Coney Island (Ohio) discussion

Monday, September 22, 2003 7:53 AM
Here's another topic for those that fall into the "nothing better to do" group... or those that just have a thing for Coney Island in Ohio!

I've been doing a little research on this place, and after taking a little trip over to RCDB, I can see that this was a really nice park. With a long history of good wooden roller coasters, and having had no less than 3 (possibly 4) coasters when it was "closed" in 1971, I can completely understand why people were weary of this park being "replaced" by Kings Island. My primary questions have mostly to do with the park's most famouse duo of wooden coasters: The Shooting Star and the Wildcat.

The Shooting Star was supposedly one hell of a ride. In Rutherford's Roller Coaster book (not sure of the exact name, but its good reading- you should do yourselves a favor and get a copy if you don't already have one), he says that it was one of the best out-and-back coasters ever to exist. Go here and check it out. It was built from the "remains" of a coaster called the Clipper when that coaster was removed and the lift hill, final spiral and station were retained. Did anyone here ever have the chance to ride it? Was it as good as everyone says?

The Wildcat has me a little confused. All the while, I remember this ride being referred to as a Herb Schmeck design, but RCDB refers to it as a Miller. Go here and see for yourselves. As you may or may not know, this design served as the inspiration for the PKD Grizzly, amongst others. I know that this coaster was removed in 1964, quite a few years before the park closed in 1971. Why was the coaster removed? Flooding of the park (a common occurance, so it seems)? Maintenance costs? Poor ridership? I have a hard time believing that one, as it was supposed to be another great ride. Does anyone recall having ridden it? Does the Grizzly compare to it?

The park also had a small wooden coaster called the Teddy Bear, seen here. I never knew that there was a junior wooden coaster at the park when it closed in 1971. Going by the name, and the fact that it was designed by Schmeck, is it reasonable to assume that this had the same design as the Little Dippers in Chicago, which are also Schmeck junior wooden coasters? Of all the info I have read on Coney, I don't ever remember a junior wooden coaster being mentioned.

In addition to comments and opinions, does anyone have any links to photos or other info on the park? They would be greatly appreciated!

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Monday, September 22, 2003 8:51 AM
The Charles Jacques book "Greetings from Coney Island" makes the case that the Wildcat was removed because of Coney's desire to extend and update the midway including the addition of the Skyride. I don't have the book in front of me right now but it may also address whether Schmeck or Miller was responsible for Wildcat.

I haven't looked at the Chicago Little Dipper closely but they appear to be a pretty close design to the Teddy Bear.

There's actually a very good copy of the Teddy Bear currently operating not far from the old Coney Island. It even has the same name! You can ride it this coming Saturday at Stricker's Grove.

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Ripple Rock Amusement Park
Flying Scooter coming soon!

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Monday, September 22, 2003 9:00 AM
The Shooting Star was the coaster that got me hooked. PCW's Minebuster is based on the Shooting Star but is considerably tamer. If you've been on Lesourdsville's Screechin' Eagle or SFWOA's Big Dipper, you have an idea what the hills were like. The spiral or helix at the end was the capper. My most vivid memories of it were how all the girls would scream in the tunnel. Between that and the sound of the train rushing through, it was deafening. The Shooting Star was a favorite of my in-laws; my mother-in-law used to take the Island Queen up the river to Coney Island when she was a child.

The Wildcat was gone by the time I moved to Cincinnati but my wife rode it as a child. It was removed in (I think) 1964 - a combination of damage from years of flooding and the need to expand the park. While missed, it was not as popular as the Shooting Star.

I really don't remember much of the layout for the Teddy Bear but the one at Stricker's Grove is supposedly built from the original's blueprints.

Coney's Wild Mouse was removed after the 1969 season. In 1970, they replaced it with a Pinfari Galaxi which moved to Kings Island as the Bavarian Beetle.

Coney's web site has a history section. Charles Jacques Jr.'s Cincinnati's Coney Island: America's Finest Amusement Park is one of the best books about it. Along with the history of the rides and attractions, the book also reveals the long relationship between the owners of Coney and Kennywood, and the consulting work on Disneyland done by the Coney Island people.

