Mark Lovell of Tennessee-based Universal Fairs flew to New York on Monday to sign a lease for Thor Equities’ lot on Stillwell behind the Henderson Building in Coney Island. But the deal turned out to be a no-go, just as it had for the parade of carnival and park operators who’d preceded him. The deal breaker was the fact that he was offered only a one-year lease, according to Lovell. Since it’s so late in the season, Lovell needed two years to recoup the $150K rent plus the $250K investment.
“I passed on the deal,” Lovell told ATZ in an interview. “The reason no one is renting is a termination clause without cause. If Thor thinks it’s too sunny, if they think the operator has bad breath. They don’t need a reason. They can kick you out. They said if someone comes in and wants to buy our property we don’t want to have our hands tied. We want to have total control of our property.”
It’s a loss for Coney Island and New York City because Universal Fairs is a successful promoter and producer of a variety of shows and expos across the country. Among their events are the Delta Fair and Music Festival, Austin Fair and Music Festival, Arizona’s Chandler Ostrich Festival and Louisiana’s Bossier City State Fair. The company whose motto is “World Class Fairs, World Class Results” was ready to invest $250K in capital improvements for sewers, restrooms, electrical, stadium lighting, and a go-kart track. Carnival rides, a petting zoo and John Strong’s sideshow and freak museum were also part of Universal Fairs’ proposal for Coney Island 2010.
This piece of news means that the on-again, off-again, on-again saga of John Strong’s Five-Legged Puppy, Tripod the Three legged Duck and his dozens of other freaks returning to Coney Island in 2010 is off again. The deal-in-progress had been a rumor on various message boards for the past few weeks. Whether you’re a fan or foe of Strong’s freak show, the sorry fact is Thor’s Stillwell lots are looking to be dark and deserted come Memorial Day weekend.
John Strong, who lost his much publicized bid to lease Thor’s Grashorn Building, which is now slated for demolition, was resigned to the fact that his second try at a Coney Island comeback had fallen through. “I have a deal with Rob Zombie with my show for a month or more. I’m very excited with it, but we will miss you and Coney Island,” he wrote in an email.
Lovell told ATZ that with only two weeks left till Memorial Day Weekend, his discussions with Thor’s agent Sam Sabin at first centered on whether it would be possible to get all the permits in time. City officials said it wouldn’t due to the very tight time frame. Thor’s people introduced him to a permit expediter but “the guy didn’t know how to get a permit,” said Lovell. “Then I said, before we go any further, are you gonna give me a long term lease? No. Well give me a multi-year lease. Thor won’t give multi-year leases.”
The fact that it would cost $10K to take down the framework of Thor’s tents from last year’s failed flea market was seen as yet another obstacle by the promoter. Although the sidewall and tops have been taken down since we wrote about the tattered tents, the framework remains standing. “They won’t take it down. It costs 10 grand to take it down,” Lovell said. “I don’t understand why they have signs up and advertise the property for rent, then they put obstacles in the way of renting it for $150,000—that’s chump change to them.”
Despite all that, Lovell says he would like to come next year and that the people he met in New York City and in Coney Island were super nice. Mark Lovell struck us as a nice guy, too. Hey, come back anytime! Preferably after Joe Sitt flips the property to the City. As ATZ reported last month, with the grand opening of Luna Park and the return of Ringling Brothers Circus, Coney Island’s stakeholders are busy planning an exciting summer season. Thor Equities has yet to announce any tenants or plans for Sitt’s remaining Stillwell parcels, though plans to demolish four historic buildings were released to the media. What kind of game is Joe Sitt playing in his Coney Island sandbox this season? We’ve been mulling it over, so stay tuned. Or if you have a clue, please let us know!
Related posts on ATZ…
April 12, 2010: Evicted by Thor, Coney Island’s Zipper Ride Thrills in Honduras
January 31, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Freak Museum to Lease Coney’s Oldest Building