Posted Friday, May 15, 2009 10:31 AM | Contributed by Jeff
Mayor Bloomberg’s hand-picked panel of amusement industry experts is urging the city to find a single operator to run a proposed new theme park for Coney Island, a controversial suggestion that would radically change the nature of the People’s Playground, once the domain of a multitude of independent carnies and ride owners. Even though the suggestion for a single, Disney-like operator came from Bloomberg’s own committee, city officials did not fully embrace the idea.
Read more from The Brooklyn Paper.
UPDATE: (11:07 a.m. EDT) A representative of the NYC Economic Development Corp. sent us the press release which somewhat contradicts the Brooklyn Paper's story. Libby Langsdorf said, "While the Panel did suggest the City find an amusement developer/operator to help oversee the long-term vision for Coney Island, the recommendations clearly state that Coney should not be 'Disney-fied.' It specifically says that Coney Island does not need a theme and that would not work in the area. In fact, they said that everything should be done to keep Coney’s unique identity. It is an important distinction that should be clarified." That press release is here, unedited:
Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Lieber, New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) President Seth W. Pinsky and Premier Rides, Inc. President Jim Seay were joined today by members of the Coney Island Amusement Advisory Panel to announce findings and recommendations for the development of a new 21st Century, 27-acre amusement and entertainment district at Coney Island, Brooklyn. The recommendations follow three days of workshops and discussions focused on branding, marketing, planning, programming and development at Coney Island, and will be used by the City to shape and inform development plans.
“With the rezoning of Coney Island underway, we are focused on ensuring that the amusement area is a vibrant and dynamic district for generations to come,” said Deputy Mayor Lieber. “We’ve called on the leaders of the amusement industry to help develop the best strategies for growing and enhancing this iconic part of New York City. I want to thank Jim Seay and the members of this advisory panel for their dedication to the future of Coney Island and look forward to working further with the industry to build a viable 21st century amusement district that leverages its tremendous history and world-wide brand.”
“This was a welcome opportunity for members of the amusement and entertainment community to come together under one roof and discuss the opportunities that exist and the challenges that New York City faces as it undertakes this exciting revitalization of Coney Island,” said Amusement Panel Chair and Premier Rides, Inc. President Jim Seay. “Coney Island is a brand that means so much to so many, and from what I’ve seen and heard here this week, the private sector believes that the City has put together a plan that will build on the history and enhance one of America’s treasures.”
The panel released seven guiding principles that will assist the City in continued planning efforts for a permanent amusement operation and development of a 27-acre amusement and entertainment district at Coney Island. A final report of the panel’s findings will be released this summer. The principles include:
Leverage Coney Island’s Brand and its Unique Natural and Historical Assets. The ocean, the beach, the Boardwalk and access to the City’s transit system are Coney Island’s greatest assets and draws to visitors. The redevelopment of Coney Island presents an opportunity to create a unique, 21st Century urban seaside amusement park.
Honor and Celebrate Coney Island’s History; But Don’t Get Overly Nostalgic. There is no need for a themed park at Coney Island; the site contains enough history that it doesn’t need to be “Disney-fied.” But while honoring and celebrating Coney Island’s history, the plan shouldn’t “get stuck” on preserving the artifacts. Planning and design should focus on enhancing visitors’ experience.
Get the Core of Coney Island’s Amusement District Right. A critical component of successful development of the area is the programming of the twelve-acre amusement core that faces the Boardwalk. When properly programmed, 12 acres is a sufficient space, and could contain around 30 major amusements, including thrill rides, coasters and other family attractions. The core should be an “Air-In-The-Face” experience, focusing on speed, thrills, and adrenaline.
Expand Coney Island’s Seasonal Core Amusement Experience to the Larger, Year-Round Urban Entertainment District. While parts of the amusement district will be seasonal, the Coney Island experience should extend to the 15-acres outside the amusement core, featuring a critical mass of indoor attractions, rides, restaurants, and hotels. Big-box and mall retail should not be allowed in the entertainment zone; it will erode the amusement district and dilute the brand. Coney Island should be about the totality of the experience across the district and how the indoor and outdoor areas work together.
Coney Island Must Remain Accessible, Open and Affordable. Coney Island should continue to be open and family-friendly. To be successful the area should not be gated, although there are ways to ensure a safe, quality visitor experience through creative operations strategies. Coney Island should not be compared to and will not compete with gated, suburban amusement parks.
City Ownership of Coney Island’s Amusement Area is the Important to Move Forward. The City should own the land in the amusement area, but should leave the development and operations to private partners. The continued Balkanization of Coney Island’s amusement area is unsustainable, and the area will best be developed by a single operator/developer.
DON’T WAIT. There is Only One Chance to Get this Right. The City should think in terms of phased development of the permanent amusements as the infrastructure allows and as is financially feasible. It should begin with the installation of a major rollercoaster followed by additional programming as the infrastructure is built out. The time is now to identify and select a single industry operator/developer to oversee the development. The operator/developer can begin to build permanent amusements and introduce innovative programming before area infrastructure is complete.
New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) convened the Coney Island Amusement Advisory Panel as an independent advisory board comprised of professionals representing a diverse cross-section of the industry. The Panel was moderated by Jack Rouse, CEO of Jack Rouse Associates, a preeminent entertainment design studio credited with developing hundreds of amusement parks, museums, and entertainment projects around the world, with support from Perkins + Will, a leading architecture and planning firm with expertise in branded environments.
“The development of the amusement area is integral to the growth of the neighborhood and the creation of more than 25,000 construction jobs and 6,000 permanent jobs in Coney Island. I want to thank the members of the Coney Island Amusement Advisory Panel for dedicating their time and expertise to this exciting project,” said NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky.
Members of the Coney Island Amusement Advisory Panel included: Chip Cleary, Senior VP, Palace Entertainment and First Vice Chair, IAAPA Executive Board; Jim Pattison, President, Ripley Entertainment, Inc.; Tony Catanoso, President & CEO, Atlantic City Steel Pier; Nikki Nolan, Executive VP & Managing Director of International, Great Wolf Resorts; David Rockwell, Founder and CEO, Rockwell Group; Valerio Ferrari, President & CEO, Zamperla USA; Kieran E. Burke, former Chairman and CEO of Six Flags, Inc.; Al Weber, Management Affiliate, MidOcean Partners and former President & CEO, Palace Entertainment; Will Morey and Jack Morey, Co-Owners, The Morey Organization.