While the Racer at Kings Island is credited with the rebirth of the roller coaster, I remember almost everyone being disappointed with it when it opened because it was tamer than the Shooting Star and lacked the finale of the tunneled helix. I don't doubt it was the inspiration for the Beast's signature element.

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Monday, September 22, 2003 9:09 AM
I am guessing that I should be searching down a copy of Charles Jacques' book?

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-Rob (starting the search right... about... now)
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Monday, September 22, 2003 9:34 AM
Shouldn't be too difficult to track down - Amazon has it and I've seen it at chains like Borders or Barnes and Nobles. His followups will be books on Lesourdsville and Kings Island. He's also got books out on Idora Park and Kennywood. He does a great job and you can see how the parks evolved from picnic groves to what we know today.

Incidentally, the entrance to the Racer at PKI is based on the entrance the Wildcat sported in the 1920's/1930's.

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Monday, September 22, 2003 9:47 AM
To be honest, out of the dozens of books I have about parks and coasters, Mr. Jacques' Coney Island book is my favorite. I highly recommend it. Mr. Jacques is also a great fellow to talk to about parks and their history, I seek him out at various ACE events since he often is selling his books at them. He was one of the original members of ACE!

Anyway.... what very few people who didn't have the priveledge of attending the pre-PKI Coney realize is that the park was very small. It was terribly land-locked and so rides came and went often.... not only because of the infamous flooding... but also because they had no room.

If you were to measure up Cincinnati's Coney Island to PKI today, I think you would be amazed at the size difference. Imagine taking PKI's Coney Mall (which is just a tad more narrow than the original CCI Mall) the HB section of the kids area, the picnic grove and throw in a big swimming pool. That gives you a good idea of the old Coney Park's size.

So you can only imgaine what an overwhelming shock KI was when guests, used to the confines of CCI, attended the (then) brand new park.

If you get a chance, go back and visit Coney. The miniscule size of the land always surprises me.

Here's a fun bit of trivia many non-Cincinnati Coney attendees do not realize. The main auto entrance at the park directed cars down a road that cut through the "middle" of the park. It still remains today, but in it's heyday, it seperated the busy Mall and Lake from the Sunlite Pool area and traffic jams occurred due to the plethura of pedestrians constantly crossing. So for those of you that dislike the road that cuts SFKK in half, it is by no means the first and only park to be in that situation. And at least it has a bridge ;-)

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Shaggy


*** This post was edited by Shaggy 9/22/2003 1:49:14 PM ***

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Monday, September 22, 2003 10:07 AM
Actually, I had no problem finding the book on the Gunther Hall website, so I bought myself a copy of that and Jacques' Hershey book, which I have been meaning to pick up for quite some time. I already have his Idora and 2 Kennywood books and they are quite good.

Not too long ago, I heard a rumor (and am assuming it is just that- a rumor) that the owners of the original park were looking to add a wooden coaster at some point. I only consider this to be a slight possibility because the park already has a small steel coaster, which means that they are not shying away from amusements, despite being so close to PKI. Now, if the park was so land-locked and suffered so much due to the frequent flooding, then why have the current owners decided to maintain the site as an amusement park?

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Monday, September 22, 2003 10:37 AM
"Not too long ago, I heard a rumor (and am assuming it is just that- a rumor) that the owners of the original park were looking to add a wooden coaster at some point. "

Very true! Before I left Cincinnati, I acted as my (then) employer's Rep for Cin Coney. It was common knowledge that the park had interest in a small coaster at that time, but funding made it a pipe dream. Of course since then, Coney "unloaded" Americana and has been routinely investing in *small* attractions.

For years, Coney had a no-compete clause stemming from it's contract sale to it's present owners from the former KECO group. From what I understand, the clause has now expired and the park is free to add whatever attractions they desire. I'll be anxious to see what Coney does in the next 10 years.

