Coney Island was in the spotlight at the November 16-20 IAAPA (The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) Expo 2009 in Las Vegas. Among the 1000-plus exhibitors at the world’s largest conference and trade show for the attractions industry was the Coney Island Development Corporation, whose RFP for a 10-year lease with the City of New York for a “Coney Island Amusement Operator” was the talk of the show floor. (Read our take on “The Contenders from A to Z.”) At the show’s Kickoff Event on Nov. 17, Fred Thompson and Skip Dundy, the creators of Coney Island’s legendary Luna Park (1903-1946), were posthumously inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame.
Accepting the IAAPA Hall of Fame Award on behalf of Coney Island’s amusement pioneers were historian Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project, and Carol Hill Albert, co-founder of the Coney Island History Project and operator of Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster. “We’d like to see Coney Island rebuilt with the same sense of creativity and wonder that Thompson and Dundy showed 100 years ago,” said Denson, who accepted the award on behalf of Elmer “Skip” Dundy. According to Dundy’s obituary in the New York Times, “Mr. Thompson supplied the inventive faculty for the concern, and Mr. Dundy attended to the no less complicated matter of obtaining three-quarters of a million required to start the enterprise. When the gates were thrust open to the public, the partners had just $11 between them.”
“I’m thrilled for the Coney Island History Project to be accepting this award on behalf of Fred Thompson,” said Carol Hill Albert, who founded the History Project with her husband Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park. “Coney Island’s fabulous history was always an answer to ‘Can You Top This’ and Fred Thompson placed the bar so high that even today amusement parks all over the world are reaping its benefit.” The award, which is considered the industry’s highest honor, was presented by Tim O’Brien, VP Communications for Ripley Entertainment Inc. and chairman of the IAAPA Hall of Fame and Archives Committee. Additional info about the IAAPA Hall of Fame and Thompson & Dundy’s work is available on the IAAPA and Coney Island History Project websites.
Nate Bliss and Lynn Kelly of the Coney Island Development Corporation and Laura Kirschbaum from NYCEDC drummed up interest in “Coney Island’s Next Act” at their booth at the trade show. The CIDC was a first time exhibitor at the IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 in Orlando. This year, the CIDC went to Vegas as a Silver Sponsor (banner signage in lobbies, enhanced Show Guide listing and more) to showcase the City of New York’s RFP for a “Coney Island Amusement Operator.” “We’re looking for the new Luna Park developers, if you will,” said Lynn Kelly, president of the CIDC, at a special information session for prospective bidders. “This is a unique moment in time for Coney Island, to bring it back to life in a 21st century way. We’re thrilled to be here again and to have something substantive to offer this industry.”
Coney Islanders in Vegas: Dennis Vourderis of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (center) visits Manny Cohen and Stan Fox of Coney Island Arcade USA in their booth. For Coney Island’s amusement operators, attending the IAAPA conference and trade show for the attractions industry is an annual ritual. Coney Island Arcade manufactures and sells coin op amusement games. Cohen also operates an arcade on the Bowery at 12th Street in the heart of Brooklyn’s world-famous amusement area. “Business was better than I expected. There was a lot of activity and interest,” said Fox, whose family owned arcades in Coney Island since the 1940s.
IAAPA estimates that 24,000 people, including approximately 14,700 buyers, from 108 nations participated in the IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas. Attendees from Coney Island included Steve Vourderis and sons, of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and Cyclone roller coaster staff and crew members, who enrolled in IAAPA’s educational programs and ride safety seminars. On IAAPA Museum Day, Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project attended the seminar “Museums, Arts and Culture, and Economic Development” presented by Jack Rouse and Stephen Sheppard. On November 20, it was goodbye Vegas, see you on Palm Sunday (opening day of the season) in Coney Island and next November at the IAAPA Attractions Expo 2010 in Orlando! A big thank you to Charles Denson for sharing his IAAPA photo album.
Related posts on ATZ…
January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010
November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP
August 5, 2009: Coney Island Has 56 Rides and 33 More Days of Summer!