Conneaut Lake Blue Streak catches fire

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Firefighters were called to Conneaut Lake Park after the iconic Blue Streak caught fire Tuesday afternoon. About half of the roller coaster had already been demolished.

Read more and see photos from Erie News Now.

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I honestly had no idea they were already in the process of bringing it down. That said, this is definitely, as the kids would say, suspish.

Jeff's avatar

I didn't either. That speaks volumes about how important it was to people, and why that park had no chance.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

jkpark's avatar

I can see Conneaut Lake kind of evolving into an Old Town (Kissimmee, FL) of the north. Construct new buildings to house shops and restaurants lined down to the beach. Knock down the old hotel and construct a new resort similar to The Lodge at Geneva-On-The-Lake. This would also create the perfect venue for car shows on summer weekends.

I'm not sure if the area would even be able to support that. The surrounding areas of Conneaut Lake and Meadville make Aurora, Ohio look like Midtown Manhattan.

jkpark's avatar

That’s true. Maybe not as big of scale, but some sort of seasonal entertainment center along the lake front.

Jeff's avatar

Old Town exists because 75 million people visit the area every year.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

From the park's Facebook:

As the GM I would like to make a statement explaining what happened today.
Damage to the Blue Streak was NOT caused by the fire. It was from the heavy equipment demolishing it as per permit this morning.

A burn permit was also issued to have small controlled fires to burn the wood as demolition continued. A mechanical issue occurred to the heavy equipment used to assist in the control, causing the fire to spread to the front part of the loading dock.

To ensure safety the Fire Department was called to assist. Thankfully no one was hurt.

The rest of the Blue Streak will come down in the next few days per permit.

I'm so glad that he clarified that for us. We didn't burn it down, the equipment demolishing it did!

hambone's avatar

I feel like I've been one of the defenders of Conneaut Lake around here - not that I ever thought the place was viable, just that its closing would be a loss. It was in terrible shape and getting worse. And my last ride on the Blue Streak, which would have been eight or nine years ago, was pretty terrifying thanks to the sight of rotting wood. Still, it delivered a pretty thrilling ride and you could always see what the park might have been. The current owner seems a particularly ruthless and unsentimental sort. I guess some people think those are good qualities. I'm feeling saddened by this. Not surprised, but sad.

Pretty much my exact impressions as well.
We went there probably twenty years ago, and I already knew not to expect much. But it was an unusual lakeside/summer resort park that I had followed since I was a boy, and always wanted to go to. Plus I had to try their Blue Streak.
As for that, I gave it the old college try. Several times. But I was telling a friend just yesterday that I prefer my wooden coasters to not try to kill me. After several attempts (my partner bailed after just one) I couldn’t find a comfortable seat and the resulting anxiety was too much. The tunneled approach to the lift and the trains were the redeeming qualities.
Highlights from the day were Devil’s Den, a once prolific Pretzel gravity-driven dark ride, a Traver Tumble Bug that was fast and still had its shiny, slippery seats, an equally fast Bisch Rocco Flying Scooter, and a carousel that deserved better. I was told that an unusual structure along the midway was the original funhouse and I strongly considered breaking and entering.
I remember we looked at some carnival flats, walked along the sad beach, and toured through the even sadder Conneaut hotel, which had guests but no air conditioning.
So here we are. Good luck to this gentleman who somehow sees a gold mine and will employ devious ways to get there. Ok, as we know, the place has in the past been sketchy as hell, but this is blatant. He could’ve just been honest about his intentions.
My fear now turns to the Pretzel, which can’t be looking at a positive outcome. I subscribe to a FB page that honors Devil’s Den, run by the fellow that’s looked after, run and maintained the ride for years. I read a sad post just the other day that his labor of love has ended- he couldn’t stand the situation there any more and he’s turned in his keys. No sense putting love and work into a ride that will never reopen, right? We say this a lot, but maybe a park that has its eye toward history, like Knoebels, will take the track, some stunts, and those antique Pretzel cars and set them aside for later use.
The last thing of value is the carousel, a rare Müller/Harton machine from 1905. It was that jackass’ lucky day that the ride was spared the wrecking ball and subsequent fire, wasn’t it? Now he can make a dime or two. We can only hope it meets a proper fate.
I read that he’s packed up his family and his things and moved far away to Philadelphia.
I guess that’s the end of my little requiem here. I’ll try not to think too much about it now and just hang onto my memories of a very weird day.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the park was profitable in 2019.

