequence of the country's continuing decline in its legacy picnic parks is that there are less and less corporate picnics.

I think there’s been a slight replacement. I notice signs hanging in various buildings and businesses that say things like “Employee Zoo Day!”, or “Cedar Point Day!” with an offer for discounted tickets on a particular day. Usually it doesn’t indicate an actual picnic or catered lunch provided by the company, though. Maybe there’s a shelter for people to meet, maybe not. And the company making this kind offer probably gets a percentage of sales as well. And most certainly, they’re not granting a day off to everyone.
And I think the difference is money. (Isn’t it always?) Gone are the days when a business provides a day of entertainment for its employees as a thank you. Also gone are the days when amusement parks let anyone in to cook their own grub and take up space for free. Some of us remember the days when parks didn’t even have admission gates and allowed everyone to bring in whatever they wanted and set up at park-provided groves or shelters. There are a few exceptions but most large parks realized there’s a dime or two to be made from a captive audience. I think the POP admission format had a lot to do with that as well. No longer are rides sold by the piece, nor are concessions independent of corporate standards and pricing.
One of my favorite things to come across in history books are the large group photos of picnic outings. Two things always cross my mind- one, those are days gone by, and two (morbidly), all of the people pictured, even the kids, are probably gone now.
Ah, well...

Last edited by RCMAC,

My husband's "company picnic" originally started out as a banquet lunch/dinner for employees +1, turned into a family friendly picnic at the park with food and entertainment provided and then stopped and they only have catered meal yearly with employees only. Over this time the work climate and culture has changed quite a bit and what was once a family run business with employees that tended to be close with each other has turned into something very different and I can't help but think the changing culture in many work places contributes to the decline in picnics. People don't stay in the same job as long as they used to and so are not as close with many of their coworkers and have less of a desire to hang out with them in a large group. People are also not as easily entertained. Before the picnics at my husband's workplace stopped some employees were complaining that the picnic was "lame" and would only show up long enough to eat free food and wait for the owner to pass out bonus checks.

ApolloAndy's avatar

I remember being a kid and going to IBM family day at Quassy. We’d ride everything a few times and then park in the arcade where everything was free play. (There’s a sizable chance I bumped into my wife there decades before we officially met in grad school.) It was right up there with Christmas and Halloween as my favorite holidays. I’m pretty sure that stopped while I was in high school.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Funny how that happens, I’m pretty sure my husband waited on me at the concession stand at the drive in movie we used to go to.

I thought of something else- Kings Island is known for closing to the public on September weekends and using those dates for corporate buy-outs. I know companies like Coca Cola and Cincinnati Milicron have had days or evenings there. I don’t know if it’s a gift to the employees or if they provide tickets to purchase, but maybe these kind of days are the modern day equivalent to the company picnic.

Jeff's avatar

I remember when my dad worked for National City Bank (eventually bought by PNC) in the Cleveland area in the late 80's, they had company picnics at Geauga Lake and SeaWorld. As an adult, the only one I can remember was a toned-down version of that at Cedar Point when I worked at Penton Media in 2000. I think that Paisley is right, that people don't really connect to their employers the same way anymore, now that things like pensions and long-term bonuses are (mostly) a thing of the past.

When I worked at Microsoft, we had massive morale events right on campus, but those were employee-only. In my current job, we try to have group outings at least within our department, on a quarterly basis, and a really nice company party with +1's around the holidays. I think the big outing, picnic style, is probably not a big thing anymore, but clearly the regional parks are still doing it with some measure of success.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

kpjb's avatar

We have hundreds of company picnics each season at Kennywood, ranging from health care companies buying out the whole park, to large unions, big companies like Heinz, PNC, Giant Eagle, etc, to small mom & pop places with just a few employees.

From what I understand Geauga still did a good amount of business this way, but Six Flags didn't consider it important. So when the general attendance fell, they no longer had this guaranteed attendance to fall back on. Add that to the list of mistakes made in Aurora.


Six Flags St. Louis still does it.

When I was in the casino industry there, we had a marketing employee who left us and went to SFSL. The next year, our company started having family outings there. Because they couldn't shut the casino down for a day, they had two different days and you could choose one of the two. Free tickets for employee, spouse, and dependent children - greatly reduced additional tickets could be purchased, too.

Our department adjusted everyone's schedule to give them one of the days off (and attempting to work with everyone's requested day). As far as I know, these are still happening.

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