"Now, if the park was so land-locked and suffered so much due to the frequent flooding, then why have the current owners decided to maintain the site as an amusement park?"

Because I think it has always held a unique niche.

For years it only offered Sunlight Pool as one of the few "water" attractions in the mid-west. It also quickly gained a foothold on group picnic business. Couple those together and you have a draw.

Over the years (remember, it's been 31 years since the original park closed and was *emptied* of attractions) a ride has been added here and there. But Coney is by no means a competitive Amusement Park by today's standards. It's is more reminiscent of a fair than a park. But it will continue to grow to suit their needs. Will it ever be a major contender again? No way. But I can definitely see it growing to possibly include a small woodie and more rides.

However, I think the inability to invest the sort of money that a major capitol improvement would require prohibits it immediately. That, and the threat of flooding which still remains a real hazard. (The reason the current rides are all purchased as portables and disassembled in the offseason.) If Coney invested the type of money it would take to build even a small wooden coaster, only to have the ride ruined or threated by flooding, could cripple the park entirely.

Today's coaster manufacturers and ride manufacturers have priced themselves out of the league of parks like Coney. Small independant, or family owned parks often simply cannot afford such, although they could thrive from their installation. It is a catch 22.

But as I said, I'll be anxious to see what they do in the future.

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Shaggy

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Monday, September 22, 2003 11:45 AM
Interesting to hear that those rumors were more than just that.

I'm not dismissing the importance of niche parks like Coney... I think that they are a great idea and definitely serve their purpose. Not everyone wants to go to a theme park, and the diversity that they offer is a wonderful thing for those people that have the option of going to a theme park or a traditional one.

I had a feeling that the reliance on small, portable rides had a lot to do with the flooding that the park endures. Regarding the river overflowing- is it a yearly thing, or does it happen every few years? Does the park dismantle the steel coaster each and every year, or is it just a matter of removing the cars and mechanical stuff like lift motor and brakes? The reason I ask is because I wonder if a steel-structured wooden coaster would serve the park better than an all-wood ride. Perhaps a steel structure would hold up better during the floods?

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Monday, September 22, 2003 1:27 PM
"Regarding the river overflowing- is it a yearly thing, or does it happen every few years? Does the park dismantle the steel coaster each and every year, or is it just a matter of removing the cars and mechanical stuff like lift motor and brakes? The reason I ask is because I wonder if a steel-structured wooden coaster would serve the park better than an all-wood ride. Perhaps a steel structure would hold up better during the floods?"

Flooding is pretty much an annual thing, but the extremety of the flooding all depends on the winter weather.

Coney is at one of the lowest land points in the Cincinnati area. It is in a very low valley surrounded by large hills and mountains. Obviously, the Ohio River cut it's path through there thousands and thousands of years ago. So if Cincinnati or the regions around the upper portions of the Ohio recieve a lot of snow and rainfall during the winter months, the Ohio's waters are quick to overflow into this low area as water runs off the mountains and down river. In spring, it is pretty common for the area to flood, but it is only every-so-often that it reaches uncontrollable stages.

Now, I have not been to Coney in the dead of winter, but I have been there in early spring prior to the park re-opening. I was there once when half the seating of Riverbend Amphitheatre (the concert venue now located on half the former Coney Mall land) was underwater. From what I recall, the winterized ride bases (i.e the ferris wheel, scrambler minus seats... Python minus trains etc.) were left in-tact. However, although there was flooding, the flood stage was nowhere near the area of those rides.

The park owners can better predict the flooding these days and anticipate it. So I expect that rides are only completely dismantled when the threat of high flood waters loom. I was there in 1997 (?) and drove by the area when all of it was underwater. I seem to not recall any rides left in place. So I expect given good warning, they may pack up the rides completely and move them to storage on higher ground.

The buildings that remain, obviously cannot be moved. They have weathered many floods, and as I understand house offices on 2nd floors of those buildings. Important items and documents, would be moved off property.