Sorry to see it go. I liked that ride.

OK, this is me speculating a bit, as it's been at least 15 years since I've been at Conneaut Lake. But, didn't the Blue Streak generally sit along some really swampy, wet land. (I seem to remember from my times going there as a kid a "boat ride" kind of like Jungle Cruise behind Blue Streak.) Am I going out on a limb to say there might be concerns with pollution, etc. burning things right next to the wetlands / marsh?

Yes, there was a Jungle Cruise which I had forgotten all about until an aerial photo turned up yesterday on FB.

HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

This illustrates how we all felt about watching Conneaut over the last couple of decades...

Oh fine, Rob. Just when I finally stopped crying.

I first visited in 2003 and the park was very much a glorified carnival, but it was in pretty good shape all things considered at that time. I remember spending a pretty full day and enjoying myself.

In 2006 it was already a shadow of its former self. But I do remember visiting over 4th of July weekend in 2006 for the grand reopening of the train and it was a huge deal. On an old laptop I still have digital camera video footage of me riding the train with the one and only Geauga Lake Rotor Man. He and I also took a few rides on Blue Streak that night (he took more than a few) and there was fantastic energy in the park from the locals.

Fast forward to my last visit in August 2014 and it was downright spooky. I thought Blue Streak was legitimately dangerous, so I naturally took 2 or 3 rides. I also bought some Geauga Lake merch they were selling in the gift shop. That it still was open for another 6+ years after that visit is pretty astounding.

jkpark's avatar

My first visit to CLP was in the 1980s, the park’s last few decent seasons. The main midway was actually a street at one time where cars were able to drive up and down, the place looked packed at times like a busy weekend at Geneva-On-The-Lake.

The park actually became a shell of its former self by the early 1990s. The owners made the bad decision of charging an admission fee. Starting in 1990, admission booths were constructed at the front of the park and many buildings were demolished and several rides removed. A new stage was constructed for concerts near the lake, with other festivals occurring throughout the season. Things went down hill really fast in just a couple years. In fact, I believe it was about 1995 or 1996 the park didn’t even open at all.

By the end of the 1990s, the park looked very similar to how it’s appeared the last few seasons. With the exception of some of the remaining buildings that fell victim to a fire or demolition.

Last edited by jkpark,

Yesterday, woke up to a bunch of requiem IG posts for the Blue Streak. A lot of which came off just humble brags to slip in "I got the cred". So here’s mine:

Some colorful artistic photos from my only relatively successful visit. At which point the park looked like it was competing with contemporary Six Flags New Orleans.

I remember the Blue Streak being really good. It had crazy ejector pops on the out. Terrifying from a “This structure looks like it’s about to collapse, and there are structural parts of the train moving that feel like they shouldn’t be shifting.. This feels like it could actually derail.” standpoint. Otherwise, it tracked well in a “That ride was really fun… do I really want to tempt fate and ride it again?” way.

I’ve seen several people reference the enthusiast “gift shop”. Somewhere I still have the back issues of Inside Track I bought at CLP in 2013 about the Magnum and Mean Streak openings. It's almost like the place was self aware and trolling it's only visitors.

Staying overnight at the hotel was a trip, if not comfortable. It feel like dorming at the Cedars again complete with non-private baths. A few weeks after my visit, the lakeside bar which I drank Coors Light with the locals burned down. Foreshadowing.

It’s a shame. This ride should have been saved for historic value. One of oldest wooden coasters out there right? It’s too bad decades ago, the Conneaut area couldn’t pivot toward a viable resort economic model like a smaller Lake George.

I drove through Conneaut again years later and this past summer enroute to Cedar Point, because I wanted to show my enthusiast friend who had never been how crazy the place was. We knew it wasn’t open at the time and they chased us a way. At that point, the current ownership was replacing asphalt with wood chips (which may give you some insight into the cost cutting mentality of demolition by arbitrary raging fire outbreak).

Last edited by Kstr 737,

I went to a college formal at the Hotel Conneaut in 2005. For the event, the common space was very nice and had awesome catering. But it was in the winter months, so the no A/C thing wasn't an issue.

I also remember what a big deal it was when they restored and brought back the Vettel train for Blue Streak, which is what I rode in the first time I visited in 2003. I also remember how much faster and better it rode when they put the NAD train back on later that decade.

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