In anticipation of a third season on Thor Equities property in Coney Island, carnival operator Glenn Geren recently purchased a Schwarzkopf Wildcat Coaster, Reverchon Himalaya, Watkins Swinger and Tempest, and Bumper Cars from Cumberland Valley Shows through usedrides.com. For the past two summers, Geren Rides of Valdosta, Georgia, has operated 10 rides in “Dreamland,” the temporary amusement park on Thor Equities vacant lots in Coney Island.
The news that real estate speculator and Thor CEO Joe Sitt is close to selling his Coney Island property to the City doesn’t worry Geren. Does the carnival operator know something we don’t know? “I’ve just got an assurance is all I have,” says Geren, who admits he doesn’t have a contract with Thor. “I was told if we don’t set up on this side of Coney Island, we’d set up on the other side of Coney Island. I’ve been testing the waters and I’ve already made a pretty good investment for next year.”
The five rides were purchased from Cumberland Valley Shows of Lebanon, Tenn., which had the equipment in storage at their winter quarters for several years. Jeremy Floyd of CVS confirmed that the coaster purchased by Geren was a Wildcat owned by his family’s carnival. A coaster website had previously listed CVS’s portable coaster as a Pinfari Zyklon. The first steel coaster made by famed roller coaster designer Anton Schwarzkopf, Wildcat coasters can be found at Washington State’s Puyallup Fair and the Jolly Roger Amusement Park in Ocean City, Md.
photo via Canobie Fan, flickr
Early this season, the Coney Island Rumor Mill was sayin’ a Zyklon was coming to Dreamland. Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt promised “two dozen rides” in a statement in Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s summer newsletter and Sitt’s spokesman kept insisting the rides were on the way! It turns out Geren had expected to close on the rides before the Fourth of July, but financing was delayed. When can we expect the Wildcat in Coney Island? “I’m gonna see if I can get it here for Labor Day but if not it’ll be for sure Easter of next year,” says Geren. “Actually it would probably be better if the park were closed to set up because it takes 7 semis to haul it.”
ATZ talked with Geren after his Wisdom Himalaya packed up last week and Coney ride fans began to ask if this year would be a repeat of last. In 2008, Thor Equities much-hyped Dreamland Park on Stillwell Avenue was supposed to run through Labor Day, but Geren’s Himalaya left Coney Island in mid-July for a Tennessee fair and the rest of his rides soon followed. Thor’s so-called “Dreamland” disintegrated into empty lots while the rest of Coney Island’s amusement rides and attractions remained open through September.
This year Dreamland will remain open, Geren says. The Wisdom Himalaya left Coney Island for Tennessee’s Putnam County Fair and the Spin Out will follow, but the rest of his rides—the Ring of Fire, Scrambler, Trabant and kiddie rides will stay for the rest of the season. “I’ve got other rides coming in. Actually I’ve already got my Bumper Cars here parked behind Nathan’s and there’s two more trailer loads of Himalaya parked over there too.” The Reverchon Himalaya, which takes three trailers, is currently on site being sanded and painted in preparation for set up. If you’re planning a visit to Coney, don’t let that dissuade you because Coney Island currently has 56 rides and 30 more days of summer!
With only 30 days left till Labor Day, the question is will Dreamland’s replacement rides be set up and ready to open before the season is over? Geren hopes to have the rides up and running within a couple of weeks. As for whether the season will be extended through September, Geren says “I’m kind of in uncharted waters here.”
In fact, all of Coney Island is uncharted waters since the City’s Rezoning passed in the City Council. But Geren’s certainty that he’ll be back in Coney in 2010 doesn’t surprise us in the least. As a reporter for the trade publication Amusement Business, I’d interviewed Geren and found him to be a risk taker. The show owner made waves in the fair industry in 2003 when he bought 13 fair and festival contracts for $114,010 plus 15% of ride grosses at the bankruptcy proceedings of United Shows. He’s kept some of these spots, but he’s also lost some. “I’m either a gambler or a fool,” Geren says with a laugh.
The biggest gambler or fool may turn out to be the City for going ahead and passing the Coney rezoning before a deal was in place with Thor Equities. Now that Sitt’s land has been upzoned, it’s going to be vastly more expensive to purchase and the City has lost bargaining power. Is Sitt under any obligation to sell to the City? What’s stopping him from flipping it to another developer just as he did with Washington Baths and Albee Square Mall? As Joe Sitt famously said last month, “I’m the guy who controls this – it’s my sandbox.” Nice spot for a Schwarzkopf.
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