But as far as a coaster, I am not sure what could be done to better protect it. You have to remember that the severe damage that is (was) caused by the floods at the park was not only water damage, but also damage caused by floating debris. Trees often get unearthed and float downriver. The river can flow terribly fast and if a tree trunk has enough waterflow pushing it, it can do terrible damage to anything standing in it's path.

There are incredible pictures of Old Coney Island when it was flooded. But there are even more incredible pictures of the park after flood waters subsided. The amount of mud, tress and crap the river left behind was amazing. Even more amazing is how the park staff could get it cleaned, repaired and operational within weeks ready to open for the season.

There was a picture taken of one of the big floods that ravaged the park (1967?) I think it may be on display in the park's souvenir shop now. Anyway, the GM of the park at the time, Gary Wachs, had the picture blown up and hung it on his wall for years at Coney and then KI. He hand wrote something like "The birth of Kings Island" on it. How poignant.

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Shaggy

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:38 AM
I can guarantee you this, Coney has no funding problems restricting it from building anything.

The one thing coney does best is run a economically sound buisness and gets the most out of it's money,

I think the real and only reason that Coney hasn't built a major ride is that it wouldn't be a draw or affect it's attendance one way or the other.

Coneys draws are not rides. It's a picnic grove, A huge pool and a concert pavilion. At one time Moonlite Gardens was a huge draw for dancing, Most teens went for the dances and not the rides, They were a bonus,
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Charles Nungester.
It's official Lesourdsville Lake is closed for 2003

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:35 PM
"I can guarantee you this, Coney has no funding problems restricting it from building anything."

I don't doubt that they are financially stable, but I do think that the park has monetary restrictions that make a large coaster project economically unreasonable. Mostly for the reason you said, it would not be a sound investment... rather, a loss. Can you see Coney shelling out the $5-10M (lowball) it would require to build and adult woodie? I can't. It would ruin the park financially... they simply do not have that kind of money to drop on a capitol expenditure.

"The one thing coney does best is run a economically sound buisness and gets the most out of it's money,"

I think the truth is they run a sound business by not overspending their means. The park is not a goldmine, but it does ok thanks to the Sunlite pool juggerknot.

" I think the real and only reason that Coney hasn't built a major ride is that it wouldn't be a draw or affect it's attendance one way or the other."

I agree 100%.

"Coneys draws are not rides. It's a picnic grove, A huge pool and a concert pavilion."

Coney has nothing to do with the Concert Pavillion. Riverbend is owned and operated by Clear Channel Entertainment. Coney simply profits from the pavillion on concert nights when the park remains open until dusk.

"At one time Moonlite Gardens was a huge draw for dancing, Most teens went for the dances and not the rides, They were a bonus,"

But not anymore. Occasionally there may be a small band that performs there, but Moonlite Gardens has only been sporadically used over the past 10 years or so.... hardly a draw. One of the reasons Riverbend was built was because in the years following the "closing" of Coney the land was used for several successful outdoor concerts and festivals. Investors saw the potential and eventually Riverbend came to be.

Again, it will be interesting to see what the park will add in the future. To drive the point home about Coney not having the means to make large capitol investments: This year they added 1 plastic slide (a very SMALL slide) and a Frog Hopper.

Shaggy


*** This post was edited by Shaggy 9/23/2003 4:38:28 PM ***

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 6:06 PM
Coney doesn`t own Riverbend as Shaggy stated. However, they dom provide parking for the facility and maybe concessions as well. The park does not stay open any later when there is a concert like Shaggy said. In the middle of the summer the pool closes at 8 and the rides at 9 (except around the 4th of July.) The best ride to work when there is a concert is the top of the slide! Incidentaly, Moonlite Gardens has playedhost to several events the pas two years such as Moonlite garden parties which are quite popular.

I also agree that the rides are not the main draw. Most of the people that ride the rides are either there on a company picnics, or have a pool and rides season pass.


There have been many rumors flying around the rides department this year as well. The only consistent thing thaqt I`ve hear is that they`ve had people surveying a site for possible additions. The rumors I`ve heard mention some more flat rides (like a viking ship), another wild mouse type coaster or a log flume. The rumors I`ve heard say that they probably won`t happen for next season or possibly for a while.

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Coney Island (Cincinnati) ride operator

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003 4:39 AM
Besides the money, space is also a scarce commodity. Coney does big business with festivals and I can't see them putting in anything that would eat up a lot of land. Even a small wood has a pretty good footprint.

Unless they do like Indiana Beach and put the coasters up on stilts. I think Cornball's station is a little higher off the ground than the top of TTD's hill. By the end of the day, anyway.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003 7:16 PM
Interesting stuff, Shaggy. I often wondered what happened to old Coney. I wonder how any sensible businessman would want to build a "major ride" (i.e., coaster) on that land given its' "turbulent" history with floods.

Rob, in regard to Rutherford's book, I agree it is a good picture book and has some good information in it; however, he is a bit generous with his descriptions (i.e., "it's the best out and back ever" or "it's the best first drop ever" etc.). I think a lot of that is added just for effect.....but 'to each his own,' I guess.

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"That's DOCTOR Evil. I didn't spend six years in evil medical school to be called 'Mr. Thank You Very Much.'"

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Thursday, September 25, 2003 11:22 AM
I maintain my opinion that a steel-structured wooden coaster would weather floods a lot better, as the park wasn't afraid to install the steel Python coaster a few years ago, and that has a steel structure which isn't that far removed from what is used on steel-structured wooden coasters. I fail to see why a ride on "stilts", such as Indiana Beach's wooden coasters, wouldn't work as far as the issues of flooding and lack of available space are concerned. Wouldn't a ride built, say, 10' above ground keep most everything above water during a serious flood?

My only concern about a wooden coaster at the park has to do with the question of what it would do for attendance... with four wooden coasters "up the road" at PKI, would a wooden coaster draw new crowds, or would it just satisfy current patrons that would have gone to the park anyway (not that that is a bad thing, though).

I like Rutherford's book because of the pictures and the info. I know that he gets kind of lavish with his desciptions, but I am willing to overlook that because it is an interesting book. Still, MANY people proclaim the Shooting Star to have been one of the best out-and-backs ever built (even John Allen said that), so Rutherford couldn't have been that far off with his endorsement of the coaster!

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Thursday, September 25, 2003 1:38 PM
Timber Terror is the closest thing out there to the shooting star, I know Mighty Canadian Minebuster was built as a clone but it has been significantly altered since its debut and neither are exact to blueprints of Shooting Star, i think that Timber Terror only main differences area sloping turn around and a unenclosed helix.

Remember, Beast started out to be a clone of shooting star and went haywire, not that thats a bad thing.

Chuck, who thinks coney could and very well should get a woodie but it's not my desicion :(

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Charles Nungester.
It's official Lesourdsville Lake is closed for 2003

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Friday, September 26, 2003 6:18 AM
Chuck: I think you mean Racer, not the Beast, originally being a clone of the Shooting Star. I remember reading that Allen was fond of that design and tried to convince the builders of Kings Island that it was exactly what they were looking for in a wooden coaster. Obviously, they wanted a racer...

Interesting that you pointed out Timber Terror, because I was actually going to ask if Timber Terror reminded anyone of the Shooting Star (the helix nestled next to the lift hill caused me to draw the connection). One of these days I've got to get to Idaho, for Silverwood if nothing else (is there anything else?)

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

+0
Friday, September 26, 2003 6:30 AM
No, Charles was correct.

Beast went through many design incarnations before it became what it is today. Shooting Star was always something Al Collins and others kept in mind, but also the former Coney Island Wildcat factored into the design process of Beast as well.

Originally, the Beast design was not nearly as elaborate and terrain hugging. And at one point was going to be called "The Champion."


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Shaggy

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Friday, September 26, 2003 6:33 AM
You mean that the park originally wanted to install a copy of the Shooting Star instead of the Beast? I'm not doubting, just trying to figure out why they would build the Shooting Star-"inspired" Racer and then plan to build the Shooting Star itself.

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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